Steve Breaston was in the wrong place at the right time late in
the first quarter Saturday, and it turned into his first career
reception and the play that ignited Michigan’s offense.
Breaston had conveniently drifted to the right side of the field
behind junior Braylon Edwards, and when quarterback John Navarre’s
36-yard heave bounced off Edwards, Breaston was there to snag it on
the one-yard line.
“I don’t even know if I was supposed to be there,” Breaston
said. “I just kind of broke a route. I was hanging around and the
ball happened to bounce my way and I caught it. I was fortunate to
be in the right position to make a play.”
Fortunate or not, the catch set up Michigan’s first touchdown of
the game and was one of several thrilling plays the redshirt
freshman made in his impressive debut. Breaston’s four catches for
72 yards were second on the team behind Edwards. And Breaston was
Michigan’s best return man by far. He ran back his first collegiate
punt return 38 yards and followed that with a 36-yard return in the
second quarter, when he cut to the left and looked for a moment
like he might break free. He racked up 79 return yards on the day.
If Breaston were to continue at that blistering pace, he would
surpass Michigan’s season record of 455 punt return yards set by
Tripp Welborne in 1990.
“Of all our young guys who saw action for the first time, I
think Steve Breaston impressed me the most,” coach Lloyd Carr said.
“For a guy going back to catch a punt for the first time and to
have the confidence for him to perform the way he did really
Breaston looked comfortable in his first game and consistently
played like an experienced receiver.
When fellow redshirt freshman Matt Gutierrez replaced Navarre at
quarterback in the fourth quarter, Breaston didn’t miss a beat and
the two connected for a perfectly-timed 16-yard reception that put
the Michigan offense on Central Michigan’s 1-yard line. But
Breaston said he wasn’t as calm as he appeared during his first
game in Michigan Stadium.
“I had a lot of first-game jitters,” Breaston said. “I mean, I
was nervous playing for my first time, getting on the field. But I
just did the stuff the coaches taught me to and just went out there
and played hard and had fun.”
Said Edwards: “Steve did what we knew he was going to do today.
He put on a show. I’m just a little bit surprised by how well he
handled himself, but Steve’s a great athlete and a great
Edwards is expected to be the Wolverines’ No. 1 receiver this
season, but Carr limited Edwards’ snaps Saturday for disciplinary
reasons. That gave the lesser-known Breaston a chance to display
“He was our secret,” offensive lineman Tony Pape said of
Breaston. “We didn’t want to tell anybody about him. He’s going to
be a great receiver and addition to this offense.”
Breaston, a North Braddock, Pa., native, played quarterback his
senior year at Woodland Hills High School and redshirted last
season while he put on 10 pounds and adjusted to the position
change. He said it was “a good experience,” but that it was
difficult to watch games from the sidelines.
“You feel all the excitement sitting on the bench and you just
have to wait your turn,” he said.
Saturday, Breaston got to create some excitement of his own.