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Posted on Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 6:45 p.m.

Michigan football team opens 2009 season by thumping Western Michigan

By Dave Birkett

What a difference a quarterback - or two - makes.

Michigan opened the 2009 season Saturday looking nothing like the motley bunch that finished 2008 with the most losses in school history.

Quarterback play was outstanding. The defense was even better. And the controversy that cloaked coach Rich Rodriguez earlier in the week didn’t mean a thing come game day.

Tate Forcier, the third true freshman to start a season opener at quarterback for Michigan since 1975, threw three first-half touchdown passes, and classmate Denard Robinson picked up a fumbled snap and scampered 43 yards for another score as Michigan walloped Western Michigan, 31-7.
“They’ve been hungry for nine months,” Rodriguez said. “They are tired of everybody saying, ‘We’re going to be better.’ We wanted to show them. And one week doesn’t make a season, but it certainly makes you feel better for a week.”
Forcier, who was named the starter Thursday after a camp-long battle with Robinson and Nick Sheridan, finished 13-of-20 passing for 179 yards. He played most of the game under center despite suggestions from Rodriguez earlier in the week that Michigan would rotate its signal callers.
Robinson, whose first snap came as a receiver, led the Wolverines with 74 yards rushing. He was 2-of-4 passing for 18 yards.
Sheridan played sparingly, throwing an interception in the end zone on Michigan’s opening second-half drive.
“Those guys were recruited for this system,” quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said. “And not that the other guys can’t do it, it’s just a matter of you got to know what your strengths and weaknesses are, and these guys are better suited, I think, than what we had as a unit last year.”
Last year, with Sheridan and the since-transferred Steven Threet under center, Michigan could barely get out of its way on offense.
That wasn’t the case Saturday as the Wolverines ran their first 12 plays according to script and scored all of their points in the first half.
Forcier led a seven-play, 53-yard drive on Michigan’s opening possession with the poise of a seasoned vet. He completed his first pass off a play-action fake to Junior Hemingway for 5 yards, then stepped past a blind-side rusher and directed Hemingway to the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown.
Most impressively on the play, Forcier avoided the temptation to run after leaving the pocket - something most young quarterbacks would have done.
Robinson’s touchdown came on a called reverse when he scooped up a botched snap and weaved through the Western defense, dodging one would-be tackler near the Michigan sideline and outrunning two more to the end zone.
“He dropped the snap, juked three people out, then took off for a touchdown,” Forcier said. “It’s something that, I was happy but it’s nothing I was impressed by. I’ve seen him do it so many times in practice, it’s typical for him to do that.
“I’m happy for him - I’m happy for both of us. We both got our first touchdowns, and I couldn’t have been happier.”
Michigan finished with 439 yards of total offense - more than it had in every game last year - and came a fourth-quarter Tim Hiller touchdown pass away from its first shutout since 2007.
Hiller, the Broncos’ four-year starter, threw for 259 yards, but struggled to diagnose new Michigan coordinator Greg Robinson’s high-pressure defense.
Boubacar Cissoko and Jonas Mouton had interceptions, Brandon Herron recovered a fumble, and the Broncos ran just three plays on six of their first seven drives. Their first play in Michigan territory came with less than three minutes remaining in the first half.
“I thought the first half was just - they were phenomenal,” Rodriguez said.
So, too, was the support for Rodriguez, whose beleaguered week included allegations of NCAA violations about excessive practice time and questions about his relationship with a rogue former Clemson booster.
Michigan fans lined the team’s Victor’s Walk to the stadium carrying signs of approval, and the maize-clad student section chanted Rodriguez’s name late in the first half and again after the game.
Rodriguez said it was good to see unwavering support for his players and team.
“This was a win for Michigan and a great win for Michigan,” he said.
But players and coaches said the day meant plenty to Rodriguez, too.
“It was emotional,” offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said. “The signs and all of that stuff for Rich, it was emotional. I’m glad I had on shades.”
Dave Birkett covers the University of Michigan football team for He can be reached at



Sun, Sep 6, 2009 : 1:11 a.m.

what a difference a year makes. look at what a competent offense can do for our D. i didn't see the N.D. game game but if our D shows up again their gonna be in big trouble. remember hiller was supposed to test our secondary too. look out for 10 wins this year! GO BLUE!


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 11:02 p.m.

I was at the game, and it's amazing to me that after just a quarter or two how much confidence the crowd had it Tate. You could feel everyone relax just a little when he was in - kind of like, "nothing bad's gonna happen, and probably something good will" because Tate was in there. Denard kept everyone on edge, and Sheridan unfortunately showed that he will make a good coach one day, because those who can't do, teach.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 9:33 p.m.

A great way to start the season. Tate showed a lot of poise today, and we'll need it next week. The kids obviously didn't let the distractions get to them. Solid D. It was like night and day from last year. Can't wait until next week. Go Blue!


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 8:56 p.m.

The offense was very impressive today. It was a breath of fresh air. But equally, if not more impressive was the D's pursuit to the ball and tackling. Oh man, the D played inspired, hard-nosed football! I didn't like the big play in the fourth quarter and hopefully Robinson shores that up before next week because ND will test our secondary. Hopefully Cissoko's injury is minor.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 8:42 p.m.

Maybe the naysayers can go back into the woodwork for awhile now. This was a great performance all the way around; they won solidly but left RR some "nits to pick" in practice this week. Better yet, RR didn't really have to show much of the playbook to ND. Most of the plays were really basic stuff that RR has already taught numerous college and HS coaches in his clinics. UM won with superior speed, talent, and execution. It was a great day to be a Wolverine.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 8:33 p.m.

This team has along way to go, still this was a very enjoyable game to watch. I think I saw tons of potiental. Next week will tell alot about the team's character. I thougth the o-line was solid I would like to see Minor run with power against ND. Can coach find a way to play both Qb's together Robinson could help the team in a different capacity than QB.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 8:29 p.m.

The offense was very impressive today. It was a breath of fresh air. But equally, if not more impressive was the D's pursuit to the ball and tackling. Oh man, the D played inspired, hard-nosed football! I didn't like the big play in the fourth quarter and hopefully Robinson shores that up before next week because ND will test our secondary. Hopefully Cissoko's injury is minor.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 8:15 p.m.

Time for Rich to leave Sheridan on the sideline. He may look ok in practice, but he is a disaster in game action.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 7:56 p.m.

we wont win the national championship but at least i can look forward to our only meaningful game this year against Ohio State. cant wait for us to play them with this exciting team!


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 7:53 p.m.

The good: 1. Tackling, 2. QB play, 3. No fumbles, 4. DEFENSE, 5. Special Teams solid, 6. Coach Rich Rod, 7. The Fans The not so good: 1. Penalties, 2. Depth 3. Giving up the big pass play. I wouldn't worry about Denard's offensive package. I think that Coach Rod knows how to coach QBs.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 7:42 p.m.

I think the team rallied around the coach today just like they did in Lloyd Carr's last game against Florida. Tate looked like an experienced QB for the most part. I would've liked to have seen a TD in the 2nd half but Tate didn't play much. Robinson had a great TD run but doesn't look like a passer yet. The defense played great. The team should enjoy this win for the rest of Saturday then the focus needs to shift on Notre Dame, who is going to be a much bigger challenge. The team showed Coach Rodriguez that they are behind him all the way with their effort today.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 7:32 p.m.

Now I know why the haters are trying to bring down The Rod!! Wow, these guys played inspired, smart, intense football!...with the exception of Warren there at the end, but I'm sure he will here it good. Just a few observations. 1) The D is FAST, in position, and much improved. 2) Linebackers and D-backs were fast to the ball. 3) Tate really is GREAT! What poise and accuracy for a Freshman 4) Our punt and kick return guys did not drop a ball. (Greg Mattews was back on punts and looks very frustrated that he is not in the mix at receiver) 5) Denard "Shoelaces" Robinson showed his unbelievable speed, but has a lot of growing to do before he will be a real threat. 6) Greg Robinson is a huge improvement over Scott Schaffer. 7) Receivers were not open down field in the first half. Floyd got beat in the second. Now my negative observations. 1) Cissoko is hurt...not good 2) We have no depth, and the guys that came in for mop-up are clearly not ready for game action. 3) Forcier CANNOT get hurt! Over all: I am freakin stoked! Coming to AA for the ND game, and looking forward to it! Go Blue!


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 7:29 p.m.

15crown00....WTH....Cupcakes?....They are picked to win the MAC...Hiller a quality high NFL draft pick(although he's had better games). It was a good game and good test for UM....Next up ND...Can't wait....Looks like the QB problem has been solved.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 7:26 p.m.

15crown00: We're "blue brains", but you're a Michigan hater on a Michigan website...what's that make you?


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 7:25 p.m.

The think I liked the best was the sure tackling. Greg Robinson said it was an emphasis, and it looks like they listened to him. I loved Lloyd Carr, but too often his players went for the spectacular bump, only to have the opponent juke him or bounce off and keep running. Today they wrapped up with their arms and I don't think any WMU player got away after the initial contact. Keep it up, Blue!


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 7:19 p.m.

A great start we are on out way back! I was quite impressed with Forcier. I would have like to see more scoring in the 2nd half. Nice to get a look at all 4 QB's.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 7:19 p.m.

Theo, Agree with the D-rob running sentiment. It became very predictable what he was going to do with each snap. It worked well on the broken play, but WMU got the hang of it pretty quickly and began to stop him easily. There needs to be more dimension to his running game. A few more passes mixed in with him would help open up his running, too.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 6:58 p.m.

You can look up what our friend jimtrashel has been saying since May. 1) Trouble with Navy - check. 2) Trojans 41, spucks 20 - 3) Unravel - 4) Michigan 34, spucks 13 - It's gonna be a great season! We WON'T be challenged until the Penn St. game. Just one thing. If RichRod is gonna run DRob on 90% of his snaps, then he's gonna have to show an option look or something along those lines, or that dude will sooner or later get creamed. Nonetheless, WE ARE BACK!!!!!!


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 6:26 p.m.

A great way to start the season. Tate showed a lot of poise today, and we'll need it next week. The kids obviously didn't let the distractions get to them. Solid D. It was like night and day from last year. Can't wait until next week. Go Blue!


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 6:18 p.m.

WOW! I'm totally Surprised & Happy, with all the mess that went on this week, this win puts all that mess to rest. GO BLUE! We are on are way back.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 6:09 p.m.

Like the announcer's said many times throughout the game, " This team in no way resembles the 2008 squad." They just took it to a game, experienced, NFL draft pick and his motley crew of teammates. Forcier is definitely the starter, and UM V. ND just got a whole lot more interesting. Hail to the Victors, Go BLUE!


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 5:59 p.m.

Big step in the right direction. Oh how the Mighty have RETURNED!