College Football: Utah 25, Michigan 23
Associated PressANN ARBOR, Mich. ó Michigan’s new era opened in a painfully familiar way for the 108,000-plus fans at the Big House: With an ugly-looking 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 just 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.
Michigan was missing three four-year starters on offense ó left tackle Jake Long was a first-round pick in the NFL draft, and quarterback Chad Henne and running back Mike Hart were also picked.
Georgia Tech transfer Steven Threet, who came in 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 within two points midway through the fourth.
Threet’s pass on the 2-point conversion was high and the next two drives ended on three-and-outs. Michigan’s next drive ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down deep in its territory.
“It shouldn’t have been as close as it was,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.