'Closer to being good': UM rides Peoples-Jones' big day past SMU

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones acknowledges the crowd after scoring on a 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Shea Patterson in the second quarter.

Ann Arbor — It wasn’t the most inspired play in the first quarter against overmatched SMU, but No. 19 Michigan got a spark from quarterback Shea Patterson and receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who combined for three touchdowns.

The Mustangs arrived at Michigan Stadium winless and as five-touchdown underdogs, and hung around longer than anticipated before 110,549 at Michigan Stadium.

Michigan improved to 2-1 with an 45-20 win that included the Patterson-Peoples-Jones connection times three. But there were also 13 penalties for 137 yards, including a targeting on Khaleke Hudson in the third quarter.

BOX SCORE: Michigan 45, SMU 20

More: Penalties take luster off dominating Michigan victory

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“That’s something we have to clean up and get better at,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “You address each of them, the technique we’re using, the discipline we have and get them corrected and coached and improve. We don’t want 13 penalties in a game. I don’t think anybody does who’s rooting for Michigan. Coach them and get them addressed.”

The Wolverines also were down lead running back Karan Higdon, who did not play. Harbaugh said that was a game-time decision by Higdon who didn’t feel he was ready to go.

With Higdon out, Chris Evans got the start and led the team with 85 yards rushing, including a 35-yard run in the fourth quarter. Tru Wilson also saw considerable playing time in the second half. He had 11 carries for 53 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown for Michigan’s final points. His most impressive play, however, might have been in the first quarter when he picked up a blitz allowing Patterson to hit Zach Gentry for 32 yards.

After fullback Ben Mason scored on a 1-yard run for Michigan’s first score, the Wolverines scored on each of their final five possessions.

Patterson and Peoples-Jones combined for touchdowns of 35, 7 and 41 yards. Safety Josh Metellus scored on a 73-yard pick-six.

Gentry finished with four catches for 95 yards, while Patterson was 14-of-18 for 237 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He also had six carries for 20 yards.

“Trusting and believing in this offense and knowing the progression every play,” Patterson said when asked how he’s been so efficient running the offense. “And an O-line that’s really coming together and giving me time back there, so there’s no reason why I can’t complete every pass.”

Both teams were 3-for-3 on fourth down. Michigan finished with 434 yards of total offense, including 197 yards rushing. The Wolverines open Big Ten play at home next week against Nebraska.

“A lot of positives,” Harbaugh said of the game. “I thought the pass protection was really good today. Coming along. Coming along steadily. There are things we can get better at, attacking the ball when it’s in the air. We had the one interception — there’s a great teaching point. Can’t wait to make that for all our guys. Excited about getting them coached and practiced. Continuing on. Onward.”

The Wolverines built a three-touchdown lead on the opening drive of the second half with a couple of key third-down conversions. Patterson eluded the blitz up the middle, scrambled and found Gentry for an 11-yard gain and Wilson also converted on third-and-2. A 28-yard pass to Gentry got Michigan to the SMU 7-yard line and Patterson then found Peoples-Jones for his second touchdown of the game.

Patterson said it took the offense a quarter to adjust because SMU came out in a different defensive look.

“They came out and played base defense and some different things we didn’t expect that we adjusted to," he said. "(We) got the run game going and the line did a heck of a job blocking and let me throw the ball down the field to our playmakers."

SMU, which moved to backup quarterback William Brown in the second half, scored late in the third quarter on an 87-yard drive on 16 plays and used 7:31 but missed the extra point to pull within 28-13. It was an undisciplined defensive effort by the Wolverines who had two pass interference penalties and the targeting call on Hudson.

More: UM's Metellus gets instant redemption with pick-six

Michigan got two quick scores in the final two and a half minutes of the first half to take a 21-7 lead. Patterson found wide-open Peoples-Jones for a 35-yard touchdown pass for the 14-7 lead. SMU had just been penalized 15 yards for an unsportsmanlike on coach Sonny Dykes.

On SMU's next drive, Metellus was penalized for pass interference to give them the ball at the Michigan 36-yard line. The next play, Metellus got the interception and ran it 73 yards for the touchdown with no time left.

It took the Wolverines, who dominated possession time in the first half and had 205 total yards, until 6:56 left in the first half to get on the board and took a 7-0 lead when Mason scored on a 1-yard run. The Mustangs came back the next drive and tied the game when Ben Hicks found James Proche left wide open after a busted coverage for a 50-yard touchdown.

The Mustangs were 3-of-4 on fourth-down conversions and 5-of-14 on third down. They had 319 yards of offense, including 209 passing. Proche gave the defensive backs fits and finished with 11 catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns.

Harbaugh said he likes where the team is after three games.

“We’re getting closer to being good, really good, but we’re still not quite there yet,” Harbaugh said. “See improvements to be made and really looking forward to a great week this week of preparation.”