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September 2, 2006

Hart leads Michigan over Vanderbilt

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Mike Hart ran for 146 yards and No. 14 Michigan got off to a strong start with a 27-7 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday.

The Wolverines scored on an impressive opening drive and had a chance to build an early cushion, but the Commodores blocked a kick and scored on a trick play to pull within three points early in the second quarter.

Michigan went ahead 20-7 late in the third on Chad Henne's 14-yard pass to a leaping Tyler Ecker.

The Wolverines sealed their eighth straight home opener by forcing quarterback Chris Nickson to fumble for a second time with 4:33 left near midfield, leading to Henne's 27-yard pass to Mario Manningham.

In his first start in place of Jay Cutler, who Denver drafted with 11th overall pick, Nickson was 11-of-25 for 99 yards and would've been sacked more than six times if he wasn't so mobile. Standout receiver Earl Bennett had six catches for 58 yards and threw a 30-yard touchdown to Marlon White to make it 10-7 with 12:26 left in the first half.

Henne finished 10-of-22 for 135 yards with two TDs.

The Wolverines are coming off a 7-5 season, their worst since going .500 in 1984. They have their lowest preseason ranking since 1997, when they went on to win a national championship.

Cutler helped Vanderbilt win five games last season - after the school had four straight two-win seasons.

The way the Wolverines started, it looked like it might be an easy afternoon.

Michigan drove 81 yards on the opening kickoff - with a nice mix of the run and pass - and scored on a 19-yard run when Kevin Grady went right and sliced across the defense with a cutback.

The Wolverines had to settle for a 10-0 lead on their third drive after a pass for a first down at the 1 was overturned by review.

Vanderbilt started to make the Wolverines sweat by blocking a field goal and fooling them on a trick play early in the second quarter. Nickson tossed a lateral to Bennett, who found a wide-open White for a 30-yard TD.

Garrett Rivas' career-long 48-yard field goal on the ensuing possession put Michigan ahead 13-7. The Wolverines had a chance to create a bigger cushion on their next drive, but Grady fumbled at Vanderbilt's 19.

For more coverage of the Michigan Wolverines, check out TheWolverine.com, and for more on the Vanderbilt Commodores, check out VandySports.com.

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