Michigan starts strong, sets tone in first quarter against San Diego State
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Craig Roh's tackle stopped more than the ball carrier. It ended talk, for at least a day, of the Michigan football team's slow first-quarter starts.
Roh, a defensive end, shed his blocker Saturday on a third-and-one play deep inside San Diego State territory on the Aztecs' opening drive.
Roh stopped running back Ronnie Hillman behind the line of scrimmage for a 1-yard loss, and the Aztecs were forced to punt. Michigan then drove 61 yards in six plays, scoring on a Denard Robinson 5-yard keeper.
It was the first time the Michigan defense has held an opponent without a first down on an opening drive this season and the first points the Wolverines have scored in the first quarter. Before Saturday, opponents had outscored Michigan 21-0 in the first quarter.
From there, Michigan maintained control on its way to a 28-7 victory against San Diego State.
"It was a great way to start out and just put a physical demeanor to the game," Roh said. "You always want to get the crowd into it, especially when you stop them on a third-and-short like we did, it really gets the crowd into it."
Against Western Michigan, Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan, the Wolverines started by surrendering drives of 74, 57 and 55 yards and giving up a combined 14 points.
Michigan head coach Brady Hoke felt the opening stop set the tone for what he called Michigan's "best total team half of football" this season.
"It was a big deal right from how we covered the kick," Hoke said. "And (defensive coordinator) Greg (Mattison) talked about that first possession and that first series with the defense. How we want to play as a defense. We talk about being a Michigan defense."
Michigan wide receiver Junior Hemmingway suggested to Hoke in a seniors meeting earlier in the week that the team’s slow starts to practice week might be contributing to teams slow starts to games, and so team made an effort to correct that.
Normally, early week practices are lower energy, with the tempo increasing as game day approaches. On Tuesday, senior defensive tackle Mike Martin said practice was much livelier.
"I said that the way we practice directly correlates into the way we play. We started fast on Tuesday, had a great day of work (through the rest of the week) and we tied it together on Saturday," Martin said in the postgame press conference. "It all ties together, I'm glad we put it (together) on the field today."
The Wolverines posted their only first-half shutout of the season and took a 21-0 lead into halftime. The 165 yards gained by San Diego State in the first half was the lowest total given up by Michigan in a half this season and the 247 yards of offense was the most the offense has gained.
Michigan gave up 199 yards and gained 146 against Western in the season opener, gave up 268 yards and gained just 90 the next week against Notre Dame and last week against Eastern gave up 185 yards and gained 218.
"That's one thing Coach was preaching all week. All the seniors wanted us to go fast. Tuesday in practice, we all came out and were ready to go," Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson said.