3:30 PM ET, September 5, 2009
Michigan Stadium, ANN ARBOR, MI
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Rich Rodriguez refused to make it about him.
Tate Forcier threw three touchdown passes and Denard Robinson ran for a score before halftime, leading the Wolverines to a 31-7 win over Western Michigan and leaving reporters trying to get Rodriguez to say what the much-needed victory meant personally.
Bracing For Impact
Both Michigan and Notre Dame looked impressive ahead of their clash in Ann Arbor next Saturday. Here's how they stacked up:
"It was a nice win for Michigan," Rodriguez said with a grin. "Maybe I'll sleep two hours tonight."
The Wolverines insisted they were focused on Western Michigan -- and not distracted by a report alleging they have broken NCAA rules under Rodriguez because of the time they've spent training and practicing and stories about a real estate deal gone bad involving the coach and a booster banned from Clemson.
"I don't know if the situation galvanized them even more," Rodriguez said. "I thought they were pretty tight to begin with.
"They were going to be hungry to play based on what they've heard in the last nine months."
With Michigan coming off a school-record nine losses, Rodriguez's freshmen quarterbacks helped the Wolverines (1-0) look better on offense than they ever did last year in his debut season with college football's winningest program.
Forcier was 13-of-20 for 179 yards, and two of his three TD passes went to Junior Hemingway. Chad Henne and Rick Leach are the only freshmen QBs to start an opener for the Wolverines in three-plus decades.
"I don't get nervous," Forcier said. "Never have, and I don't think I ever will."
Robinson -- whose nickname is "Shoelace" because he doesn't tie his laces -- juked a couple defenders on a 43-yard TD run.
"Robinson's a pretty good track star," Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit said. "The other kid threw the ball well. I'm sure Rich Rodriguez is pretty pleased with both of them."
The Wolverines dropped their previous two openers, losing to Utah in Rodriguez's Michigan debut and getting stunned by Appalachian State to begin Lloyd Carr's last season on the sideline.
Michigan hosts Notre Dame next week in a game that just became more interesting because both tradition-rich programs opened with routs.
Students chanted "Beat the Irish!" to the Wolverines when they gathered in a corner of the Big House after routing Western Michigan.
The maize-and-blue clad fans also shouted encouraging words in unison for their embattled coach, and one held up an "In Rod We Trust" sign in the stands.
"I think our fans are tired of all the talk," Rodriguez said. "They want to just watch football and enjoy the experience of being in the Big House."
The storied venue was buzzing before kickoff. The Wolverines maintained the atmosphere by holding Western Michigan to a three-and-out and getting off to a strong start offensively.
On his first drive in college, Forcier moved around and up in the pocket and improvised on a 28-yard TD pass on the run to Hemingway.
Robinson replaced Forcier late in the first quarter and showed the speed that earned him playing time, zigzagging around Broncos on an electric TD run. Robinson finished with 74 yards rushing and completed 2 of 4 passes for 18 yards.
Forcier connected with Kevin Koger for a 7-yard TD early in the second quarter and lobbed a perfect pass to Hemingway, hitting him in stride on a 44-yard TD pass that put the Wolverines ahead 31-0 with 3:17 left in the first half.
Hemingway had five receptions for 103 yards and two TDs and Koger had three catches, including a one-handed snag in the fourth quarter, for 32 yards and a score.
Michigan didn't score in the second half, but didn't have to after a balanced first half -- 144 yards rushing and 145 yard passing -- that almost matched the totals the team averaged in games last season.
Hiller was 22-of-38 for 259 yards with one TD and two interceptions. Nunez caught seven passes for 151 yards and a score.
"Were we that overmatched? I don't think so," Cubit said. "We're just inexperienced."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-14||6-16|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||2-3|
|TD||10:35||Junior Hemingway 28 Yd Pass From Tate Forcier (Jason Olesnavage Kick)||0||7|
|TD||03:57||Denard Robinson 43 Yd Run (Jason Olesnavage Kick)||0||14|
|TD||12:34||Kevin Koger 7 Yd Pass From Tate Forcier (Jason Olesnavage Kick)||0||21|
|FG||07:34||Jason Olesnavage 44 Yd||0||24|
|TD||03:17||Junior Hemingway 44 Yd Pass From Tate Forcier (Jason Olesnavage Kick)||0||31|
|TD||10:46||Juan Nunez 73 Yd Pass From Tim Hiller (John Potter Kick)||7||31|