Highlights: Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14

Tag: Appalachian State

1Sep 2014
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Michigan vs. Appalachian State Awards

Jehu Chesson, Devin Gardner, and Devin Funchess combined for a great day on Saturday.

Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Dennis Norfleet. It’s not so much that Norfleet himself was a huge threat. He’s dangerous with the ball, but we’ve learned that he can easily get flung around because of his slight stature. No, the nice thing is that Michigan was spreading the ball laterally and getting it to people like Norfleet in the slot. Norfleet caught 3 passes for 30 yards, and Funchess was also a target on some quick screens. Those plays are going to help open up the middle of the field for the running game.

Let’s see less of this guy on offense . . . Joey Burzynski. Burzynski’s start was like a gold star for his efforts over the last several seasons, including fall camp. He tore his ACL last year, and he was filling in for the partly injured Kyle Kalis on Saturday. Kalis took over for Burzynski shortly after the game began, and the fifth year walk-on is less likely to play when Graham Glasgow returns next Saturday. Thanks for your efforts, Joey, but Michigan needs bigger and better linemen in there if they want to compete with the big boys.

Let’s see more of this guy on defense . . . Desmond Morgan. There have been hints that Morgan will be relegated to the bench in favor of Joe Bolden, but I still see Morgan as the superior player. He did a good job on Saturday and needs to see a majority of the snaps at either MIKE or WILL linebacker.

Let’s see less of this guy on defense . . . nobody. Michigan didn’t get any takeaways, but they put pressure on the quarterback and generally tackled well. Late in the game, Appalachian State bled the clock by running up the middle over and over again, but that mercifully allowed the game to end quicker. If they insisted on passing, Michigan would have hurt the quarterback(s), picked off some passes, and scored more points.

Play of the game . . . Ben Gedeon’s return of a blocked punt for a touchdown. There were so many big plays from Devin Funchess, Devin Gardner, Derrick Green, and De’Veon Smith, but those blocked punt returns are always exciting to watch. Linebacker Mike McCray tipped the punt, and Gedeon fielded it in mid-air. As soon as I saw #42 fielding the punt, I said to myself, “This is gonna be a touchdown.” Gedeon was an excellent high school running back and could probably play that position in college for some teams. He did a nice job of weaving, tiptoeing down the sideline, and diving to stretch the ball across the front edge of the goal line for a 32-yard touchdown return.

Player of the game . . . Devin Gardner. Gardner was 13/14 for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus he rushed 5 times for 9 yards. Best of all, he made good decisions, put appropriate helpings of mustard on his passes, and put the balls where only his receiver could catch them. His one misfire was a crossing route where the receiver was wide open, but it’s tough to argue with those numbers.

31Aug 2014
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Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14

Devin Funchess had three of these touchdowns on the day (image via Fansided)

The Doug Nussmeier Effect: Quarterbacks. Yes, it was only newly minted FBS team Appalachian State, but starting quarterback Devin Gardner looked about as good as possible. He was 13/14 for 173 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions; he also ran 5 times for 9 yards. Best of all, he made good decisions and his only miss was a laser that fell harmlessly to the turf behind a crossing receiver. I think Nussmeier will use him more often as a runner as the game and situation dictate, but there’s no need to get him banged up in a blowout against ASU. Backup Shane Morris (3/5, 37 yards, 1 interception) looked a little shaky, especially on a comeback throw that never should have been released and got picked off by an undercutting corner. That’s now 0 touchdowns and 3 interceptions thrown in his career.

The Doug Nussmeier Effect: Running Game. Opponent caveats apply, but Michigan struggled early before quickly finding a rhythm. The combo blocks looked cleaner and the offensive line looked crisper than they did at almost any time last year. The running backs combined for 31 carries, 345 yards, and 3 touchdowns. The inside zone run seemed ineffective at times because Michigan couldn’t get a great push. That’s a Nussmeier favorite, so they will surely continue to work on that play. Interestingly, Michigan’s revamped power play seems to have improved, even though that was a supposed staple of Al Borges’s offense and not considered to be a Nussmeier specialty. Perhaps Appalachian State was surprised, or maybe Michigan just executed the power really well in game one.

The Doug Nussmeier Effect: Running Backs. I would have to go back and check to be sure, but it seemed like Michigan really struggled early when they tried to run inside zone. Derrick Green (15 carries, 170 yards, 1 touchdown) got the first series of snaps, and his vision has always been somewhat questionable; those carries did not go well. When he returned to the game, Nussmeier ran power with him. Green hit the hole hard and did well. Meanwhile, for whatever reason(s), De’Veon Smith (8 carries, 115 yards, 2 touchdowns) seemed to get a little better blocking on inside zone plays, and his vision paid off with some nice runs. Green is leaner and quicker than last year, and Smith is what we thought he was. When the offensive line opens holes, they are capable of making some things happen. Drake Johnson (3 carries, 28 yards), Justice Hayes (4 carries, 23 yards), and Wyatt Shallman (1 carry, 5 yards) got some run late in the game, but Green and Smith clearly seem to be the top two options.

Devin Funchess is wearing the #1 jersey. Funchess is the first Michigan player to wear the #1 jersey since Braylon Edwards in 2004. Brady Hoke said that Funchess asked to wear it, so perhaps that’s the difference, but it seems odd to me that he was given the jersey while previous standout Jeremy Gallon was not. Gallon had the same number of catches (49) and more yards (829 to 748) in his redshirt junior year than Funchess as a sophomore, and you could tell he was in for a big year because of his connection with Gardner. Gallon, of course, ended up setting receiver records last year. Regardless, Funchess looked very good on Saturday (7 catches, 95 yards, 3 touchdowns) and has the talent to fill the shoulder pads of the #1 jersey.

At least nobody can say Michigan sold out. Because they didn’t. The announced attendance was 106,811, which is the 252nd straight game of over 100,000 fans.

Freshman redshirts got burned. Reasonably this time! The only true freshmen to play in the game against Appalachian State were Freddy Canteen, Mason Cole, Bryan Mone, and Jabrill Peppers. This would be excellent news if it holds up, because that means Michigan can save some of its highly touted recruits all the way until they’re 22 or 23 years old. I do believe that a couple more freshmen might play this season, especially weakside end Lawrence Marshall.

How ’bout that tight pass coverage? It was pretty tight. Michigan didn’t make any picks, but they broke up three passes and came up to tackle well. Jourdan Lewis is as sticky as they come, and he’s just a backup. I thought new safety Jeremy Clark looked pretty good in Delano Hill’s absence.

How ’bout that defensive line? When it comes to the defensive line, I actually don’t think we learned much. If the quarterback held the ball for longer than the play was designed for, he was usually getting hit. Fortunately for the Mountaineers, that wasn’t often. Pretty much every defensive lineman bulled his way into the backfield based on sheer size and strength against an overmatched and small-ish offensive line. Appalachian State had some repeated success on their shotgun inside zone play, which also worked well for Indiana and some other teams last year. Michigan might have been able to stop it if there had been a point to do so. But really, if you’re whooping a team’s butt on the scoreboard and they want to run the ball to deplete the clock, there’s not a huge incentive to sell out for stopping that play.

JABRILL PEPPERS. Peppers made 1 nice tackle, dove to make a fair catch on a punt, and returned 1 punt for 6 yards. Then he left the game with a bum ankle. It did not look serious, and Brady Hoke agrees with the first clause of this sentence. He should be back for next week.

The offensive line can’t get any worse than last year. I agree. I really think last year’s offensive line would have still struggled to churn out yards on the ground like they did in this game. Appalachian State nose tackle Tyson Fernandez (6’2″, 330 lbs.) was a load in the middle, and defensive end Ronald Blair (6’4″, 275 lbs.) didn’t seem too shabby, either. Blair overpowered freshman left tackle Mason Cole on an inside move to sack Gardner, and defensive end Odawala Dada (6’0″, 235 lbs.) successfully juked guard Kyle Kalis on his way to a quarterback hurry. Otherwise, it was rare to see an offensive lineman beaten cleanly. There were some frustrating stalemates, and there will be plenty more – along with outright whoopings – to come this year. Michigan’s line never coagulated last year, but even if a little less talented, this group is going to be better.

30Aug 2014
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Preview: Michigan vs. Appalachian State

Yep, she attended school at Appalachian State. And her name is Caitlin Upton.

Run vs. Appalachian State Defense
Michigan’s running game has been dissected ad nauseum all last season and in the off-season. Michigan brought in a new offensive coordinator who will concentrate more on the inside zone play, whereas Al Borges used a mish-mash of schemes and Rich Rodriguez was mostly an outside zone guy. Michigan is very inexperienced on the OL and will be without its best lineman for this game (Graham Glasgow, suspended 1 game for a DUI). In the backfield, Michigan’s top two backs have been neck-and-neck so far, with sophomore Derrick Green taking the lead over similarly built sophomore De’Veon Smith. Meanwhile, Appalachian State runs a 3-4 defense with a quality nose tackle in Tyson Fernandez (6’2″, 330 lbs.), who will be a problem for center Jack Miller (6’4″, 295 lbs.). Both inside linebackers are 235 lbs., but the outside guys are small-ish (anywhere from 185-210 lbs.). For a 3-4 that often uses defensive tackle-sized ends, the defensive ends are manageable in size, but they’ll be facing off against first-time starters at the tackle positions. I like Green’s upside more, but I actually prefer Smith to see more carries, because he’s more of a bruiser and could wear down the defense; Green’s a guy who could bust a couple long runs in the second half against a sluggish defense. I like the backs once they get to the second level, but until Michigan proves they can block at the first level . . .
Advantage: Appalachian State

Pass vs. Appalachian State Defense
Michigan has a dynamic quarterback in Devin Gardner who is under the tutelage of an up-and-coming quarterback guru in Doug Nussmeier. That will be a good combination. The top receiver will be tight end-sized Devin Funchess, who supposedly ran a forty in the 4.3’s over the summer. Flanker Jehu Chesson improved steadily throughout last year and can take the top off the defense – as well as deliver some devastating blocks. Slot guy Dennis Norfleet is a pint-sized dynamo. All of them are big-play threats, and Michigan will use three or four receivers quite a bit without tight end Jake Butt being available. The pass protection is shaky, but Appalachian State will have to generate a pass rush by blitzing – something that Gardner and his receivers should be able to counter. The Mountaineers will probably match up 6’2″, 190 lb. cornerback Jordan Ford with Funchess whenever possible, but the Wolverines have a decided size advantage on the edges. Strong safety A.J. Howard (5’11”, 185 lbs.) is a true freshman. If Michigan can establish any kind of running identity, the play action pass should be a large factor. If the Wolverines still struggle to run the ball, Michigan should be able to spread it out a little bit and make some things happen. Gardner has the ability to get out of the pocket and make things happen if protection breaks down, too.
Advantage: Michigan

Run Defense vs. Appalachian State Offense
Michigan’s good recruiting classes over the past few years are matriculating through the ranks, and this should be the year when Michigan takes a step forward with the talent level on the field. The Wolverines have size at the defensive tackle positions, plus a 282 lb. backup nose tackle (Maurice Hurst, Jr.) who can shoot gaps in certain situations. Strongside end Brennen Beyer is undersized for the position, but he uses good technique and can hold his ground. Michigan also has a stable of good linebackers who can make solid tackles and plays in the backfield. The center, right guard, and right tackle spots are all listed with an “or” between two players, so it’s tough to say how much size they’ll have. Either way, the strength appears to be the left side of the line. Sophomore running back Marcus Cox (5’10”, 200 lbs.) had 1,250 rushing yards, 559 receiving yards, and 21 total touchdowns in 2013. He will be a multi-purpose threat who will be tough to corral, but he is the only proven commodity. The primary backup is redshirt freshman Terrence Upshaw (5’10”, 200 lbs.), who is less of a big-play threat and more of a short yardage guy. I respect Cox’s abilities if he can get into open space, but Michigan has enough athletes to keep him sufficiently in check.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Defense vs. Appalachian State Offense
Michigan has not had a dynamic pass rush in recent years, but there should be at least a slight improvement this season. Especially against a team that often uses four wide receivers, weakside end Frank Clark should have a good day and strongside end Brennen Beyer’s lack of size won’t hurt him as much. Michigan also has a couple solid pass rushers at defensive tackle in Willie Henry and Chris Wormley, not to mention some good blitzers at linebacker in Jake Ryan and Ben Gedeon. Michigan has a very good crew of corners, so Appalachian State will probably try to attack the young and relatively unproven safeties. Junior quarterback Kameron Bryant (6’1″, 205 lbs.) completed 71% of his passes for 2,713 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions as a part-time starter last year, but the top returning pass catcher is running back Cox. None of the returning wideouts caught more than Malachi Jones’s 31 receptions or 293 yards, and none caught more than Simms McElfresh’s 2 touchdowns. Jones and his backup are both a little over 6’0″ tall, but every other receiver on the two-deep is 5’11” or shorter. Michigan has allowed lots of short passes in recent years but come up to tackle. This year we’ll see some tighter, perhaps riskier coverages. Michigan might get burned over the top on occasion, but overall, the pass defense should improve.
Advantage: Michigan

Roster Notes

  • Appalachian State has zero players or coaches from the state of Michigan


  • Devin Funchess goes over 100 yards with 2 touchdowns
  • Jabrill Peppers returns a punt for a touchdown
  • Derrick Green leads the team with 80 yards rushing
  • The defense allows 250 total yards
  • Michigan 34, Appalachian State 7