A little more than a month ago, John Ferrara was a defensive tackle, a backup behind veterans Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson.
But right before the end of fall camp, the redshirt sophomore switched to offensive guard, a move made necessary by injuries to the interior of Michigan’s offensive line.
And on Saturday, Ferrara completed his rapid transition, starting at left guard for Michigan against Wisconsin.
Ferrara didn’t stand out in the first half, which is always a good sign for an offensive line. But redshirt junior Tim McAvoy started the second half at left guard. While Ferrara still has a ways to go before he’s completely comfortable on offense, his position coach was impressed by his performance.
“John’s playing with great effort, and as soon as he gets the moxie of how to play, I think that he’s going to be a real good player,” Michigan offensive line coach Greg Frey said. “He’s a hard-working kid and it means a lot to him.”
Frey and Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez didn’t say if Ferrara would get another start against Illinois next Saturday.
A trio of firsts: With Michigan still trailing by 19 points late in the third quarter, a true freshman stepped up in a big moment.
Tight end Kevin Koger, playing in his first career game, picked a good time for the first catch of his career.
On third and 10 from the Wisconsin 26, Koger ran a post from the slot position and found a seam in the zone defense. Redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Threet hit Koger inside the 10-yard line and Koger rolled into the endzone to get the Wolverines on the board.
Having a part in Michigan’s historic comeback was even more special than the touchdown for Koger.
“It’s crazy, I can’t believe it,” Koger said as he ran off the field. “It’s like a video game. I’ve never played in front of 110,000 before, so it’s nothing like I’ve ever experienced.”
After the game Rodriguez revealed that Koger’s touchdown may never have happened, because the coaching staff considered redshirting him this season.
“Every day in practice you can see him making improvements and he was learning the things,” Rodriguez said. “Kevin is a very, very intelligent player for a freshman and he made the big catch for a touchdown. Obviously he is going to play the rest of the year. We are excited about it.”
Minor’s major impact: Junior running back Brandon Minor has been overshadowed this season by true freshmen Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw.
But it was Minor’s number that was called with Michigan down 12 in the fourth quarter. He burst through the Wisconsin defense, countering a blitz and then sprinting to the endzone for a 34-yard touchdown run.
“It was set up perfect because the two linebackers blitzed, so I just had to beat the safety one-on-one and outrun the corner,” Minor said. “I just give it up to my linemen for holding their blocks.”
The touchdown was a special moment for a veteran who hasn’t gotten as much playing time as he would like so far this season.
“I’m really happy for Brandon, because Brandon needed something like this to happen,” Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson said.
Back on campus: A number of recent Michigan football alumni were back at the Big House for Saturday’s game. Six NFL teams had byes this weekend, which gave several former Wolverines the chance to attend the Wisconsin game.
Last season’s superstars, Mike Hart, Chad Henne and Jake Long, were all in attendance. Cornerback Marlin Jackson, Hart’s teammate on the Indianapolis Colts, was one of the honorary alumni captains for the game.
While much has been made of the disconnect between the new coaching staff and recent graduates, any differences were hard to see when the game ended. A number of former players, including Hart, ran over to the student section with the team to sing “The Victors.”
Injury update: Redshirt junior offensive tackle Mark Ortmann was back in the lineup for Michigan after missing the Notre Dame game because of a dislocated elbow.
Mark Huyge dressed for the game, but did not play. The redshirt freshman offensive lineman injured his ankle in fall camp and has not yet played this season.
Shaw did not see game action against the Badgers.
Notes: Junior defensive Brandon Graham had three sacks, tying him with a number of former players for third most by a Wolverine in a game. Graham had 3.5 sacks against Notre Dame last season. … Michigan has now won 23 straight Big Ten openers when the first conference game is at Michigan Stadium. … Michigan’s longest drive of the first half was just seven yards.