Rodriguez loses in his debut at Michigan
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan’s new era opened in a painfully familiar way for the 108,000 fans at the Big House: with an ugly loss.
Rich Rodriguez’s debut as Wolverines coach was spoiled when Utah’s Brian Johnson threw for 305 yards and a touchdown and Louie Sakoda kicked four field goals, providing enough scoring to hold on for a 25-23 win Saturday.
“We got a chance to put our names on the map,” Johnson said.
A year ago, Appalachian State stunned the Wolverines. But this was more businesslike than shocking. The Utes were only a three-point underdog and received more votes than Michigan in the Associated Press preseason poll.
“They deserved to win,” Rodriguez said.
Utah decisively outplayed the Wolverines early and took a 15-point lead into the fourth quarter but had a punt blocked and fumbled to give Michigan a shot to come back.
Georgia Tech transfer Steven Threet, who came in for former walk-on Nick Sheridan at quarterback, perfectly lofted a 33-yard pass to Junior Hemingway and Sam McGuffie ran for a score on the next drive to pull Michigan to within two points midway through the fourth.
Threet’s pass on the two-point conversion was high, and the next two drives were three-and-outs. Michigan’s next drive ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down deep in its territory.
Rodriguez’s spread offense was kept in check, gaining only 36 yards on the ground and 167 through the air with inexperienced players at virtually every position.
“The running game was a huge disappointment,” Rodriguez said. “We never were able to get the defense a rest.”