Appalachian State just a shell of former self, barely a test for Michigan


Aug 30, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Devin Funchess (1) runs the ball for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Michigan Stadium. Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The so-called wizardry expected to propel Appalachian State to s second miracle upset of Michigan Saturday (Aug. 30) was nothing more than a mirage.

Those who also witnessed the Mountaineer’s 34-32 upset back in 2007, saw a team Saturday which was just a shadow of its former self.

Mostly they missed talented quarterback Armanti Edwards,  who regularly befuddled the Michigan defense with a combination of pinpoint throws,  deft decisions, and superb option runs.  Edwards was the equal of Denard Robinson, except he had better command of the passing game.

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Overall, the 2007 App State team showed Michigan little respect, playing like the Div. 1-AA champs they were. And boy were they were fast.

Peppers will ‘be ready’

This year’s Appalachian State team was almost beaten before they entered the Big House tunnel for the first time. The 52-14 final score could have been much worse.

Their play, especially early in the game, was a step, and or maybe two steps slower than the Wolverines. The Mountaineers first half passing statistics demonstrated why they finished their final season in the Southern Conference, 4-8, and why they trailed Michigan 35-0 at the half.  Quarterback Jaylan Barbour completed just five of 14 passes for 11 yards before intermission.

The only real scare in Saturday’s game was the minor ankle injury suffered by Michigan’s freshman sensation Jabrill Peppers. Peppers was first injured by a questionable dive block, then later in an awkward collision. “He’ll be alright,” Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said after the game, “I’ll be honest with you, at halftime, (we) just decided not to bring him out (for the second half),” Hoke, who rarely comments about minor injuries added. “It’s nothing (serious), he’ll be ready next week (vs. Notre Dame.)”

When he was in the game, Peppers (who’s was compared to Charles Woodson before he ever entered a college game), looked comfortable, returning one punt for six yards and making a pair of tackles on defense.

Fighting Irish next

While a lopsided game like this helps everyone’s confidence, it’s not exactly a good indicator of things to come. Next is Notre Dame in South Bend. The Irish defeated Rice 48-17 Saturday as quarterback Everett Golson played like he never missed all of last season.

One thing’s for sure, Michigan  has a huge stable of talented running backs, five to be exact. Many of the Wolverine fans who exited early may have missed a legitimate back of the future, all 6-3, 239-lbs. of him. Wyatt Shallman, a former two-way star at Detroit Catholic Central, carried the ball only once for five yards, but looked like a veteran doing it (see stats below).

On the surface, De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green appear to be locked in the battle for number one. Don’t count Drake Johnson or Justice Hayes  just yet.  Johnson missed most of last season with an ACL injury, and might be slightly tentative in the early going. Hayes could have the quickest burst of the lot. That quickness makes his a formidable target as a pass receiver.

Rushing         No Gain Loss  Net TD Lg  Avg
Green, Derrick  15  174    4  170  1 62 11.3
Smith, De'Veon   8  115    0  115  2 61 14.4
Johnson, Drake   3   28    0   28  0 27  9.3
Hayes, Justice   4   25    2   23  0 18  5.8
Gardner, Devin   5   17    8    9  0  8  1.8
Shallman, Wyatt  1    5    0    5  0  5  5.0
Totals...       36  364   14  350  3 62  9.7

With Appalachian State’s magical powers nothing but a myth,  there was still a bit of chicanery,  but it occured on Michigan’s side of the field.

Devin Funchess, who was wearing No. 87 to honor former Michigan tight end Ron Kramer,  entered the field with jersey No.1, unofficially emblematic of  great Wolverine wide receivers. Braylon Edwards was the last to wear the iconic number. Anthony Carter, Greg McMurtry, Derrick Alexander and David Terrell wore it before him.

Funchess ‘earned it’

“I asked him who has worn No. 1,” Hoke said, “and he started with Anthony Carter and went down the list, so I think that he earned it.”

While Funchess looked impressive  wearing the new jersey,  he walked the walk by catching three touchdown passes in the first half,  leading Michigan to the big lead. Gardner, who finished the game by completing  13-of-14 passes for 173 yards, tallied a passing percentage of 92.8. That’s  second-best all-time at Michigan,  just behind Tate Forcier, who had a perfect 12-for-12 against Bowling Green in 2010.

Gardner’s three touchdown passes gives him 37 for his Michigan career, and is now tied with Todd Collins (1991-94)  for seventh place among Michigan’s best. Gardner leapfrogged Tom Brady who has 35.

Hoke was pleased with Gardner, especially in the mental portion of the game. “We wanted him to, number one, manage the game, take care of the football,” Hoke said during his post-game press conference.  “I think he made some really good decisions. I think he changed a play or two at the line of scrimmage, more than one or two, and I thought he played ‘locked in’ to what was going on. I think with Doug (Nussmeier) being on the sideline I think helps in this situation, because of being able to talk to him between series, make some adjustments.”

Passing         Cmp-Att-Int Yds TD Long Sack
Gardner, Devin    13-14-0   173  3   34    1
Morris, Shane      3-5-1     37  0   26    0
Totals...         16-19-1   210  3   34    1
Receiving        No.  Yds   TD Long
Funchess, Devin    7   95    3   34
Norfleet, D.       3   30    0   17
Chesson, Jehu      2   22    0   19
Darboh, Amara      1   26    0   26
Heitzman, Keith    1   26    0   26
Hill, Khalid       1   12    0   12
Canteen, Freddy    1   -1    0    0
Totals...         16  210    3   34

Bolded players names are linked to sports-reference, an enhanced statistics website. 

Statistical tables and press conference quotes courtesy