Michigan hopes to get injured starters back against Notre Dame (with look at replacements)
ANN ARBOR -- Michigan coach Brady Hoke likes to call the Wolverines' series against Notre Dame a "national rivalry." It's the third most-important game on the schedule.
But the Wolverines will be limping into this year's matchup.
Michigan lost two more starters for Saturday's game against UMass, as Desmond Morgan (head) and Stephen Hopkins (hamstring) didn't dress against the Minutemen. Starting cornerback Blake Countess (ACL), tight end Brandon Moore (MCL) and defensive end Brennen Beyer (knee) also missed the game.
Their losses were negligible, as the No. 17 Wolverines (2-1) coasted to a 63-13 victory against the first-year FBS program. But health will become more poignant next week, as Michigan vies for its fourth consecutive win against Notre Dame.
Hoke didn't elaborate much on injuries after the victory, but did say he's hopeful that Hopkins and Morgan will be available against the Fighting Irish. He has said the same about Beyer.
Moore's status is more uncertain, after he sprained his MCL against Alabama. Reserve Richard Ash also missed the UMass game with an undisclosed injury.
Countess is out for the season, as well reserve defensive lineman Chris Wormley (ACL), offensive lineman Chris Bryant (fractured leg) and linebacker Kaleb Ringer (knee).
"We've had one of those years where we've had a lot of guys get dinged up," said Hoke, who earlier in the week characterized all the knee injuries as a "freak" thing.
A look at how the replacements did against UMass:
-- Freshman James Ross got his first career start at weak-side linebacker for Morgan, and finished with three tackles, including one for loss. Michigan has played a parade of true freshman this season -- at least 12 -- but Ross is the first to start on defense.
-- At fullback, redshirt freshman walk-on Joe Kerridge started for Hopkins. Fifth-year senior walk-on Paul Gyarmati also received some time, and recovered a fumble.
-- With Moore out, freshman tight end Devin Funchess earned his first start against UMass, as Michigan opened with two tight ends. Fifth-year senior Mike Kwiatkowski was the other. Funchess finished with two catches for 34 yards and one touchdown, giving him six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the two games Moore has missed.
-- Raymon Taylor earned the start at Countess' cornerback spot opposite J.T. Floyd, not presumed replacement Courtney Avery. Taylor finished with three tackles. Avery had five tackles playing mostly in nickel packages against UMass' spread offense.
-- Frank Clark started at weak-side end for Beyer. He was Michigan's most disruptive defensive lineman, finishing with three tackles -- one for loss -- and two pass breakups.