Russell Bellomy, Justice Hayes among Michigan reserves to receive first major action against UMass
ANN ARBOR -- By the time Justice Hayes rushed for a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, Michigan's starters were nestled safely on the sideline after building a cushy 56-13 lead.
The game had long been over.
In that context, Hayes' score had no impact on the Wolverines' 63-13 drubbing of UMass on Saturday. But that's not to say it was meaningless.
No. 17 Michigan (2-1) jumped to an early lead against the first-year FBS program, then emptied its bench to develop depth among the reserves and preserve health among the starters heading into next week's matchup against No. 20 Notre Dame.
That includes Hayes, a redshirt freshman tailback who earned the first three carries of his career. He finished with 19 yards, highlighted by the touchdown.
"All the guys that come in every day and practice, they practice hard," senior right guard Patrick Omameh said. "To get into the end zone is a good time for everybody.
"He was ecstatic, and we were happy for him too."
Redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Bellomy also received his first major action, an important development for Michigan. Since Devin Gardner's move to receiver, Bellomy has become the primary backup to starter Denard Robinson.
Robinson is a running quarterback, which makes him more prone to injury. He has left several games the past two years after getting banged up, including once this year against Alabama. He retreated to the tunnel, but returned in time for the next snap.
So, it's vital that Michigan cultivates experience behind Robinson. Bellomy played briefly against Alabama, tossing a pick on his first pass, but got in three full series against UMass.
He missed on his only throw, and rushed five times for 8 yards.
It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing. The seasoning will pay off, should Michigan need to turn to him as Robinson goes through the Big Ten gauntlet.
"He played calm," Robinson said of Bellomy. "I enjoyed watching him play calm, because he had good pressure around the edge. He stepped up in the pocket and you could tell he had confidence and that he was comfortable out there. I think he's going to do pretty well."
Other backups got their time to shine at Michigan Stadium as well.
Sophomore tailback Thomas Rawls finally got to show off his "angry" running style, including on one punishing 16-yard run down the left sideline. He finished with six rushes for 42 yards, trailing only Robinson and Fitz Toussaint.
True freshman Dennis Norfleet has made early noise as a kick returner, but got his first offensive touch on a 14-yard run. He also got his first shot to handle a punt, duties normally handled by Jeremy Gallon, and returned it 11 yards.
On defense, freshmen who were already playing -- linemen Mario Ojemudia and Ondre Pipkins, linebackers James Ross and Joe Bolden, defensive back Jarrod Wilson -- received even more snaps.
Many of those players are second-stringers right now, or vying for starting jobs, so that helps cultivate depth.
Brandin Hawthorne, a senior, played extensively at linebacker and finished with a team-high seven tackles.
Safety Marvin Robinson got in for a few late series and had three tackles. Defensive backs Terry Richardson, Delonte Hollowell and Steve Wilson got on the field as well.
"To get to see some of those young guys who are on the practice squad, on the scout teams, you get to see them in the Big House getting some plays in, that sure boosts your morale," starting safety Thomas Gordon said.
"Moments out there, like some of my (high school) teammates back at Cass (Tech) like Terry and Delonte producing for the defense, I'm happy for them because I was once in their position."
All told, 22 players recorded at least one tackle. Eight rushed at least once, two attempted a pass and nine caught a pass.
It was a team victory.
"It's a joy to everyone on the team," Gordon said. "That's what you live for: Playing as a team."