It might be time to start referring to Tyler Ecker as “Mr.
Clutch.”

Michigan Football
Michigan freshman running back Mike Hart stiff-arms Minnesota linebacker Dominique Sims on one of his 35 runs. (MIKE HULSEBUS/Daily)

Last season, Ecker had just three catches in Michigan’s
first 10 games. But that was before he all-but-cemented the
Wolverines’ victory over Ohio State with a critical
third-down reception late in the fourth quarter.

On Saturday, the junior again stepped into the spotlight.

With the Wolverines 31 yards shy of the endzone and a comeback
win over Minnesota, quarterback Chad Henne found Ecker cutting
across the middle near the 20-yard line. Ecker did the rest,
outrunning two defenders for the game-winning touchdown — his
first career score.

That play gave Ecker — seldom used as a receiver —
two of the biggest catches Michigan has had in the last two
seasons.

“It feels great,” Ecker said. “That’s
why you come to Michigan, to have stuff like that happen to
you.”

Ecker entered Saturday’s game with five receptions on the
season — an average of one catch per game, but he finished
the game with three catches for 38 yards. Fellow tight end Tim
Massaquoi also got involved in the offense, hauling in four passes
for 31 yards and doubling his reception total on the season.

“(Henne’s) job is to find the open receiver,”
Ecker said. “If he throws to Braylon (Edwards) 100 times,
that’s fine, as long as we win the game. It opened up a
little more today, and Tim and I got some balls.”

Hart-pounding performance: Perhaps lost between the attention
paid to Minnesota’s stellar running back duo and the
Wolverines’ thrilling comeback was the showing that Michigan
freshman Mike Hart had on Saturday.

Carrying the ball a career-high 35 times, the Michigan running
back pounded out 160 yards on the ground — a record for
a Michigan freshman. Hart also set career highs with six catches
for 53 yards and scored the Wolverines’ first touchdown on an
eight-yard run in the first quarter.

“I wanted the ball and I felt that I was in a groove and
that I could get the job done,” Hart said. “The line
was doing a great job moving defenders, and I thought I could get
four or five yards a carry, and that’s what we needed to
do.”

Hart’s longest carry of the day was a 16-yard run on a
draw play early in the fourth quarter — a run that ended
with Hart slamming head first into the Michigan Stadium turf.

Junior Pierre Rembert replaced him on the next play, but that
was about the only time all day that Hart wasn’t on the field
with Michigan’s offense.

No other Michigan running backs had a carry on the day.

“Mike Hart is doing a phenomenal job running the ball,
reading blocks — just getting those yards for us,”
senior wide receiver Braylon Edwards said.

Life with Riley: The rotating door that has become the
Michigan offensive line continued to spin on Saturday.

Redshirt junior Leo Henige Jr., who had started back-to-back
games at left guard for the Wolverines, was lost for the season in
Michigan’s win over Indiana. According to Michigan coach
Lloyd Carr, Henige “injured his knee, and he’ll have to
have surgery at some point.”

In his stead, Carr opted to start redshirt sophomore Rueben
Riley.

The Grand Rapids native played sparingly in four games last
year, and had seen the field in just two contests this season.

But the 6-foot-3, 311-pounder stepped in and helped contribute
to Michigan’s 190 yards rushing — the Wolverines best
performance of the year.

“(Offensive line coach Andy) Moeller does a great job with
those guys,” quarterbacks coach Scot Loefler said.
“People don’t understand how hard it is whenever guys
get hurt, you’ve got to bring guys in. But that offensive
line, they’ve got a bunch of great character. And God bless
them, because they did a great job today.”

Notes: Edwards’s second-quarter touchdown was the
32nd of his career, tying him for second on Michigan’s
all-time list with Desmond Howard, five touchdowns behind Anthony
Carter … The crowd of 111,518 was the largest ever for a
Michigan homecoming game.

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