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August 30, 2008
Comeback falls short as U-M drops opener
ANN ARBOR, Mich.(AP) Michigan's new era opened in a painfully familiar way for the 100,000-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.
Michigan, which was upset by second-tier Appalachian State to begin last season, lost consecutive openers for the first time since 1989-90.
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.
Steven Threet, who replaced 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 final drive with an incomplete pass on fourth down deep in Michigan territory.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is 5-3 against Bowl Championship Series schools and the latest such victory was an important first step in giving the Utes a chance to bust the BCS at the end of the season.
Rodriguez's spread offense was kept in check, gaining just 36 yards on the ground and 167 through the air with inexperienced players at virtually every position.
He had a lot of success with the scheme at West Virginia, but he doesn't have anyone remotely resembling Pat White or Steve Slaton to make plays.
Rodriguez chose to start a former walk-on over a Georgia Tech transfer, and both struggled.
Sheridan played for two-plus quarters and was 11-of-19 for 98 yards with one TD, getting fortunate breaks to avoid a few interceptions. Threet entered in the third quarter and completed 8 of 19 passes for 69 yards and a score.
Michigan led 10-6 after one quarter on Sheridan's 8-yard touchdown pass to Michael Shaw and K.C. Lopata's 50-yard field goal. Utah scored on an 8-yard run by Corbin Louks, but Michigan's Terrance Taylor blocked the extra point.
The Utes dominated the second quarter, but stalled deep in Michigan on three straight possessions, with Sakoda kicking field goals each time to put Utah ahead 15-10.
Michigan, though, gave Utah one more chance before halftime as Sheridan's up-for-grabs pass was intercepted by Sean Smith. With 13 seconds left in the half, Johnson connected with Bradon Godfrey for a 19-yard touchdown and a 22-10 halftime lead.
Sakoda's fourth field goal, a career-best 53-yarder, was the only score of the third quarter.
Godfrey had 84 yards receiving and Matt Asiata ran for 77 yards, giving the Utes a good start in their quest to play in a BCS bowl for the first time since Urban Meyer helped them earn a spot four years ago in the Fiesta Bowl.