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Michigan starts slow but finishes strong to overwhelm Eastern Michigan

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The Michigan football team got a late wakeup call Saturday afternoon.

And it’s becoming a habit.

After sleepwalking through an uninspired first quarter, which saw Eastern Michigan post a 3-0 lead and go knocking on the doorstep looking to take an even bigger advantage, the Wolverines answered the bell and then completely overwhelmed the Eagles, 31-3, at the Big House in front of 110, 343.

Stop if you’ve heard this before. Michigan is 3-0 and in all three games the opposition has scored on its first drive against the Wolverines, forcing Michigan to come from behind to win.

“It’s something we need to work on, but I don’t know if it’s a problem,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke. “You have to give them (Eastern) some credit. They are an uncoventional team and they surprised us.”

Hoke said EMU opened the game with a number of running plays, “the jet sweep” that confused the Wolverines.

“It was kind of funky,” said Michigan defensive back Thomas Gordon. “Coach (defensive coordinator Greg) Mattison held a meeting with us (defensive players) after the first quarter and we made a few changes.”

Michigan was outgained, 140-32 in the first quarter but finished with 471 yards to 236 for Eastern.

All this comes a week after an emotional come from behind win over Notre Dame in front of a record crowd in the first home night game at Michigan Stadium. Was it hard to maintain that energy against a team you’ve never lost to in 10 tries?

“I don’t think we were flat,” said quarterback Denard Robinson, once again the star of the show, rushing for 196 yards while throwing for two touchdowns and running for another.

Robinson said tight end Kevin Koger, one of Michigan’s captains, challenged his teammates before the game in the lockerroom.

But safety Jordan Kovacs wasn’t so sure.

“We have to play with more emotion early in the game,” he said. “It’s definitely something we have to work on.”

Kovacs made the biggest play of the first quarter for Michigan, stopping EMU at Michigan’s one-yard line on a fourth down play. He blitzed and made a tackle that kept the Eagles out of the end zone. Another big defensive play came after Gordan made an over-the-shoulder one-handed interception in the end zone and then Michigan drove 80 yards for its first touchdown.

Robinson wasn’t the only Wolverine rusher to have a big day. Vince Smith ran for 118 yards and Fitz Toussaint ran for a touchdown.

Robinson struggled throwing the ball, missing on his first five attempts and finishing with 95 yards on 7 of 18 passes. But Robinson was his usual dazzling self when he ran the football. He carried in 26 times.

“Obviously we don’t him to carry it that many times because we don’t want him to get banged up,” said Hoke.

The coach said the road only gets tougher and was reminded that two years ago Michigan also was 3-0 after wins over Western Michigan, Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan and ended the year at 5-7.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Hoke said.

Eastern Michigan falls to 2-1.

Michigan hosts San Diego State next Saturday at noon at the Big House. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten network.

For more info: mgoblue, annarbor.com, espn

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