ANN ARBOR — There were no upsets, and no celebrations by the no-name visiting team on one of college football’s hallowed grounds. The rematch of one of college football’s most storied David-and-Goliath tales quickly became a one-sided story.
Michigan put to rest any doubts of another upset and answered any early-season questions that critics had about its offense in a 52-14 rout of Appalachian State on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
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“This off-season, we had a chip on our shoulder from last season,” said Wolverines wide receiver Devin Funchess, who scored three first-half touchdowns. “We went out there and gave our first impression. Our first impression is what matters the most. We made our mark today.”
Funchess’ 95 receiving yards paced Michigan’s offense, which accrued 560 yards through multiple formations and a new system under offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. UM’s offense continued through quarterback Devin Gardner and to sophomore running backs Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith, who combined for 285 yards rushing.
“We ran well, and the offensive line blocked really well,” said Gardner, who was 13 for 14 passing for 173 yards and three touchdowns. “And the receivers on the perimeter, those long runs don’t happen if the receivers don’t block on the perimeter.”
Michigan coach Brady Hoke believed the quick start in the season opener was the byproduct of preparation. Hoke complimented the offensive line, maligned through the second half of 2013, for its aggressive start and its consistency in finishing plays.
“Our football team was ready,” the fourth-year coach said. “You could tell how they prepared the whole week. It was important to get on the board. It was important for the defense to get on the field first. They did that the first series.”
While few of the Wolverines were willing to discuss Appalachian State’s 34-32 upset of UM in 2007, Smith admitted after the win that the 7-year-old game was a prominent point of discussion leading into Saturday.
“Coach definitely showed us the film,” said Smith, who had eight carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns. “Every week, of that blocked kick [by Appalachian State’s Corey Lynch], about a week and a half ago. Every day.”
On Saturday, Appalachian State barely registered a peep on the decibel scale, unable to match Michigan’s numbers or its level of intensity. Furthermore, the Mountaineers were well aware of the mindset that Michigan would bring to its season opener.
“That was in their minds the whole off-season,” said Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield, whose team is in its first season as an FBS program. “All summer long. And what else do they hear? ‘In 2007, App State comes and beats you guys.’ That’s all they’ve heard. You’re daggone right they were determined, from the time our AD said we’re playing Michigan. They’ve been eager for this one, fans and players, and they played like it.”
Michigan’s defense held the Mountaineers to 280 yards, including only 74 yards in the first half. UM took a 14-0 lead on Funchess’ 9-yard reception six minutes into the game and his 34-yard touchdown catch with 1:52 left in the first.
“He was a presence out there,” Hoke said of Funchess, who was the first Michigan wide receiver to score three touchdowns in a season opener.
Appalachian State was only able to gain 41 yards of offense in the first quarter — including only five receiving yards.
“We were able to move the ball a little bit better in the second half and still, defensively, we just gave up too much on third down,” said Satterfield, whose team was 5 of 17 on third-down conversions. “Offensively, we picked it up a little bit better. We were able to run the football decently but passing the ball wasn’t very good. Their DBs did a great job of putting their hands on our receivers. They didn’t get free early in the game. That put a little more pressure on [quarterback] Kam [Bryant] to make more accurate throws, and we weren’t able to do that.”
UM continued to dominate in the second and third quarters in all facets. Green’s 59-yard run set up Funchess’ third touchdown three plays later, a 8-yard catch with 3:59 left in the half, and Smith made it 28-0 two minutes later on a 12-yard run, one play after he broke free for a 61-yard carry. Then with 48 seconds left in the half, Ben Gedeon corralled a blocked punt by teammate Mike McCray and returned it for a 32-yard touchdown, giving Michigan a 35-0 lead at the half.
Third-quarter touchdowns by Smith and Green sandwiched Appalachian State’s first touchdown, an 8-yard catch by Simms McElfresh at 7:12 of the third. After Marcus Cox scored Appalachian State’s second touchdown six minutes into the fourth, Matt Wile capped off the win with an 18-yard field goal with 3:42 left.
Yet within minutes of the conclusion of the rout, Hoke began to look ahead at Michigan’s next opponent.
“We won the football game,” Hoke said. “We got in the end zone. We play Notre Dame next week.”