You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 7:32 p.m.

Michigan special teams play up to their name in romp over Nebraska

By Nick Baumgardner


Michigan redshirt freshman Josh Furman (14) blocks a punt by Nebraska's Brett Maher during the third quarter of the Wolverines' 45-17 win on Saturday.

Melanie Maxwell |

When the week began, Michigan football coach Brady Hoke complimented his special teams unit for earning plenty of "hidden yardage" in a win at Illinois last week.

When the week ended, Hoke and company were paying their specialty units much higher praise.

They were thanking them for winning the football game.

"All special teams players take a lot of pride in that facet of the game," Michigan junior safety Jordan Kovacs said. "A lot of those guys don't play on offense or defense and that's their contribution to the game and a handful are walk-ons that are excited to play in the Big House and wear that winged helmet.

"And today, I think they won us the game."

The Michigan special teamers didn't just have an impact on the game Saturday, they changed it.

Sophomore kicker Brendan Gibbons got things started by continuing his road to redemption this season with a career-best 42-yard field goal to put the Wolverines up 10-0 in the second quarter.

From there, the coverage units took over.

Junior wide receiver Terrence Robinson made perhaps the play of the day on the opening kickoff of the second half, jarring the ball from Nebraska returner Kenny Bell, allowing sophomore cornerback Courtney Avery to recover at the Cornhusker 33. Seven plays later, Michigan was in the end zone with a two-touchdown lead.

The punt coverage team got in on the action a series later. Redshirt freshman safety Josh Furman burst through the line to block a Brett Maher punt. Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David recovered the ball, but never found the first down marker, giving Michigan the ball at midfield.

On the ensuing drive, faced with a fourth-and-short from inside the 10, Hoke decided to lean on the specialty units again. Holder Drew Dileo successfully converted a fake field goal, bringing the ball down to the Cornhusker 1-yard-line.

Fitz Toussaint scored on the next play, and the blowout was on.

"To be able to knock some balls loose and start with some great field position is a good thing for us," Hoke said. "I thought it was a big part of what our kids were doing and what helped us today."

No Big Ten title? No problem

With Michigan's win over Nebraska and Michigan State's win over Indiana on Saturday, the Spartans ensured themselves the Big Ten Legends Division championship and a spot in the conference's first championship game on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.

Hoke was asked if it bothered him that his team was eliminated from title contention.

"We had our opportunities," Hoke said. "Part of competitive sport and competitive life is taking advantage of opportunities."

Michigan dominates time of possession

One of the residual effects of Michigan's stellar defensive day was a lopsided time of possession battle.

The Wolverines held the ball for 41:13 while Nebraska had possession for just 18:47.

"You play really good defense when you get to watch your offense," Hoke said. "Our offense, not in every game, but (it does) have a little advantage in time of possession.

"One of our best defensive calls is (our offense) on the field. And on defense, we (limited them to) 3-for-13 in third down conversions and helped ourselves get off the field."

Robinson and the record book

Junior quarterback Denard Robinson continued to move up the Michigan record book.

With two touchdown passes, Robinson tied former quarterback Tom Brady for seventh all-time with 35. Robinson now sits two scoring strikes behind Todd Collins for sixth place.

Robinson also became the ninth player in Michigan history to rush for 3,000 yards. His 83-yard performance put him up to 3,046 rushing yard for his career, the ninth-best total in program history.

Robinson is now 26 yards from tying former running back Billy Taylor for eighth-place all-time.


Four F-16 fighter jets approach Michigan Stadium as fans create an American flag during the national anthem.

Melanie Maxwell |

Card stunt, times two

Despite not having full use of either video board prior to kickoff, Michigan Stadium still managed to pull off two separate card stunts during pre-game ceremonies.

The first stunt was a tribute to former coach Lloyd Carr, who was honored for his recent election into the College Football Hall of Fame. Fans on the south side of the stadium held up cards in unison that spelled out Carr's name and showed a portrait of his face.

Minutes later, during the national anthem, the fans held up cards together to create a giant American flag. The cards were then held high as four F-16 fighter jets flew over.

Odds and ends

Michigan players wore a special American flag patch on the left side of their standard blue uniforms to honor all military veterans, past and present. ... Michigan sophomore safety Marvin Robinson, who is awaiting on a preliminary hearing after being charged with second-degree home invasion, was not on the team's dress list. ... The crowd of 113,718 was Michigan's second-largest home attendance number this season. Michigan Stadium held 114,804 for a night game victory over Notre Dame in September.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.