Despite having to battle not only Western Michigan but mother nature as well, the University of Michigan opened the 2011 season with a weather-shortened 34-10 victory.
Fans got their first look at Brady Hoke and the new-look Michigan Wolverines. While the Wolverines were not dominate, they were able to make plays on both the offensive and (surprisingly) defensive sides of the ball. Moving the ball easily on their first drive, Western Michigan actually held the lead after one quarter, but after the rocky start Michigan was able to pull away before the game was called due to weather.
Denard Robinson did not accumulate the mind-blowing statistics that Wolverine fans have grown accustomed to, but he looked solid operating OC Al Borges’ offense. Robinson was 9-13 passing for 98 yards and showed good accuracy on short to mid-range routes, even while under center. The speedy QB picked up 46 yards on just 8 carries through a mixture of designed runs and scrambles from pressure. The offense was able to move the ball efficiently and sustain long drives, keeping the defense fresh and rested. The Michigan offense was also able to steer clear of the turnovers and penalties that have plagued them the past few seasons. The Wolverines never turned the ball over and only called for one delay of game penalty.
Fitzgerald Toussaint, starting his first career game at running back, opened the scoring for the Wolverines. Toussaint pounded in a one-yard touchdown that capped a 16-play opening drive. The redshirt sophomore finished the day with 80 yards and two touchdowns.
Michigan took the lead on the first big play of the season. Surprisingly, it wasn’t by Denard Robinson and the offense but by linebacker Brandon Herron. With WMU driving deep into Michigan territory, Herron intercepted a pass tipped by redshirt freshman Jake Ryan and rumbled 94 yards for a touchdown. Herron’s return is the longest such play in school history, besting the 92-yard return by Ken Tureaud against UCLA in 1961. Michigan found itself with a 20-10 haltime lead, thanks to another short touchdown run by Toussaint.
Soon after halftime the game was delayed by lightning, stopping the action for over a half hour. When play resumed Brandon Herron picked up right where he left off, scooping up a fumble caused by Jordan Kovacs and taking it 29 yards for another score. Herron became the first Wolverine in the modern era to score two touchdowns via defensive returns. On the strength of his eight tackles and two defensive touchdowns, Herron was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week.
After an inauspicious start, the Michigan defense became stronger as the game went on and held WMU to just 279 total yards of offense. The Broncos were able to move the ball at times, mainly through the air, but the Wolverines countered by creating the big plays necessary to turn the game around. The defense created three turnovers and got constant pressure on WMU QB Alex Carder. Twice on blitzes safety Jordan Kovacs delivered devastating hits on Carder. Kovacs finished the game with 10 tackles and two sacks.
Senior Michael Shaw capped the game’s scoring with a 44 yard touchdown jaunt through a wide open hole created by the Wolverine offensive line. Soon after officials declared a second weather delay, and the game was called with 1:27 left in the third quarter. Both teams agreed to call the game due to safety concerns. It is the first time in the 132-year history of Michigan football that a game has ended prematurely.