Ann Arbor — If there was a Star of the Game in Michigan’s 42-13 rout of Minnesota Saturday afternoon at the Big House it would have to be sophomore tight end Devin Funchess.
Funchess, physically-gifted at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, lined up at tight end, in the slot and as a wide out.
“We wanted to get him out on the perimeter a little bit, mismatch in a lot of ways,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke of Funchess. “He runs awful well and is a big target. We’re just trying to really take advantage of his skill set.”
Funchess entered the game with eight receptions for 145 yards and a TD. He nearly matched those totals against the Gophers, grabbing seven of Devin Gardner’s passes for 151 yards, including a 24-yard TD catch in the final minutes of the first half to give the Wolverines a 14-7 lead. They led the rest of the way.
“The coaches just told me what to do and I just did it,” Funchess said. “I just went out and run, block, do all that. With me, I’m such a big target on the outside, inside, it doesn’t matter. I’m just a big target and it helps the offense.”
With the game deadlocked at 7 late in the first half, Michigan’s defense forced Minnesota to punt from its end zone. Gardner and the Wolverines got the ball at the Gopher 38.
Gardner found Funchess for a 18-yard pass on the first play of the drive, then found him again for a 24-yard TD pass on third-and-14 with 1:25 left in the half. The score gave the Wolverines the momentum they were looking for.
On the opening drive of the second half, Gardner found Funchess for 21 yards on third and 11 for a first-and-goal at the 2, setting up Derrick Green’s 2-yard TD run for a 21-7 cushion.
Funchess had a 22-yard reception on third down during the final quarter, then hauled in a 46-yard pass from Gardner three plays later to set up Gardner’s 2-yard TD run for a 35-13 lead.
So, does Gardner see Funchess as a big weapon going forward?
“Whatever the offense needs,” Gardner said. “If it calls for me to throw to Funchess 17 times or for me to throw to (receiver Jeremy) Gallon 17 times or for me to throw 17 times in total. Whatever we need that day ... that’s what we’re going to do.”
Yes, but it certainly has to be a good feeling for Gardner to have a big target like Funchess heading into next week’s game at Penn State.