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Sophomore backs lead UM offense

08/31/2014, 12:00am EDT

ANN ARBOR — In the days leading up to Michigan’s season opener, plenty of questions surrounded the offense.

With a 52-14 rout of first-year FBS program Appalachian State, the Wolverines answered those questions with the help of a pair of sophomore running backs.

Derrick Green rushed for 170 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, while De’Veon Smith had eight carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

“We both bring a little something different to the game,” Green said. “There’s always competition with us but there’s always love. If I break a line, he wants to break a line. If he breaks one, I want to break one.

Smith, Green said, brings a bruising power game to UM’s backfield, while Green said he has an edge over Smith when it comes to speed. The duo complemented each other Saturday. The sophomore backs became the first Michigan tandem in nearly seven years to have 100 yards rushing in a game; Carlos Brown (132) and Brandon Minor (157) did it Oct. 27, 2007, in a 34-10 win over Minnesota.

“Going into the season with a little bit of a different mentality, we just went out there and executed,” UM quarterback Devin Gardner said. “We’re a tough team. We’re going to play hard, we’re going to run the football like we did today.”

PEPPERS’ DEBUT: The opener didn’t come without a near-casualty — and one that could have been significant. Jabrill Peppers, a freshman who started at nickel back and at punt returner, limped off the field in the first quarter but returned after two plays.

However, the former five-star recruit from New Jersey was not on the sidelines in the second half.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke said the staff decided not to bring Peppers out for the second half, because of injuring his ankle.

“He’ll be ready for next week [at Notre Dame],” Hoke said.

NEW NUMBER: An hour before the kickoff, UM announced that Devin Funchess will wear uniform No. 1 this season. Funchess previously wore the No. 87 Michigan Football Legends jersey in honor of former UM tight end Ron Kramer, a two-time consensus All-American (1955-56) and a three-time All-Big Ten first-team selection (1954-56).

Funchess said it was a change he’d been pondering.

“I asked Jake Ryan all offseason, ‘Was I working hard? Did I earn it?’ ” said Funchess, who had three touchdowns and 95 yards on seven catches. “He said ‘yeah.’ So I went up and asked Coach Hoke. Coach Hoke said he would think about it. I took the initiative to call Kurt Kramer, Ron Kramer's son, to ask him about the situation. He said that it was okay. I thanked him, and then Coach Hoke made the final decision.”

TRUE FRESHMAN: Mason Cole became the Wolverines’ first true freshman to start on the offensive line.

LUMINARIES: Former UM quarterback and current Jacksonville Jaguar Denard Robinson was at the game, two days after Atlanta defeated Jacksonville 24-14 in an NFL preseason game. Robinson, who plays at running back, had seven carries for 12 yards.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at:, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.

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