Michigan opens with big winPublished 9:56pm Saturday, September 5, 2009
By DON EDEN
Niles Daily Star
ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan football team were led at quarterback by starter Tate Forcier and freshmen classmate Denard Robinson as each passed and ran respectively for an excellent grade in the opening 31-7 victory over nearby Western Michigan on Saturday, which struggled with fifth-year quarterback Tim Hiller due to relentless pressure from the defense.
“A couple big plays cost us and we worked real hard to prevent the scramble that happened right away, which was frustrating,” noted Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit. “We are still going to be a good team, but did not handle anything well early which really hurt us and couldn’t match their speed. Also, Tim (Hiller) was more shaky than usual and not sure why, probably nervous.”
Forcier found junior Junior Hemingway on his initial possession as a Wolverine with a 28-yard touchdown pass and second stanza scoring strikes to sophomore tight end Kevin Koger (7 yards) and another Hemingway haul from 44 yards.
“Two true freshmen that play quarterback doesn’t happen very often at this level and I thought both were composed and did a nice job,” stated Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez. “Both of them still need to be coached more to get better on when is the right time to run and who to pass to on decision making. The kids are hungry to improve and we need to if we are going to win against a good club (Notre Dame) next week.”
Robinson’s forte is his speed (10.28-100) and he showed his prowess by bolting for 43 yards to pay dirt on his first play as a Wolverine after dropping the snap to swerve through the Bronco defenders in the first quarter.
“Playing both of us is fun so defenses have to be ready for anything, but college is way different than high school so I had to move faster than ever,” commented Robinson. “Both Tate and myself don’t get nervous and we think it is crazy fun to be playing as competitors on the same team.”
Red shirt freshman Paul Dreher from Niles has grown from a 240-pound tight end for the Vikings to a 295-pound Bronco back-up defensive tackle as a preferred walk-on.
“This is totally different from high school because the sport is more like a job now, but everybody on the team is family and I love it here which makes it fun,” said Dreher. “Loved the switch from tight end to defensive tackle mainly because it is more intense and physical which I like. I needed to get big for big time football, but it wasn’t easy by lifting a lot of weights and running a lot of sprints. My playing time this year will be as a back-up (2 seniors start) since all of us are good players so we rotate which makes the defensive line good as a group.”
Dreher is also handling the workload in the classroom with over a 3.0 gpa in Business with a goal of majoring in either Management or Marketing.
“Paul is working very hard and doing a nice job for us to become a good player,” complemented Cubit. “He is a great kid with a super attitude and the kind of person we like for our program.”
At halftime the scoreboard read 31-0 with the Wolverines holding the visitors to minus two yards rushing with 81 through the air and the frosh almost accumulated 300 yards (289) with Tate being responsible for 160 total yards compared to 70 for Robinson.
“Our guys were flying to the football with sure tackling and the defensive line played great,” observed Michigan linebacker Obi Ezeh, who led the defense with 8 tackles. “Notre Dame has a lot of offensive threats which will be a bigger challenge, but we should have a good game plan by Saturday.”
Hemingway went over the century (103) mark in receiving yards with his fifth completion early in the third quarter and limped to the sideline, where he stayed.
“Tate put the ball right on the money on both touchdowns and all I had to do was catch it, which made me feel good,” explained the soft-spoken Hemingway. “I need to stay healthy for once, but I could have played more if they wanted and good to go against Notre Dame.”
Western scored the only points in the second half when Hiller found junior Juan Nunez open past the defense for a 73-yard completion with just under eleven minutes left in the game.
“We need to develop more depth everywhere and was disappointed that we couldn’t play more people until the very end,” noted Rodriguez. “The key for us is limiting the turnovers (which we did), running the football (which we did), but we still committed way too many penalties with a big rivalry game this week, who have enough talent to challenge for a high BCS bowl game.”
Hiller finished with 259 yards with two interceptions on 38 attempts with Nunez grabbing 7 of his 22 completions for 151 yards.
Dreher saw action in both the second and fourth quarters.
“This was a dream come true playing here in front of 109,000 people and now we go to Indiana to play next week,” concluded Dreher.
Michigan couldn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities in the second half with the highlight being a leaping one-handed catch by Koger from Forcier for twenty yards.
We won for Michigan and it was a good win for Michigan,” repeated Rodriguez afterward and added, “I cannot stress enough the support our fans give to this football team, which is tremendous.”