LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR (AP) — Devin Gardner threw three touchdown passes to Devin Funchess in the first half and Michigan went on to rout Appalachian State 52-14 in the season opener on Saturday, seven years after being on the losing end of perhaps the biggest upset in college football history.
The Wolverines coasted to victory after Gardner threw TD passes to Funchess on their first two drives, and connected with him for a third score late in the first half to give them a 21-0 lead.
The Mountaineers matched Michigan’s game-opening TD the first time they had the ball in 2007 and in a closely contested game, they became the first second-tier program to beat a Top 25 team after blocking a field goal as time expired.
There wasn’t much drama in the rematch.
Next week, though, might be suspenseful when the Wolverines go to Notre Dame.
The prime-time game will be the last scheduled matchup between the rivals because the Fighting Irish opted out of the last three games of their contract. Notre Dame wanted more flexibility with their schedules because they are beginning to play a handful of games against Atlantic Coast Conference schools this year.
The Mountaineers played their first game at the highest level of college football as a member of the Sun Belt Conference on Saturday at the Big House, and found out how far they have to go to compete with major programs.
Appalachian State simply could not match up well with Funchess, who became the first Wolverine to catch three TD passes in an opener. The 6-foot-4, 230-Funchess is lining up as a wide receiver after primarily playing tight end his first two seasons. He finished with seven receptions for 95 yards, scoring on 9-, 34- and 8-yard catches.
Gardner was replaced by Shane Morris late in the third quarter — with Michigan up 49-7 — after he was 13 of 14 for 173 yards with three TDs and no turnovers in his first game under offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
The Mountaineers also could not slow down Michigan’s running game, which had a pair of 100-yard rushers for the first time since 2007. Derrick Green ran for a career-high 170 yards and a TD. De’Veon Smith had 115 yards rushing — 2 fewer than he had all of last year as a freshman — and two scores.
The Wolverines scored two more TDs in a 38-second span late in the first half on Smith’s 12-yard run and Ben Gedeon’s 32-yard return after a blocked punt for a 35-0 lead.
Michigan did not let up, scoring a sixth TD on Green’s 1-yard run on its opening drive of the second half.
Appalachian State avoided a shutout the first time it had the ball in the third quarter as Kameron Bryant threw an 8-yard TD pass to Simms McElfresh. Its defense, though, gave up another score on the ensuing drive when Smith ran into the end zone for a second time to make it 49-7.
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