Hart (146 yards) powers No. 14 Michigan to opening win

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan was solid early and late in its


In the middle of the matchup against Vanderbilt, Mike Hart

acknowledged the Wolverines were sluggish offensively.

The shifty running back ran for 146 yards to lead No. 14

Michigan to a 27-7 victory over the Commodores on Saturday.

"We made a lot of mistakes that were drive-killers," Hart

said. "That's one thing we can't have in bigger games. Every time

you win, you're going to be happy. But we need to improve a lot to

be a championship contender."

Michigan has another tuneup, against Central Michigan, before

visiting No. 2 Notre Dame.

"We have a lot of work to do," coach Lloyd Carr said. "That's

for sure."

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.

Michigan scored on an impressive opening drive and had a chance

to build an early cushion, but Vanderbilt blocked a kick and scored

on a trick play to pull within three points early in the second


The Wolverines went ahead 20-7 late in the third on Chad Henne's

14-yard pass to a leaping Tyler Ecker on a third down.

Michigan sealed its 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


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

"It definitely wasn't my best, but we'll see next week how much

improvement I make," he said after throwing some poor passes and

having a few dropped.

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.

Nickson ran for 64 yards, including a 22-yard gain, but was hit

behind the line so often that he finished with 22 net yards.

"He needs to learn how to manage the game," Vanderbilt coach

Bobby Johnson said. "I remember Jay Cutler's first couple games.

We went down to Auburn and he looked just about exactly the same.

"Young quarterbacks against a veteran defense, that's a tough


Nickson said he picked up a lot from the experience.

"I learned to keep my composure through some good things and

some bad things," said Nickson, who threw just three passes as

Cutler's backup last season. "The main thing is to persevere."

Cutler helped Vanderbilt win five games last season -- after the

school had four straight two-win seasons.

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.

Then, Michigan's aggressive defense shut the Commodores down.

"When you put pressure on a quarterback, he throws the ball a

little quicker," said defensive end LaMarr Woodley, who had two

sacks and tackled Nickson for another loss. "We were bringing the


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

easy day.

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.

After forcing Nickson to fumble, 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.

"Offensively, we did an excellent job in the first quarter,"

Carr said. "[Then], I don't pretend to know why we didn't