Ann Arbor — Michigan has had an opportunity to work on its running game the last two weeks.
Against Oregon State two weeks ago, Michigan rushed for 225 yards. And against UNLV last weekend, it gained 254 yards on the ground in a 28-7 victory.
While De'Veon Smith started all three games, USC transfer Ty Isaac emerged against the Rebels with 114 yards on eight carries. The bulk of his yards came on a 76-yard touchdown run.
Seven running backs have had carries, including fullbacks Joe Kerridge and Sione Houma. And Drake Johnson, coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament last season, was his busiest since returning with 28 yards on five carries.
"It's starting to define itself," Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said of the running game. "Drake Johnson got back into the action — that was good to see. I thought all the running backs are doing a good job not turning the ball over. Three games without a lost fumble from the running backs."
Harbaugh took exception, perhaps, that there is a competition for the starting job at running back. He said while there can be quarterback controversies, there will not be a running back controversy.
"We're going to play as many good players as we can," Harbaugh said. "Try to put them in as many roles where they can be successful."
Isaac, at 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, gives the Wolverines a bigger body in the running game, and provided a boost against the Rebels, leading all rushers.
"It was a fantastic run by Ty Isaac," Harbaugh said of the 76-yard run. "We didn't block it right, not blocked the way we drew it up. ... Ty did a real good job. Somehow he swerved, he avoided, he made a tackle miss, bounced off another and was off to the races. It was the darnedest thing I've seen in a long time."
Isaac, however, said his teammates took care of their assignments and the running lanes "opened up."
"As far as contributing, obviously it feels good," Isaac said. "I've been here for a year without playing, doing a lot of practice-squad stuff. I know that stuff helps the team, but it feels a lot better when you can put it on the scoreboard and you can help your team win."
Isaac said the depth of Michigan's backs is a strength.
■ Smith ran hard the last two games and had three rushing touchdowns last week. He had a five-yard reception against UNLV for a touchdown.
■ Johnson had his five carries for 28 yards against the Rebels.
■ Derrick Green had 10 yards on three carries.
■ Ross Taylor-Douglas had one carry for three yards.
■ Fullback Kerridge had two carries and three receptions before leaving with an injury, and fullback Houma added a rushing touchdown, the first of his career.