Michigan: Five things we learned vs. Minnesota

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan offensive lineman Patrick Kugler lifts teammate tight end Sean McKeon into the air after McKeon scored a touchdown in the first quarter.

Here are five takeaways from Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News following Michigan's 33-10 victory over Minnesota on Saturday.

Why pass when the run is so strong?

The starting debut of redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Peters wasn’t all that much about Peters. He finished with 56 yards passing after completing 8-of-13 attempts, including a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Sean McKeon. And then the run game took over. This is the second time this season the Wolverines’ have thrown for fewer than 60 yards, as John O’Korn had 58 yards at Indiana while the run game carried the day. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, when asked why there were not more opportunities for the pass game against Minnesota, basically offered an if-it-ain’t-broke-why-fix-it response. “We were running the ball so well, I think 10 yards a rush per attempt. That’s pretty good,” Harbaugh said. “I’m sure if we had done it any other way, you would say, ‘But why didn’t you run the ball more?’ Probably would have got that question, right? Kept feeding the running game. It was working.”

So how do you evaluate Peters?

Peters opened his first game as Michigan’s starting quarterback with an eight-yard completion to Donovan Peoples-Jones and was 3-of-3 on his first drive that resulted in the 20-yard TD pass to McKeon. And then? And then he didn’t have to do much because there wasn’t a need for him to do much. Of the 50 plays Michigan ran, 37 were runs that produced 371 yards, including the 23 yards Peters lost on sacks. Peters did take three big hits and Harbaugh pointed out that the young quarterback had the presence of mind to tuck the ball and not turn it over. Harbaugh’s one regret was not having Peters throw more, and by that he meant having him throwing on the sideline to stay loose. "The sideline gets so tight,” Harbaugh said. “Next week we’re going to make a throwing area for the quarterbacks. Throw more balls in between series. I think that was really the case tonight. There were so many drives without throwing a pass because we broke off the long runs and our time of possession was very low. We only had 15 first downs, usually not the case when you rush the ball for 300-plus. There were series he didn’t throw a pass. I’m going to keep him more loose on the sideline. Think that will help.”

Adjusting the offensive line

There was a new starter on the offensive line as freshman Cesar Ruiz, the No. 1-rated center out of high school, filled in at right guard. Starter Michael Onwenu left the Rutgers game a week earlier with what appeared to be an ankle injury and did not dress for Minnesota. Ruiz did give up a big sack of Peters and was replaced by Jon Runyan Jr., but Ruiz did return to the game. Michigan has been playing a number of younger players in recent weeks and Harbaugh said Ruiz earned the opportunity to start. “We had a three-man competition at that position during the week of practice and Cesar won it and I thought he played really well,” Harbaugh said. “Gave up one hit on the quarterback, a sack, but good to see him get that action. It’s been time for him to play for a few weeks and I thought he stepped up and played well. He earned it in practice.”

More: Detroit News Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 11

Nordin off the mark

For the second time in three weeks redshirt freshman kicker Quinn Nordin missed an extra-point attempt and for the second straight week missed a field goal. He missed the extra point on Michigan’s second touchdown, a 77-yard run by Karan Higdon, that made it 13-7. Nordin is 26-of-28 on extra points this season and was 3-of-4 against Minnesota. Late in the third quarter after the Wolverines’ final score of the game, Chris Evans’ 67-yard touchdown run, they decided to go for the two-point conversion but Evans failed to get in. Against Rutgers at home last week, Nordin missed a 37-yard field goal – he had made 10 straight before that – and missed a 49-yarder slightly right just before halftime against the Golden Gophers. "We thought he was going too fast,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what we noticed last week, and then in practice this week we thought we had that corrected. I think we did get that corrected. The missed extra point, he looked up too early and got his left hip in front of his right too much and pulled it left. I thought the long field goal, the 49-yarder, was a good hit, just went a bit wide right. Just keep working at it.”

Sometimes they just don’t make sense

Harbaugh was puzzled by the ejection of safety Josh Metellus. He was ejected along with Minnesota offensive lineman Donnell Greene, who was the aggressor in a fight late in the third quarter. Tyree Kinnel pushed Greene after a play, and Greene clocked him in the face with his right fist. Kinnel immediately backed away and looked toward the referee. That’s when Metellus moved toward Greene and they appeared to be face to face when Greene pushed him at the neck. “There was a little pushing going on,” Kinnel said. “I was pushing him off one of my players, but it was definitely in between the whistle and that reaction wasn’t so deserving. … But it happened and my teammates came in and got my back. The ref wanted to control the game so he felt like they should call it on both teams and they ended up getting Josh Metellus.” Harbaugh often looks confused by officials’ calls and never received a satisfactory reason why Metellus, who will have to sit the first half of next week’s game against Maryland, was thrown out. “Didn’t have a lot of logic to it,” Harbaugh said. “It didn’t seem like (Metellus) threw a punch. (The ref) said because there was a scrum that they weren’t going to lose control of the game and made offsetting penalties. That was about the gist of it. My counter argument to that was a guy threw a punch, our guy stood in front of a guy.”