In its first game of the 2001 season, Michigan looked sluggish and inexperienced but it still got the job done with a 31-13 win over visiting Miami (Ohio).
The Wolverines took advantage of the RedHawks” three turnovers, turning them into 21 points.
“They made big plays when they had to on their defense,” Miami head coach Terry Hoeppner said. “We had a lot of opportunities and we didn”t take advantage of them, and obviously, Michigan did.”
The Wolverines stumbled out of the gate, opting for a conservative series of B.J. Askew runs and short passes by John Navarre.
On Miami”s first possession, the Michigan defense was caught off-guard by the RedHawks” spread offense and surrendered a 33-yard run by Miami”s Luke Clemens. But a heads-up interception by sophomore linebacker Carl Diggs playing in the place of the injured Eric Brackins stopped the RedHawks before they crossed the 50-yard line.
Senior standout linebacker Larry Foote joined Brackins on the sideline after an injury on Miami”s first drive.
On the first play of Michigan”s ensuing possession, a 37-yard pass from Navarre to deep threat Marquise Walker was reminiscent of a Drew Henson to David Terrell connection of the 2000 season, and put the ball inside the Miami 5-yard line.
After two unsuccessful runs by Askew, he finally punched it in on a controversial dive across the end line. It appeared he may have fumbled before he crossed the plane, but officials ruled that he scored before dropping the football.
“I was pretty sure I held onto it,” Askew said.
After another punt by Miami, the Michigan offense was again able to easily breakdown the RedHawks” defense.
Receptions of 15 and 19 yards by junior Ron Bellamy set up the first of two Calvin Bell reverses to put the ball back inside the RedHawks” five-yard line.
The Miami defense didn”t break as it stopped a Chris Perry run and a short pass to Walker after Navarre tripped and fell for a loss of four on first down. Senior Hayden Epstein tacked on a 22-yard field goal to up the lead to 10-0.
After a 22-yard field goal by senior Hayden Epstein made the score 10-0, Miami got on the board with a quick six-play drive that lasted less than three minutes. Freshman quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected with junior wideout Eddie Tillitz for a 21-yard score.
The extra point was blocked by linebacker Shantee Orr, and the score remained 10-6.
“Shantee is a tremendous athlete,” head coach Lloyd Carr said. “He is a guy with great jumping ability.”
The Miami touchdown began a scoring drought as neither the RedHawks nor the Wolverines could manage a first down.
The frustration of Michigan culminated with a failure to pick up the first down on a fourth-and-one run attempt by B.J. Askew at the 50-yard line.
The momentum swing was short-lived by Miami as Roethlisberger again caved under the pressure of the Wolverines” pass rush and threw an interception to junior cornerback Brandon Williams.
“We had some pressure and I think (Roethlisberger) made a couple of bad throws really threw the ball under duress and think he would like to have those plays back,” Carr said.
Michigan again capitalized on the Miami turnover with a 70-yard scoring drive just before the end of the half.
The Wolverines quickly moved the ball down field on the shoulders of Askew, who had a 15-yard run and a 30-yard reception on the drive.
But Michigan ran into trouble again inside the five-yard line. After three rushing attempts produced a total of one yard, Michigan finally hit paydirt on fourth down with a fake handoff to Askew and a rollout pass from Navarre to tight end Bennie Joppru with 30 seconds left in the half.
The first possession of a second half by Miami marked the began an offensive struggle that lasted the entire quarter.
In total of eight possession combined, both teams crossed 50-yard line just once, with the longest drive being a nearly 30 yard drive by the RedHawks. Of Michigan”s four possessions, three were three-and-out.
“The third quarter was an absolute disappointment offensively we just left our defense out there the whole quarter,” Carr said.
In the fourth quarter, Miami”s final chance to get back into the game was foiled by another interception by the Michigan secondary. Jeremy LeSueur picked off Roethlisberger”s pass in the endzone.
“It was a horrible decision on my part,” Roethlisberger said. “I thought that I could get it to Jason and let him jump he”s already big enough as it is. He can out-jump anyone. I just didn”t have the arm strength to get it there.”
The Michigan offense stormed down the field in a three-minute, 80-yard drive. Another long run by Askew set up Bell”s second reverse of the game for the touchdown.
After another Miami punt, the Wolverines ran over Miami”s demoralized defense. Freshman David Underwood saw his first action in a Michigan uniform and combined with senior Walter Cross for 40 yards rushing on the drive. Cross scored on a one-yard touchdown run.
Miami tacked its second touchdown in the waning minutes to put the score at 31-13.