Usually stoic Michigan coach Lloyd Carr admitted that last Saturday’s game against Iowa provided a bit more motivation than usual.
After all, the Wolverines had been beaten in each of the last two years by the Hawkeyes, including a 34-9 whipping in Ann Arbor two years ago.
So what did Carr do? He handed the keys of his offense to a pair of true freshmen: quarterback Chad Henne and running back Michael Hart. The rookies delivered, leading Michigan to a 30-17 win and its 24th straight victory in Big Ten openers.
Henne, who completed 16 of 26 passes for 236 yards, is Rivals.com’s National Freshman of the Week.
"He’s continuously getting better and better," Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards said of Henne. "He played with poise today. His huddle poise was tremendous. He came out there and just made plays. When we needed a third down, he set his feet and he was calm and we got the third-down conversion. He’s getting better every weekend and that’s all we can ask for."
Henne arrived at Michigan this summer after being ranked as the nation’s No. 3 prep quarterback last year while starring at Wilson High School in West Lawn, Pa. However, few expected him to play this much, this quickly.
With expected starter Matt Gutierrez struggling with a shoulder injury, and with no other experienced quarterbacks on the roster, Henne seized the opportunity.
"It’s not hard to be patient with a kid like this," Carr said. “If you’ve coached as long as I have, you know the way he’s handled himself is admirable. This kid stepped into a very competitive situation. You couldn’t ask a guy to work harder. You couldn’t ask a guy to care more. You couldn’t ask a guy to handle the issue with his teammates [better]. His teammates like him. We don’t have that problem.
"Sometimes you have a problem where the older guys don’t like a younger guy coming in there. They don’t like it. He hasn’t had to deal with that. From a coaching standpoint, the biggest challenge is simply, don’t overload him. Don’t put him in a position where, at the line of scrimmage, he’s got to think about too many things. He’s going to have enough to think about as you begin, just to remember the cadence, just to remember the play. You’ve got a lot of people around him who are talented, but you can’t go faster than he can go. I think that’s the biggest thing."
Henne, who has started all four games for Michigan (3-1), has completed 66 of 114 passes (57.9 percent) for 780 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions.
Other freshmen of note:
Hart rushed for 99 yards on 26 carries and appears to be solidifying his hold on Michigan’s starting tailback position. "I didn’t know if the coaches were going to give me a chance like this but they did, and now I’m trying to make the most of it," he said.
Miami true freshman Anthony Reddick, a reserve safety, blocked a punt and forced a fumble that were returned for touchowns in last Thursday's win at Houston.
True freshman fullback Peyton Hills rushed for 34 yards, caught two passes for 24 yards and scored two touchdowns in Arkansas' 27-10 victory over Alabama.
Virginia Tech wide receiver Eddie Royal returned three punts for 107 yards and caught two passes for 47 yards in the Hokies' 17-16 loss to N.C. State.
Erik Ainge has yet to start a game at Tennessee, but the true freshman quarterback continues to spark the offense in a reserve role. In a 42-17 win over Louisiana Tech, he completed 10 of 15 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns. He has completed 64.3 percent of his passes this season and has eight touchdowns and one interception.
In LSU's 51-0 blanking of Mississippi State, Tiger redshirt freshman quarterback JaMarcus Russell hit on 9 of 12 passes for 137 yards and one touchdown.
Other 2004 national freshmen of the week