MD

2014-08-26

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Advertise with us »

Alexa Dettelbach: Michigan can begin to heal, finally

Paul Sherman/Daily
Buy this photo

By Alexa Dettelbach, Daily Sports Editor
Published August 30, 2014

Finally.

At 9:41 a.m. Saturday morning ESPN's College GameDay did a feature on the 2007 Michigan-Appalachian State game, a 34-32 Mountaineers win. But by 12:30 that same afternoon, the city of Ann Arbor was finally ready to move on.

For the last seven years the name “Appalachian State” has left Michigan fans with their heads buried in their hands. Now they can begin to peek up. While no one will soon forget 2007, it’s finally time to move on. And it took less than a quarter into the 2014 season to begin the healing process of quite possibly the biggest college upset of all time.

Two precision passes from quarterback Devin Gardner to Devin Funchess, erased memories of blocked kicks from seven years ago. And that was only the first quarter.

The Devin-to-Devin show had fans on their feet and creating new memories of playing this small team from Boone, N.C.

Up to hours before kickoff people criticized this matchup. And nothing spoke volumes of disinterest more than the crowd 34 minutes before the game. It was full come kickoff, but it was clear that fans were begrudgingly coming to this one.

What do the Wolverines have to gain by playing the Mountaineers again? You’d think the Athletic Department would want to eradicate all memory of 2007. And if they win, it’s because they were supposed to, and if they don’t? Well, that’s not important anymore.

But everyone can agree that by the time Funchess caught his third touchdown, a ridiculous over-the-helmet, back-of-the-end-zone catch, there was little to criticize and a lot to commend.

From start to finish things were different from 2007. Last time, Appalachian State blew open the game with a 21-point second quarter — this time it was Michigan’s turn at three touchdowns before the half. Last time, the Mountaineers made stops on defense and the momentum carried over. This time, the Wolverines punted once all game.

While it was nowhere near the level of being the fifth-ranked team in the nation, Michigan still shined. The first quarter and a half was the Funchess show, but the rest belonged to sophomore running back’s Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith who both topped 100-yards rushing.

“All offseason everybody’s been talking about how App State came in here and beat you all in 2007,” said Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield. “You dadgun right they were determined. We knew that from the minute our AD said we were playing Michigan, so they’ve been eager for this one — the fans and the players — and they played like it.”

The new-look offense was dynamic, racking up over 500-yards and seven touchdowns, and the revamped offensive line looked competent. Michigan’s starting defense held the Mountaineers to 19 yards passing in the first half. But those who remember 2007 know it was special teams that made history.

So, going into the opener, it was special teams that Michigan coach Brady Hoke emphasized and he resorted to showing his team the infamous blocked kick throughout camp as motivation.

“It definitely inspired us on special teams,” said senior defensive end Frank Clark. “When you show that all of camp and you show it leading into the week, you have no choice, but to go in there and do what you’ve got to do.”

So, one missed 48-yard field goal aside, the special teams did their job and Michigan helped put a Band-Aid on a long-standing wound. 34-32 can now say what it should’ve seven years ago: 52-14.

No one will forget 2007, but a dominant victory Saturday begins a healing process seven years in the making. And even those fans that entered the stadium skeptical in the morning smiled because this elusive victory was finally had.

Dettelbach can be reached at adettel@umich.edu and on Twitter: @asdettel.