Michigan Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (28) receives congratulations from teammates after scoring a touchdown second quarter against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Michigan Stadium. (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)
ANN ARBOR (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - Michigan entered today loaded with questions.
After a sputtering offensive start, most were answered as the No. 17-ranked Wolverines dominated Central Michigan in the season opener,59-9,at Michigan Stadium.
The young offensive line? It produced over 200 rushing yards, didn't allow a sack with the starters in the game and gave quarterback Devin Gardner more than enough time for his patented scramble plays, a pair which resulted in touchdowns on the ground and one through the air.
The inexperienced defense? Probably even better than the offense, first holding to just field goals after Gardner's two interceptions and kept the pressure on scrambling Central Michigan backup quarterback Alex Niznak.
The Wolverines knocked out CMU's starting QB Cody Kater and starting tailback Zurlon Tipton in the first half, fundamentally altering the Chippewas' game plan early.
It may not have mattered.
The Wolverines set the blowout tone early, when freshman Dymonte Thomas blocked Central Michigan's first punt of the game, allowing senior Joe Reynolds to scoop the loose ball and score U-M's first touchdown of the season.
Though Gardner made a few poor decisions early, including that pick inside his own 10-yard line, the Michigan offense faced little resistance.
Following his pick on U-M's first drive, Gardner (10-for-15 passing for 162 yards and a touchdown) rolled through seven touchdown drives in his final eight possessions. He built margins of 35-6 by the half and 49-6 by the time he completed his day late in the third quarter.
The Michigan Stadium crowd was clearly fatigued from cheering by that point, getting a new boost when freshman tailback DerrickGreen entered and ran for 42 yards and a touchdown on his first drive, roaring their approval.
That echo revived on the next series, late in the third quarter, when freshman quarterback Shane Morris relieved Gardner and got his first college experience.
The U-M coaches' goal was to see how the new starters fared - those who started like safety Jarrod Wilson, replacing injured Courtney Avery, and safety Josh Furman, playing for suspended Thomas Gordon.
They wanted to see how the players returning from injury adapted. Tailback Fitz Toussaint was merely average, rushing for 57 yards on 14 carries and scoring two short touchdowns.
Cornerback Blake Countess, back from an ACL tear, was attacked early by the Chippewas and was adequate.
Michigan got what it wanted and needed. A dominating victory, a ton of young players getting their first real game action, and the feeling of football with Notre Dame arriving in a week.
¦ INJURIES: Tailback Drake Johnson had problem with his left leg in third quarter. ... Reynolds and tight end Devin Funchess hobbled off in the second half with an apparent leg injuries but the U-M radio broadcast said they were fine.
MARK SNYDER - DETROIT FREE PRESS