NCAA Football

Appalachian State vs. Michigan: Game Grades, Analysis for the Wolverines

Brady Hoke passed. 

Doug Nussmeier's offense passed. 

Greg Mattison's defense passed. 

OK, so the entire Michigan football team passed the first day of school by pummeling visiting Appalachian State 52-14 in front of 106,811 at The Big House on Saturday. 

Here are the marks for before and after recess. 

Class is in session for Team 135. 

Box score via NCAA.com

 

Pass Offense

During the first half, Devin Gardner could do no wrong. Well, he did wrong once; his single incomplete pass was his only mistake, if that's what you want to call it. The fifth-year senior hooked up with Devin Funchess thrice for touchdowns in the first half and finished the day 13-of-14 with 173 yards and a rating of 267.4, per the UM athletic department stats. 

Funchess, now donning the coveted No. 1 jersey, became the first Wolverines wide receiver to have a trio of six-pointers in the season opener. That's something Anthony Carter and Braylon Edwards never did. 

Shane Morris completed a great pass to Keith Heitzman late in the third quarter, but then he turned around and threw a pick. He finished 3-of-5 with 37 yards. His performance only slightly dings the overall grade. 

But as a whole, a high grade is absolutely appropriate. 

 

Run Offense

This one is kind of tricky. Sure, the Wolverines ran wild over the Mountaineers, putting up a combined 350 yards on the day. However, it took a few moments before things really got started. The final two quarters were all Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, who combined for 285 yards. 

Smith had a pair of touchdowns, while Green had one. Green had a 62-yard trot; Smith had one for 61. 

But, the first half wasn't great. There's work to be done all around, but Green and Smith became the first running back duo to go for 100-plus each since 2007. That deserves a gold star or something like that. 

 

Pass Defense

Appalachian State's Kameron Bryant met Desmond Morgan once, which had to hurt. That knock pretty much set the tone for the defense, which allowed just 52 yards through the air during the first half. With depth players in the mix, the Wolverines gave up a touchdown to Simms McElfresh, who has one of the best names in college football. 

During his post-game presser, coach Brady Hoke said that he and the defense want that one back. Who can blame them? Other than the one score and a total of 127 yards surrendered, Team 135's pass defense looked stout. 

But again, one must consider the competition. It wasn't Ohio State, Notre Dame or Michigan State. We'll see what these guys are really made of next Saturday when they battle the Irish—and then later against the Spartans and Buckeyes. 

 

Run Defense

Giving up 153 yards on the ground to anyone is a no-no, especially when that "anyone" is one year removed from FCS play. The Wolverines were solid in the first half, allowing former 1,000-yard rusher Marcus Cox just 19 yards. 

The second half wasn't so great, but that was due to rotation. Hoke made sure to give reps to plenty of guys. You can bet that Mattison will have a talk with his defenders, who were gouged up the middle. 

 

Special Teams

Nothing special. But it's worth noting that Jabrill Peppers limped off the field after returning a punt. He'll be ready to go this week, says Hoke, who emphasized the non-serious nature of his star frosh's ankle injury. 

 

Coaching

Give these guys some credit—they've had to answer questions about 2007 for weeks. They put together a solid game plan that would have beaten a lot of Big Ten teams. Nothing is perfect, but Michigan's coaching staff was on the same page Saturday. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer. 

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Randy Gregory Injury: Updates on Nebraska Star's Knee and Return

Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory has exited the Cornhuskers' game against Florida Atlantic on Saturday with what appears to be a left knee injury.

KETV Omaha's Andy Kendeigh reported that Gregory was on the sideline with his knee in a brace in the first half:

In the second half, the star junior was in street clothes. Alex Lantz of the Lincoln Journal Star did feel that Gregory was moving around well:

After the game, ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman had an update:

It's entirely possible that Nebraska was simply being extra cautious with the player. At the time of writing, the Cornhuskers were up, 38-7, in the third quarter against the Owls. The team could afford to leave Gregory on the bench and feel confident about the result.

There's little doubt as to Gregory's importance for Nebraska. One of the best defensive ends in the country, he recorded 10.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss last season. That was enough to get him on ESPN's and USA Today's preseason All-American teams ahead of the 2014 campaign.

In order for the Cornhuskers to be contenders in the Big Ten West Division, they'll need Gregory healthy and back on the field.

Considering how Nebraska already had Saturday's game in control, it's a bit too early to begin panicking too much as to the extent of his injury.

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Nebraska's Jordan Westerkamp Makes Terrific Behind-the-Back Catch vs. FAU

The college football season just started, but Nebraska wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp has already put himself in the running for the best catch of the year.

During Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic, Westerkamp was running a route toward the sideline. After a defender tipped the throw from Tommy Armstrong Jr., Westerkamp improvised and somehow made the grab behind his back before tiptoeing out of bounds.

[Vine]

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Fresno State vs. USC: Live Score and Highlights

USC 31, Fresno State 7 — HALFTIME

USC has begun the Steve Sarkisian era, opening the 2014 season at home against Fresno State in dominating fashion by racing out to a 24-0 lead.

Stick with us for real-time updates and analysis, including some of the best pictures, videos, GIFS and tweets from this Golden State nonconference tilt.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Fresno State vs. USC: Live Score and Highlights

USC 31, Fresno State 13 — Early 3rd quarter USC has begun the Steve Sarkisian era, opening the 2014 season at home against Fresno State in dominating fashion by racing out to a 24-0 lead...

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Auburn Ball Boy Shows off Blazing Speed vs. Arkansas

The Auburn Tigers are looking to make another run at the national championship this season, and they might want to consider adding one of their ball boys to the roster.

During Saturday's game against Arkansas, one Auburn ball boy showed off his blazing speed, keeping up with wide receiver Melvin Ray as he sprinted down the sideline.

[Vine]


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Alabama's DeAndrew White Jukes Multiple Defenders for First Down vs. WVU

The Alabama Crimson Tide may not have AJ McCarron anymore, but they still have plenty of talent at wide receiver.

During the second quarter of Saturday's game against the West Virginia Mountaineers, senior receiver DeAndrew White showed just how talented he is.

On third and long, White turned a short pass into a 38-yard gain thanks to a few jukes that left a number of West Virginia defenders grasping at air.

[Vine, h/t College Spun]

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WVU's Mario Alford Returns Kickoff 100 Yards for Touchdown vs. Alabama

The Alabama Crimson Tide enter this season as the No. 2 team in the country, but they're having some trouble in their first game against the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Late in the second quarter, Mario Alford turned on the jets and helped get the Mountaineers back in the game with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. 

That return tied it up at 17. The Mountaineers now trail just 20-17 at halftime.

[Instagram]

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Ohio State vs. Navy: Game Grades, Analysis for the Buckeyes

It took a little while for No. 5 Ohio State to gain its bearings offensively, but the Buckeyes found their groove in the second half, surging late for a closer-than-it-looked 34-17 victory over Navy.

Early struggles were expected without Heisman Trophy hopeful Braxton Miller at quarterback. The Buckeyes also faced a tough challenge in defending Navy and its vaunted triple-option attack.

How does Ohio State grade out after its season-opening 17-point victory?

 

Ohio State Buckeyes Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: J.T. Barrett completed 12 of 15 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns against one interception. The redshirt freshman made good decisions with the football, completing 80 percent of his throws and averaging 18.8 yards per completion. A bad interception and poor pass protection in the first half hurt the Buckeyes early, but a strong second-half performance salvaged a nice outing.

Run Offense: Much like the passing offense, it took a little while for the rushing attack to get going. The Buckeyes managed only 66 rushing yards in the first half, and starting running back Ezekiel Elliott struggled, carrying the ball just three times for five yards. Things clicked in the fourth quarter, when Ohio State piled up 122 rushing yards.

Pass Defense: It's easy to look good in pass defense against Navy. Midshipmen quarterback Keenan Reynolds threw just four passes, completing two of them for 20 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. But Ohio State's pass defense looked fierce, registering two sacks despite Navy dropping back for a pass just six times.

Run Defense: The Buckeyes did a good job limiting Navy's offense in the first half. Reynolds and the Midshipmen went into the locker room at halftime with 138 rushing yards—a modest number for Ken Niumatalolo's squad. Navy exploded in the third quarter, though, rushing for 196 yards in a single quarter. Defensive tackles Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington were really impressive, but giving up 370 rushing yards—even to Navy—is never good.

Special Teams: Dontre Wilson had a solid day returning punts and kicks, and Cameron Johnston looked to be in midseason form in the first quarter when he pinned Navy at the 1-yard line with a 53-yard punt. True freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger stole the show, though, connecting on 46- and 28-yard field goals in his first collegiate action.

Coaching: The Buckeyes offense struggled mightily in the first half, and a lot of that was due to poor play-calling from offensive coordinator Tom Herman. The worst call of the game came in the second quarter when Ohio State needed just two yards inside Navy's 5-yard line for a first down. Instead of pounding the ball inside, the Buckeyes went wide with an option, resulting in a seven-yard loss for Elliott. The play-calling improved greatly in the second half, which produced much better results for the offense.

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Why the Big 12 Should Extend Invite to Top FCS Team North Dakota State

If the Big 12 is looking for expansion prospects, perhaps the league should look north. North of Kansas. North, toward Fargo, N.D., and North Dakota State.

Last month, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby didn't completely close the door on Big 12 expansion. With the league sitting at 10 teams—and needing 12 to hold a lucrative league title game—the topic came up at Big 12 Media Days.

The Big 12 commissioner said, per Keith Whitmire of the Deseret News, that expansion was possible only if the school brings "more than pro-rata value."

Between last year and this year, our distribution per school goes up $3.2 million per school. If you do that 12 ways instead of 10 ways, it goes up $2.5 million per school. You've got to have somebody that brings at least pro rata value, and that's a real short list.

I’m not sure about pro-rata value, but North Dakota State has certainly proved its value as a potential Big 12 member on the gridiron.

Saturday’s 34-14 thumping of Iowa State marked the program’s second consecutive win over a Big 12 North foe, and third in the last five years. It was the Bison’s eighth win over an FBS foe in the last nine years, and NDSU extended its win streak to 25 games. Per USA Today's Paul Myerberg, the Bison has the nation's fourth-longest win streak against FBS competition. 

North Dakota State has built something truly special in Fargo, with three consecutive FCS national titles. As Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval  noted, the Bison’s program DNA is hard-nosed defense and all-out effort. That hasn’t changed this season, although there was reason to believe NDSU might take a step back this fall.

Head coach Craig Bohl, the architect of the recent success, was hired away last December by Mountain West team Wyoming. And 24 seniors at the roster’s core graduated, finishing their eligibility following last season’s FCS national title win over Towson.

Defensive coordinator Chris Klieman was promoted to replace Bohl. And while Iowa State (3-9 in 2013) is nowhere near as impressive a conquest as beating defending Big 12 champion Kansas State with an 18-play, 80-yard, 8:30 touchdown drive, the Bison were solid Saturday regardless.

After spotting Iowa State a 14-0 lead, NDSU scored the game’s final 34 points, with first-time starting quarterback Carson Wentz completing 18 of 28 passes for 204 yards with no interceptions.

It’s unclear if North Dakota State could compete consistently with the likes of Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor, but at the very least, the Bison have proven worthy of inclusion in the Big 12’s middle class, finding success against FBS teams while competing with the FCS-mandated 63 scholarship limit.

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall has campaigned for his team as a Big 12 expansion target. But if the Big 12 wants a passionate program that has proven it can hold its own with current league members, Bowlsby and Co. could certainly do a lot worse than North Dakota State.

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Sweet Revenge, Doug Nussmeier's New Offense Exactly What Michigan Fans Needed

It’s been seven long years since the sky fell, and Michigan lost to Appalachian State. After last year’s 7-6 finish, the last thing many Michigan fans wanted was a reminder of when their program started its slide into mediocrity.

But Doug Nussmeier’s offense made sure there would be no replay of the 2007 debacle, rolling out to a 35-0 halftime lead behind the running attack of Derrick Green (15 carries for 174 yards, one touchdown), De’Veon Smith (eight carries for 115 yards, two touchdowns) and the passing tandem of Devin Gardner (13-of-14 for 173 yards and three touchdowns) and Devin Funchess (seven receptions for 95 yards, three touchdowns).

Michigan coasted during the second half, winning 52-14 and exacting a measure of revenge for the program’s 2007 loss to Appalachian State.

Green and Smith had dueled for the top spot at running back during camp but both played well, gashing Appalachian State for long gains while Devin Funchess showed himself worthy of his new No. 1 jersey

Nussmeier was hired to rebuild the Michigan offense around a dominant running game and Saturday that’s exactly what Michigan showed rolling for over 560 total yards (350 rushing, 210 passing).

The offense showed a lethal balance between the running and passing that it lacked last season, allowing quarterback Devin Gardner to distribute the ball among multiple teammates while not exposing himself to unnecessary hits from the defense.

“Devin managed the game and took care of the football,” said Hoke. “He played locked in.”

Last season, Michigan opened with a 59-9 thumping of Central Michigan, but the offense was overly dependent on Devin Gardner. Nussmeier’s new scheme proved too much for Appalachian State.

Hoke was reluctant to gush about his team’s new offense.

“We won the football game, we got in the end zone, and now we play Notre Dame.”

It’s only one game but after seven years of hearing about the program’s epic defeat at the hands of Appalachian State, Saturday’s win, and most importantly the way Michigan won, is a welcome relief to Wolverines fans.

 

All season statistics from MGoBlue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department website.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.

Follow @PSCallihan.

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UCLA Offensive Line Must Improve If Brett Hundley Wants to Win Heisman

Forty-three minutes, 58 seconds: That's how far into its 28-20 win over Virginia No. 7 UCLA went before scoring its first—and only—offensive touchdown...

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How Much Trouble Is Ohio State In?

The Ohio State Buckeyes started their 2014 season with a 34-17 win vs. Navy in Baltimore, Maryland, but the game wasn't pretty.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Michael Felder discuss how worried Ohio State should be after its shaky start in Week 1.

How well do you think the Buckeyes will do in 2014? Watch the video and let us know.

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Clemson vs. Georgia: Live Score and Highlights

Early First Quarter

Clemson 7, Georgia 0

Clemson marched 70 yards for a touchdown on the game's opening possession.  How will Georgia respond?

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UCLA vs. Virginia: Game Grades, Analysis for Bruins

Yikes. UCLA was favored by three touchdowns heading into this contest. Not very many people expected Virginia to remain competitive throughout the game. The No. 7 Bruins narrowly eked out a victory by a score of 28-20 ...

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Grading J.T. Barrett's Debut Performance vs. Navy

Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett had his first career start in a 34-17 win vs. Navy today in Baltimore, MD. Bleacher Report's college football analyst Michael Felder breaks down his first performance of the 2014 season. How well do you think Barrett will do as the season progresses?

 

Watch the video and let us know.

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Youngstown State's Joey Cejudo Punts Ball Right at Lineman's Backside

This probably could have gone better.

During Saturday's game against the Illinois Fighting Illini, Youngstown State punter Joey Cejudo appeared to be trying to scramble for a first down.

Cejudo then changed his mind at the last minute and decided to punt, but the ball hit his lineman straight in the backside before rolling out of bounds. The Penguins ended up losing the game 28-17.

Mark Sanchez had the "butt fumble," but Cejudo now owns the "butt punt."

[Twitter]

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JT Barrett Debuts for Ohio State: Final Stat Line, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

J.T. Barrett made his first start for the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday against Navy. The team was able to power through a tough Midshipmen group, winning 34-17, but the growing pains for the freshman quarterback were obvious and will take time to be worked out.  

Given Barrett's youth and inexperience, head coach Urban Meyer certainly wasn't expecting to see Braxton Miller 2.0. The good news is the defense and running game were able to carry Ohio State early, allowing the youngster to get his feet under him and make big plays when the team needed it. 

Here's a look at Barrett's full stat line from the game, along with highlights and reaction from around the Internet. 

Before the game started, Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer noted that former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce was predicting big things for Barrett:

While Bruce may have been wrong about how effective Barrett was going to be, the game got much better for him and the Buckeyes. Some of the problems early were on the rebuilt offensive line, as noted by Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer Ben Axelrod:

The Ohio State fan group known as Eleven Warriors certainly came out of the game with no complaints under the circumstances:

Barrett's biggest mistake came in the second quarter. Ohio State was trailing 7-3 and sitting deep in Navy territory. The Buckeyes got down to the 8-yard line following a 30-yard completion to Dontre Wilson, but it was followed by an interception on a poor decision from the freshman quarterback.

The good news is that would be the only mistake that cost the Buckeyes, as Barrett came out strong in the second half. He exploited Navy's defense in the third quarter, hitting Devin Smith for an 80-yard touchdown against busted coverage to give Ohio State a 20-14 lead. 

According to Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch, that was the longest touchdown Navy has allowed in a long time:

Passes like that are one reason Meyer felt comfortable giving the reins to a young quarterback. Even former Ohio State players like Eddie George like the way the team has eased Barrett into his role. George told Cleveland.com:

Barrett has gotten a ton of throws through the spring and now the fall. He's the guy and they can really tailor the game plan around him. J.T. is probably going to run a more conservative game plan and not put it on his shoulders to win the games. ...

... Ohio State has a ton of talent around (Barrett). There are explosive playmakers at every position on the offensive side of the ball, but defense will have to carry the brunt of the load and they can definitely do that with probably the best front seven in the entire country.

That was certainly the case against Navy. With the exception of the long touchdown pass, Meyer called a very conservative game, with just 15 pass attempts against 40 runs. As Barrett gains more experience, the playbook will open up and the offense may take off. 

For now, the best thing Ohio State and Barrett can say is they got the first week is behind them and the defense was able to lead the charge against a good Navy team.

It will be interesting to see how things change next week, if at all, with the Buckeyes playing Virginia Tech in prime time. That game is in Columbus, so Barrett will have the crowd in his corner. 

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Ohio State's Darron Lee Destroys Navy QB Keenan Reynolds

Though the college football season just began this week, we already have a nominee for one of the biggest hits of the year.

On Saturday, Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Darron Lee plowed his way into the Navy backfield and completely leveled junior quarterback Keenan Reynolds. You can see another angle of the hit below.

As a redshirt freshman, that's one way for Lee to prove himself to his team.

[Instagram]

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Rice vs. Notre Dame: Live Score and Highlights

Notre Dame 31, Rice 10—Late 3rd Quarter

Football is back, and Notre Dame hosts Rice in a Week 1 matchup that has more storylines than one would have expected when this game was scheduled a few years ago.

This is the fifth meeting between these two teams, and the first since 1988.  Rice is 0-4 all-time against Notre Dame.  Can the Owls change their fortunes against the Irish today?

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