Michigan forgot the past for about three hours on Saturday, and enjoyed every minute of it.
Getting restitution for a stunning loss to Appalachian State seven years ago, the Wolverines walloped the Mountaineers 52-14 in front of a crowd of 106,811 at Michigan Stadium.
They weren’t able to rewrite history, but the one-sided pounding seemed to ease the sting for the Wolverines’ faithful. The Mountaineers got $1 million for playing and the Wolverines got their money’s worth.
They led 35-0 at halftime.
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Coach Scott Satterfield – whose Appalachian team had an inauspicious start to its first season in the FBS – said the Wolverines definitely didn’t lack motivation.
“All offseason, if you pulled up anything it was, ‘Who is on the hot seat? (Michigan coach) Brady Hoke,’ or ‘Seven wins (last season) isn’t good enough for Michigan,’ ” Satterfield said. “Heck, yeah, that was in their minds all summer long. And what else did they hear? ‘In 2007 App State came and beat you guys.’ That’s all they heard.
“You’re doggone right they were determined. We knew that from the time our AD said we’re playing Michigan. They’ve been eager for this one, the fans and players. And they played like it.”
Michigan set the tone from the start.
The Mountaineers failed on their first 10 third-down-conversion attempts. Quarterback Kam Bryant faced consistent pressure and struggled; he had few receivers open and wasn’t helped by dropped passes.
The Wolverines had a 409-74 advantage in total yards barely into the second half.
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner completed 13 of 14 passes for 173 yards with three TDs and no turnovers. The Wolverines struck for huge running plays and finished with 350 yards on the ground, getting 170 from Derrick Green and 115 from De’Veon Smith.
“We needed all 11 to be in the right position,” defensive end Ronald Blair of the Mountaineers said. “On those big runs, there would be that one person that would be out of their gap.”
It was the final four minutes of the first half that was the Mountaineers’ undoing.
The Mountaineers’ defense hung in gamely for much of the half. A sack by Blair temporarily halted the Wolverines onslaught, and a 48-yard field-goal attempt by Michigan that banged off the upright kept the Wolverines’ lead at 14-0 with seven minutes left in the half.
Then, misfortune struck.
Green’s 59-yard run and Smith’s 61-yard run on back-to-back drives led to the third touchdown pass from Gardner to Devin Funchess and a touchdown run by Smith.
The capper came when Mike McCray blocked an Appalachian punt and Ben Gedeon returned it 32 yards for a touchdown with 48 seconds left in the half.
There was more to come in the second half. Green ripped off a 62-yard gain on the opening series and scored soon after to boost the lead to 42-0.
The Mountaineers finally had an offensive breakthrough and scored with 7 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third quarter on an 8-yard pass from Bryant to Simms McElfresh.
Satterfield was encouraged that his team “ran the ball decently” – it got 109 yards rushing from redshirt freshman Terrence Upshaw – but was disappointed in a passing game that netted just 127 yards.
Michigan’s Hoke lauded his defenders for tight coverage. “You felt those guys,” Hoke said.
Satterfield: “The way they played their defense this game was not what they had shown all last year. They were a big zone team last year. This game they played us straight man the whole game.”
Bryant completed 8 of 19 passes for 58 yards before giving way late in the third quarter to redshirt freshman backup Taylor Lamb, who led a 19-play, 96-yard drive against mostly reserves that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Marcus Cox.
Michigan players said the main motivator for the Wolverines was that it was the opening game and, having not been around in ’07, revenge wasn’t a huge factor. But they were definitely aware.
“The Appalachian State game, people kept on talking about it,” Smith said. “We tried to ignore that the best way we could.
“But Coach definitely showed us the film of the blocked kick (that sealed the ’07 victory).”