Michigan center Patrick Kugler evaluates the performance of Michigan’s offensive line. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Freshman fullback Ben Mason earned a helmet sticker for scoring a touchdown “with” Karan Higdon last Saturday. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who has gushed about Mason’s brute football strength since preseason camp, thought Mason’s block on the touchdown was worthy of a sticker.
Harbaugh before the season said on several occasions that Mason “goes forward and hits people better than anybody I’ve ever seen.”
And that’s what Mason did on Karan Higdon’s 10-yard touchdown run late in the first half during a 35-14 win over Rutgers last Saturday.
“The touchdown block he made on Karan Higdon’s shorter run was spectacular,” Harbaugh said Monday. “I’m going to give him a helmet sticker like he scored a touchdown because not only did he block his man at his seven- or eight-yard line, but he scored with his man. He blocked his man into the end zone and scored and Karan scored right behind him.”
Higdon said as soon as he saw Mason clearing the way, he knew he had room to run into the end zone.
“That’s Ben Mason — he’s a wrecking ball,” Higdon said, smiling. “I knew what I was getting into when I was running behind him. He’s going to knock out the first guy he sees and I’m going to trust it and run behind him.”
Center Patrick Kugler said the offensive linemen consider the fullbacks, like Khalid Hill, Henry Poggi and Mason as part of their group, in part because, “they eat like us.”
Mason has been referred to as “Bench Mason” because of his proclivity for weight-room work.
“Ben’s an interesting guy,” Kugler said, with a laugh. “He’s a little meatball, meathead-type guy. Interesting guy. We love all our fullbacks. We treat him just like O-lineman. He goes 100 percent ever play, and he’s just looking to take off heads. That’s what you’re looking for in your fullback.
“That’s kinda what their job is. They’re kinda like the O-line, don’t really get a lot of appreciation or anything. No one really notices them, but we have probably have the best fullbacks in the country.”
Kugler was asked to define “meathead” to better understand Mason.
“He likes benching and eating raw meat,” Kugler said, drawing laughs. “He’s the biggest meathead on our team.
MORE PRAISE FOR HURST, BUSH
Senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was named a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award, the Maxwell Football Club announced Monday. He is one of four Big Ten players among the 18 semifinalists.
Hurst has 40 tackles, fifth-best on the team, and 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal. He is considered the nation’s top-rated player regardless of position by Pro Football Focus.
“Can’t say enough good things about Mo,” Harbaugh said Monday. “He’s our defensive lineman of the week. He’s our defensive player of the week. I thought he had a tremendous game (against Rutgers). Now he’s gotten to the point he’s not one of the best players on our team, he’s one of the best players in the Big Ten, he’s one of the best players in the country. Wish we had more Mo Hursts.”
Sophomore linebacker Devin Bush, who leads the team with 67 tackles, including five sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss, was named Monday one of 14 finalists for the Butkus Award. He’s the first Wolverines to be a semifinalist for the award since Jake Ryan, currently with the Green Bay Packers, who was a finalist in 2014.
Harbaugh did not have updates on several injuries from the Rutgers game, saying he would get the reports later Monday.
Running back Ty Isaac headed to the locker room with an undisclosed injury suffered in the fourth quarter, and right guard Michael Onwenu also appeared to suffer an ankle injury on the same play. He eventually walked with no assistance to the locker room.
“We’ll see where he is health-wise,” Harbaugh said of Onwenu. “We sure want him out there.”
Running back Kareem Walker also had an undisclosed injury in the second half and didn’t return to the game.
Harbaugh also was asked for an update on tight end Nick Eubanks (undisclosed) and receiver Tarik Black (foot) and was asked about offensive lineman Grant Newsome, who is out this year while he continues to heal from his gruesome knee injury suffered last season.
“Both Nick and Tarik, bones (are) healing,” Harbaugh said. “It takes some time to do that. Grant seems to be progressing weekly.”
Michigan’s game at Maryland on Nov. 11 is set for 3:30 p.m. and will be carried by Big Ten Network. Of Michigan’s final three games after Saturday’s night game at Michigan Stadium against Minnesota, only the game time for the Wisconsin game Nov. 18 in Madison has not yet been set. Michigan’s final regular-season game against Ohio State will be at noon and carried by Fox.
Harbaugh late in his news conference briefly dabbed his finnger under his nose: “Am I bleeding? Cut myself shaving. I do that a lot. Partly genetics. I’ve got this protruding nose. I’ve got to get the razor right in there.”
Kugler: “We’ve got four games left in the regular season and see where it goes from there. Next game is Minnesota. If we win out, we go 10-2. That’s a 10-win season. That’s a hell of a season. So you never know what can happen in the Big Ten. People can lose. We can still end up in the Big Ten championship if we get some luck. Just have to ride it out.”
Michigan's Jim Harbaugh talks about first-year Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News