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September 8, 2012In Saturday's 31-25 win over Air Force, redshirt sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan did something that no Wolverine has in 85 seasons.
He put on the No. 47 jersey.
After three-time All-American end Bennie Oosterbaan (1925-27) graduated, the Michigan football program retired his jersey, No. 47. It was the Wolverines' first ever retired number, and was eventually joined by Tom Harmon's No. 98, the Wistert brothers' No. 11, Ron Kramer's No. 87 and Gerald Ford's No. 48.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon, with the blessings of the former players' families, has decided to roll out the jerseys once again, as part of the Wolverines' new "Legends Jersey" program. Last season, Michigan unveiled the first Legends Jersey with Heisman Trophy-winning receiver Desmond Howard's No. 21 (currently worn by fifth-year senior wide receiver Roy Roundtree).
All retired numbers except Harmon's will be redistributed at home games this season.
During pregame warmups, Ryan wore his old No. 90 jersey. When the Wolverines ran out onto the field to touch the "Go Blue" banner, he was wearing No. 47.
Michigan will keep the rest of the Legends Jerseys they plan on giving out this year (No. 11, No. 48, No. 87) a secret until game time, too.
"It's an honor," Ryan said. "[Michigan coach Brady] Hoke called me in about a week ago. I was going to be wearing 47. It's been an honor. This game was awesome for me. Just wearing it was amazing. I'm going to wear it with pride, and represent him as well as I can.
"I did a little research on Bennie. He was really athletic, a Michigan Man. It's just a number, but I'm representing someone. I kind of had pride in what I did."
According to the Bentley Historical Library all-time roster database, Ryan is the third player in program history to wear the No. 47 jersey. Only one player wore it before Oosterbaan (Harlan Froemke, 1924). Only Harmon's jersey has been worn less over the Wolverines 133 football seasons; he is the lone player in program history to don No. 98.
The other Legends Jerseys have been used sparingly, too. No. 11 has been worn by just 13 players, three of which were in the Wistert family (Albert, Alvin and Francis). No. 87 has been worn just 11 times, and No. 48 has been worn 28 times.
"As we looked at as a staff, the guys who, from a character standpoint and from the standpoint of how he goes about his business every day, there wasn't a better choice than to have Jake represent Bennie," Hoke said. "As a staff we came up with that, the right guy."
And in his first game in the Oosterbaan Legends Jersey, Ryan posted his first double-digit tackle performance. He finished with a game-high 11 tackles, including one for a loss.
Ryan also made two of the defensive plays of the game. He leapt in front of a pass on Air Force's second-to-last drive of the game to break it up, one of his team-high two pass breakups. On the Falcons' final offensive play, Ryan blitzed and batted the pass down to put the stamp on the six-point win.
"He's a great player. He had a big game today so I told him I want to wear No. 47 next week," fifth-year senior safety Jordan Kovacs joked. "Maybe that's his secret. He's a great ballplayer, made some big plays for us today, and he does that every week. It was a great choice."
Note: Denard Robinson Runs Roughshod, But U-M RBs Don't Produce
When senior quarterback Denard Robinson rushed just 10 times for 27 yards in the Wolverines' disappointing 41-14 loss to Alabama, Michigan fans were desperate to see the explosive player get more chances with the ball in his hands.
They didn't have to wait long.
Robinson recorded carries on the Wolverines' first two offensive plays in Saturday's 31-25 win over Air Force. On the second, Robinson found a seam, cut upfield and raced 79 yards for a score.
It marked the second-longest rush of his career, topped only by his 87-yard touchdown run in the 28-24 win at Notre Dame in 2010.
On the first play of the second half, with Michigan clinging to a 14-10 lead, Robinson took off to his left, stutter-stepped to shed a few pursuing defenders and cut across field for a 58-yard touchdown rush.
No Michigan runner has scored on two plays of 50-plus yards since Tyrone Wheatley posted 56- and 88-yard touchdown scampers in the Wolverines' 38-31 win over Washington in the 1993 Rose Bowl.
Robinson finished the game with 20 carries for 218 yards and two touchdowns (10.9 yards per rush).
It was just the third time in his career he averaged more than 10 yards per rush (2009 vs. Eastern Michigan: three carries for 60 yards, 20.0 yards per rush; 2010 vs. Bowling Green: five carries for 129 yards, 25.8 yards per rush).
It was also the fourth time Robinson has finished a game with more than 200 yards on the ground. He also accomplished the feat at Notre Dame in 2010 (258 yards),at Indiana in 2010 (217 yards) and vs. San Diego in 2011 (200 yards). The Michigan record for games with 200-plus rushing yards in a career is five, set by former running back Mike Hart (2004-07).
Robinson added 208 yards and two scores through the air. Since 1996, he is the only player to run for 200-plus yards and throw for 200-plus yards in the same game on three separate occasions. Former Texas quarterback Vince Young is the only other player to accomplish the feat multiple times since '96, doing it twice in 2005.
Unfortunately, Robinson was the only thing working on offense.
Redshirt junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint tallied seven yards on eight carries (0.9 yards per rush) against the Falcons. No other Wolverine rushed the ball in the game.
"Whatever is working - just go with the flow and enjoy," Robinson said. "If the running back is running the ball 20-some times, I won't mind. If I'm running the ball 20-some times, I won't mind. If we're throwing the ball 20-some times, it doesn't matter. I just want to win."
Robinson said he'd have to look at the tape to see whether Toussaint was making the right decisions with the ball in his hands.
"I can't really tell. I didn't see what the running backs were seeing on the holes, because I'm making my reads," Robinson said. "I couldn't tell how they were reading it."
But redshirt junior left tackle Taylor Lewan, who was harsh on the offensive line's performance after the Wolverines tallied just 69 rushing yards against Alabama, said Toussaint's lack of success can be blamed on the front five.
"Seven yards from the running back is awful," Lewan said. "What Denard did was good, but there is always room for improvement, especially on the offensive line. We have to do a better job establishing the line of scrimmage. It's going to be tough for this team to be successful if we can't do that as an offensive line.
"There were a few situations where we ran one of our isolation plays to the left and we had nobody to account for an extra defender and the running back got put into a bad situation. The running back will have more opportunities, and we have to do a better job to be successful."
Note: Devin Funchess, Devin Gardner Provide Offensive Firepower
Coming into the 2012 season, the tight end position was a big question mark. After fifth-year senior tight end Brandon Moore injured his knee against Alabama, there were even more concerns about whether the Wolverines could get production out of the position.
True freshman Devin Funchess may have just put those concerns to rest.
Funchess tallied the first catch of his career on a 21 yarder. He added three more, all of which went for at least 26 yards, to finish with four grabs and 106 yards (26.5 yards per catch). On his third catch, senior quarterback Denard Robinson found him at the goal line, and Funchess went over top of the defender to come down with a 30-yard score.
Funchess' performance marked the first time a Michigan tight end record 100-plus receiving yards in a single game since former tight end Jerame Tuman went for 126 yards against Colorado in 1997.
"I think he did a nice job," Hoke said. "You like to go to playmakers, but there were some things set up for him.
"He's a tall guy, rangy, he can run. The thing I like about him is he's not afraid to block. Matchups on strong safeties, matchups on linebackers - that's kind of what you look for in a guy like that."
"I went out there and did my job, like I was supposed to, like I was coached to in practice to do," Funchess added. "I learned from Brandon Moore and Mike Kwiatkowski how to get off some coverages and other things like that, and it helped me in the game today."
Junior quarterback Devin Gardner, who is playing wide receiver this season, also gave the offense a spark.
After recording his first-career touchdown on a 44-yard pass in last weekend's loss to Alabama, Gardner caught a game-high five passes for 63 yards and another touchdown against Alabama.
The two Devins combined for nine catches, 169 yards and two touchdowns. The rest of the Michigan receiving corps added five catches, 39 yards and no scores.
Gardner was excited to see the freshman tight end break out.
"I love to see him catch passes," Gardner said. "He's really a wide receiver; he just happens to be a little bigger than the rest of us. I love it, and I can't wait to get a chance to throw to him, as well.