Believe it or not, we actually have a football game to watch this weekend. Football will be a nice distraction from the soap opera we have been witnessing for the the last couple of days. During this season, I plan on taking a look back at previous games with some relevance to the upcoming game. Michigan has only played Western four times, the last one in 2002. Since I don't have a copy of the 2002 game, I am going to improvise this week and look at the 2004 contest against Miami of Ohio.
How is this game relevant this week ? It was the opening game of the season. It was against a talented MAC opponent. We started a true freshman at QB. This was the game Chad Henne became the first since Rick Leach in 1975. Carr's announced starter Matt Gutierrez got hurt during practice the week before the game. Most of the 110,815 people in the crowd had no idea Henne was going to start.
The RedHawks were coached by the late Terry Hoeppner, before he became the head coach at Indiana and tragically died of brain cancer in 2007. His team was coming off of a successful 13-1 season, where they won the MAC championship, a bowl game, and finished ranked 10th in the country. QB Josh Betts had tough task to replace NFL 1st rounder Ben Rothisberger. Barry Larkin’s cousin Michael was the top WR for the RedHawks.
1st quarter: Both teams spent the scoreless first quarter feeling each other out. There were six punts, the most exciting moment came on Michigan’s second punt that was returned by Ryne Robinson for an apparent TD, only to get called back for illegal block penalty. Incredibly, this was the third time in less than two games that Robinson had a punt return TD called back. Running back David Underwood carried the ball a lot but was not very effective. Henne's first completion was a short screen play to Pierre Rembert. He got on track with a nice completion to Braylon Edwards in the first big play of the season.
2nd quarter: After getting comfortable with a couple of first downs Henne takes the team past midfield, the then throws the first interception of his career, forcing a deep pass to Braylon. Miami immediately gives it back to Michigan two plays later when Ryan Mundy intercepts a tipped ball. A couple of plays later, Garret Rivas kicked a FG to give Michigan the 3-0 lead. The next play from scrimmage the Michigan defense pressures the Miami quarterback and Marcus Curry picks off pass and returns it inside the 10. David Underwood scores on fourth down from one yard out to take a 10-0 lead into the half.
3rd quarter: Miami continues to give the ball away as the second half begins with a Betts fumble inside his own 25 leading to another 1 yard David Underwood touchdown run and a 17-0 margin. Later Braylon Edwards make his mark on the game when he trucks a Miami defensive back on a short swing pass to Steve Breaston – and follows it up by catching Chad Henne’s first career touchdown pass to extend the lead to 24-0. Big Ben gets interviewed. Miami finally gets on the scoreboard at the end of the quarter with the Jared Parseghian (great grand nephew of Ara) fieldgoal. 24-3.
4th quarter: The team and crowd go into classic Lloyd Carr era relax mode. Miami responds early in the quarter when Ryan Robinson takes a punt 70 yards before getting shoved out at the 3 yard line early in the quarter. A couple of obvious illegal blocks are ignored by ABC's Tim Brandt, who openly cheers for Miami in the booth. The Redhawks punch in a TD 2 plays later making it 24-10. Fullback Kevin Dudley gets his first career Michigan carry. Stan Edwards gets interviewed. Ryan Robinson returns another punt 44 yards and Tim Brandt announces in the 1st game of the year he has found his All-American returner. Momentum has started to swing hard towards Miami when Ernst Shazor grabs a interception and returns it down the sideline 88 yards for a touchdown(the 3rd longest in M history). Rivas misses the PAT. 30-10. Another play, another Miami turnover and Braylon catches another Henne TD pass. Another missed PAT. 36-10. Garbage time. Hello Clayton Richard. Michigan wins 43-10.
What did we learn from this game ? Turnovers kill. An opportunistic defense can make up for a young inexperienced offense. We also learned that David Underwood was not going to be the next Chris Perry. Chad Henne has a very strong arm. Braylon can turn easy catches into spectacular catches because his hands don't always catch the ball on the first attempt (something Cleveland Browns fans are loving right now). The last couple minutes of the game we get our first views of Adrian Arrington, Jake Long, and the first carries of Mike Hart’s record breaking career.
There were also a few interesting side notes for this game. This was the first game the officials begin calling the uniform number on penalties to the entire the stadium from the microphone. It was also the first game for the Big Ten video replay experiment, which was the first in college football. A booth initiated review were not used in the game. This was also the first game the Head Coach could request a time out from the sideline.