As the day wore on and Garrett Rivas kept putting the ball
through the uprights, fellow kicker Adam Finley had two words for
him: “Thank you.”

Janna Hutz
Freshman kicker Garrett Rivas connected on his first two collegiate attempts. (TONY DING/Daily)

Even Finley, who appears to have lost his job as starting field
goal kicker after hitting 1-of-3 attempts against Central Michigan,
had to feel relieved.

Rivas punched through field goals of 43 and 38 yards Saturday
against Houston, giving Michigan a glimpse of why he was one of the
top kicking recruits in the nation.

“It’s a great feeling to know that I can perform,” Rivas said.
“A lot of people believed in me, and they put me in the game, and
I’m just glad I got the opportunity.”

Special teams coach Jim Boccher approached Rivas just a few
minutes before the game, and told the Tampa, Fla. native that he’d
be handling the kicking duties.

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr would not confirm that Rivas has won
the starting job after the game, but it’s clear Carr is satisfied
with what he’s seen from the youngster.

Rivas is a welcome addition to the Wolverines’ special teams
unit, which appears to be one of the most improved areas for the
team. A consistent field goal kicker is something the Wolverines
have missed since the days of Jay Feely (1995-98) and Remy Hamilton
(1993-96).

Michigan missed 12-of-24 field goals last season, as it rotated
among Finley, Phil Brabbs and Troy Nienberg.

During the three years prior to Michigan’s 2002 kicking
carousel, Hayden Epstein put together a 26-of-42 career mark, but
it was making kicks in crunch time that gave Epstein the most
difficulty.

Rivas will likely have his chance Saturday against Notre Dame to
make some pressure-packed kicks. When asked about the high stakes
of kicking against Notre Dame, Rivas gives the kicker mantra.

“I’m not going into it any differently,” said Rivas, who also
pulled a 43-yarder in the third quarter. “I prepare the same for
every game.”

Rivas, who considers himself “unleashed” after getting a start
Saturday, comes from a high school (Tampa’s Jesuit High) that is
known for producing top kickers, including Feely and current
Florida State kicker Xavier Beitia.

Tough Week: Michigan captain and linebacker Carl Diggs
sat out Saturday’s game because his three-year-old niece passed
away last week.

Diggs missed some practices last week, and will attend the
funeral today in his hometown of Warren, Ohio. He plans to return
to practice in time to play against the Fighting Irish
Saturday.

“I’m taking it in stride,” Diggs said after the game Saturday.
“I’m just trying to be strong for my family right now.

“It just shows how things can change overnight. Football is just
a game. My family loves to see me do this, and that’s why I came
back so early to get ready (for Notre Dame).”

The Michigan family is also mourning the death of Chip
Schembechler, the stepson of legendary Michigan football coach Bo
Schembechler.

“It has been a difficult week in terms of things that happened
off the field,” Carr said.

Injury Update: Michigan wide receiver Jermaine Gonzales
broke his hand on what Carr called a “freak injury” in practice
this past week. Gonzales said that he expects to be back in a few
weeks.

Michigan true freshman linebacker Shawn Crable sat out again
with his bruised shoulder. Crable predicted a return to the lineup
this week.

Sophomore wide receiver Jason Avant missed Saturday’s game
because of an injury he sustained in practice jumping up for a
pass. The injury does not appear to be serious.

Linebacker David Harris left the game on a stretcher after
injuring his leg. He said he would have an MRI Saturday night.

Carr said he was shocked that linebacker Pierre Woods was able
to play in Saturday’s game after a scary incident at practice.

“I don’t know how Pierre Woods played,” Carr said. “He had a
nail on his finger ripped off and had to have his finger sewn back
together.”

Notes: John Navarre passed Elvis Grbac for first place on
the all-time completions list with 527 for his career. …
Fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Kaselitz played his first career
snap on the last snap of Saturday’s game. … Sophomore fullback
Brian Thompson and sophomore tight end Tyler Ecker caught their
first passes at Michigan. … Michigan’s safety was the team’s
first since 2001 at Washington. … The 50-3 win was Michigan’s
largest margin of victory since the Wolverines beat Indiana 58-0 in
2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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