When Michigan’s opening drive stalled at the Eastern Michigan 14-yard line, Wolverine fans wondered if Michigan coach Lloyd Carr would stick with senior kicker Jason Gingell for the field-goal attempt.
The crowd voiced its opinion on the shaky kicking situation by cheering when K.C. Lopata trotted on the field.
Lopata nailed the 31-yarder – his first-career attempt – to give Michigan a 3-0 lead. The senior later put through a 36-yard kick in the third quarter to finish the day 2-for-2.
“I just felt where we were and where he was the fair thing to do was to give K.C. a shot,” Carr said. “And K.C. has done a good job. I thought he really hit the ball well today. I mean those were true. He hit the ball flush, so that was a great thing to see. I’m sure it will help his confidence.”
Gingell emerged after a three-way competition in training camp, but hit just 3-for-9 on the season.
Special day for special teams: On a day of broken records by Michigan running back Mike Hart, Eastern Michigan wrote another piece of Wolverine history.
After Hart scored on a four-yard run to put Michigan up 16-3 in the second quarter, the Eagles’ Jason Jones blocked Lopata’s extra-point attempt. Eastern Michigan’s Ryan Downard picked it up and ran it back for a two-point conversion.
The return marked the first time in Michigan history a conversion attempt has been returned for a two-point conversion. The NCAA implemented the rule that a blocked extra point could be advanced in 1988.
Still, Carr would like to take another look before coming down on his field-goal unit.
“I’m going to be interested to see the field goal that was blocked,” Carr said. “They came through a gap where Jake (Long) is, and Jake swears the guy was offsides, and I believe him.”
Eastern Michigan coach Jeff Genyk surprised Carr with a gutsy call to open the second half when the Eagles successfully recovered an onside kick.
The Eagles lined up for a standard kickoff, but kicker Zach Johnson squibbed it right in front of him. He fell on it, and Eastern Michigan used the momentum-changing play to score a touchdown to cut the Wolverine lead to two.
“That’s a hell of a call, because if it doesn’t work, maybe you put yourself in poor field position,” Carr said.
Injury update: Saturday, the Michigan defense shuffled around its starting lineup because linebackers John Thompson and Chris Graham and defensive tackle Will Johnson roamed the sidelines in street clothes.
Both Thompson and Graham said they’ll be ready to play next week, but Johnson wouldn’t elaborate on his injury.
“It’s just some nicks and bruises,” Graham said. “My back’s just a little bit achy. So the coaches will decide, and I’ll just make sure I’m healthy enough to play next week.”
On the offensive side of the ball, right guard Tim McAvoy also plans to return against Purdue.
Saturday, right tackle Stephen Schilling shifted into McAvoy’s slot and redshirt sophomore Mark Ortmann filled in at right tackle.
Carr said wide receiver Mario Manningham, who was suspended for Saturday’s game for violating a team rule, will be back next week.
Backup running back Brandon Minor also didn’t dress Saturday, and while Carr said he would return against Purdue, the coach had some words for him.
“I’m disappointed where he is,” Carr said. “This guy’s got a lot of ability, and this guy needs to get focused and do the things he’s capable of doing.”