Welcome to Sunday Morning Quarterback, a weekly column that will be a quick read on the news, notes and opinion on Michigan's weekly game as well as the Big Ten and the college football nation at large.
Starting with the Wolverines win over Western Michigan
The Wolverines opened up their 2011 season with a rain-shortened 34-10 win over the Western Michigan Broncos. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint scored a pair of touchdowns, and Michael Shaw added another from 44-yards out, but the story of the game was Michigan dominating the turnover margin.
Just over the halfway point of the second quarter, Brandon Herron snatched an Alex Carder pass that was tipped by linebacker Jake Ryan at the point of release. After avoiding one Western Michigan lineman, Herron housed the ball down the sideline.
"Jake Ryan tipped the ball, and I was looking up; my legs carried me, and I grabbed it," Herron said after the game. "I remember Aubrey, our grad assistant, he tells us anytime you get an interception, run back to your sideline. So after I caught the ball, I looked straight ahead, obviously no ball security whatsoever, but I was trying to get into the end zone."
Herron and Ryan's plays sparked the Wolverines. On Western Michigan's next possession the defense forced a three-and-out. Michigan then marched down the field and Fitzgerald Toussaint scored his second touchdown of the game to put Michigan on top 20-10.
After the Wolverines three-and-out to start the second half, Herron's second TD of the game put the game out of reach. Once again in the right place at the right time, Herron scooped up the football after a bone-jarring sack by Jordan Ko-sacks and took it back 29-yards to the house.
Herron's second touchdown made him the first Michigan football player in the modern era to record two defensive touchdowns in a single game. He's also the first player to score on two returns in a single game since Tom Harmon in 1940.
Michigan's third turnover, a fumbled snap that was recovered by Ryan Van Bergan, killed the Broncos' final scoring threat and allowed Michigan to go up 34-10 after a pair of long runs.
Denard Robinson -- the teams third leading rusher?
Rushing the ball just eight times for 46 yards, Robinson finished with his lowest total since playing Ohio State in 2009. Instead, after keeping the ball in Denard's hands for much of the opening series, Fitzgerald Toussaint and Michael Shaw emerged as a reliable 1-2 punch for the Maize and Blue.
Toussaint, who previously had rushed for one touchdown in his Michigan career, had a pair of scores in goaline situations, plus added a 40-yard scamper to help set up the games final touchdown. He finished the game with 80 yards on 11 carries.
Michael Shaw got just four carries, but he made the most of his chances gaining 55 yards and a touchdown, a 44-yard run out of the shotgun, to help Michigan net 190 yards of offense on the ground in just a little less than three quarters.
More importantly, though, the Wolverines rushed the ball 26 times without putting the ball on the ground -- a problem that's hurt the Wolverines in recent years.
Big Props to the Crowd at the Big House
Despite overwhelming levels of heat, humidity and rain, the crowd at the Big House was at an A+ level for the Wolverines win over Western Michigan.
At times early in the contest, as Western Michigan's offense marched down the field, the crowd became cautiously quiet; but when the rain hit and the game settled in, the crowd came through in a big way.
Most folks returned after the first 30-minute lightening delay, and, during the second delay, much of the crowd stayed in the seating areas until the evacuation.
Additionally, in monsoon like conditions, when the rain came, the crowd only got louder. It had a visible impact on the football team which appeared to be having a great time playing in the water.
Announced attendance was 110,506.
Other Miscellaneous Notes...
- When the game was called with 1:27 remaining in the third quarter, it was the first shortened game due to weather in Michigan football history.
- The field temperature was 137 degrees at the start of the game. It dropped to 84 degrees after the first lightening delay.
- Senior Will Heininger, sophomore Michael Schofield and freshmen Jake Ryan and Matt Wile recorded their first collegiate starts in the 34-10 Michigan win.
- Jake Ryan, Matt Wile, Brennan Beyer, Josh Furman, Blake Countess, Gregg Brown and Frank Clark all made their Michigan debuts in the contest.
- Jordan Kovacs led the Wolverines with two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass break up all in the third quarter. He finished the game with 10 tackles.
Beware of the Irish...
Late last night, after weather delays extended halftime to 2 hours and 10 minutes, the USF Bulls shocked the No. 16-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend.
Despite what Irish fans would consider a disappointing loss, Michigan fans have to be concerned about what the Notre Dame offense was able to do when not turning the ball over. Notre Dame out gained the USF Bulls 508-254 in the loss.
Poised to score the first points of the game, former Michigan recruit Jonas Gray put the ball on the ground inside the Bulls 5-yardline. USF scooped up the ball and housed it 95+ yards. A 14-point swing.
Down 13-0 early in the second quarter, the Irish appeared on the verge of breaking through again before a Dayne Christ interception in the USF end zone kept Notre Dame off the board. Notre Dame marched 61-yards on 10 plays prior to the pick.
Late in the half a fumbled punt return by Theo Riddick again put USF in position to score, and the Bulls carried a 16-0 lead into halftime.
Notre Dame would turn the ball over five times in the game -- while not recording a single turnover defensively.
In relief of Dayne Crist, quarterback Tommy Rees threw for 296 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Irish. He also, though, had a pair of interceptions.
Michigan, which at times struggled in pass coverage against Western Michigan, must find an answer for Irish receiver Michael Floyd, who finished with 12 receptions for 154 yards and a pair of scores last night.
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