Michigan: Five things we learned vs. SMU

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh walks the sideline looking up at the scoreboard in the second quarter.

Five takeaways from Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News following Michigan's 45-20 win over SMU on Saturday.

Penalties on top of penalties

Michigan is one of the nation’s most-penalized teams, ranking 117th of 129. The Wolverines had 13 penalties for 137 yards against SMU, bringing their total to 27 for 244 yards through three games. They rank 118th in penalty yards (12th in the Big Ten) and 114th in penalty yards per game. They’ve had two targeting calls, including on Khaleke Hudson against SMU. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh disagreed with the penalty on Hudson.

“Are we going down that road of we’re going to review every play in that box area?” Harbaugh said after the game. “Running backs are going to be going through there, they’re going to be lowering their head and defenders are going to battle to see who can get lower when you have a runner versus a tackler. Interesting it wasn’t called on the field, it came from the booth. That seems like a high level of scrutiny to be placing on a play between the tackles.”

Penalties have been an issue since the opener. The Wolverines were burned early in the Notre Dame loss because of key defensive penalties that helped keep drives alive for the Irish, who took a quick 14-0 lead. Michigan had three pass interference calls in the SMU game and a roughing the passer. Some were legit calls, Harbaugh said, and some he disagreed with.

“I know some of them were penalties and penalties are hurting us,” Harbaugh said. “That’s something we have to clean up and get better at. 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.”

So Tru

Tru Wilson, formerly a walk-on, is the third-string running back at Michigan. But with lead back Karan Higdon on the sideline last Saturday with an undisclosed injury, Chris Evans got the start. Evans had 85 yards on 18 carries but left the game late with an injury that had not been determined immediately after the game, according to Harbaugh. Wilson, who caught notice early in the SMU game when he picked up a blitzer that gave Shea Patterson time to complete a big gain to tight end Zach Gentry, got more work late and ran hard and smart. He finished with 11 carries for 53 yards and scored on a nine-yard run with 1:05 left in the game.

“Tru Wilson is an ultimate competitor,” Patterson said. “I’m very comfortable when he’s back there. I know he’s going to pick up anything. He’s a hard runner. He runs the ball very well.”

One for one

The saying, “have a short memory” – something defensive backs coaches preach to their players – was evident in the two-play turnaround of Josh Metellus. The junior safety was called for a pass interference late in the second quarter and on the next play got his first career interception and returned it 73 yards for his first touchdown. It was the first pick-six for Michigan since Tyree Kinnel and Lavert Hill each had one against Cincinnati last season. Metellus’ pick six was the sixth-longest return for a touchdown in Michigan history and the longest since Brandon Herron’s school-record 94-yard return against Western Michigan on Sept. 3, 2011. Metellus made some terrific moves during the return, but he credited his teammates for the touchdown.

“I was just happy as soon as I caught the ball all my teammates started running down field ready to block,” Metellus said. “That’s what we’ve been doing this whole offseason, being there for each other, and they were there for me and they got me into the end zone.”

Bush sets the pace

Not surprisingly, linebacker Devin Bush, the Wolverines’ leading tackler last season, is leading the team through three games with 22, including two tackles for loss and a sack. Against SMU, Bush tied for second on the team with seven tackles and he also had a quarterback hurry. SMU coach Sonny Dykes spoke highly of Bush to reporters following the game.

“Let me just say this, I think No. 10 (Bush) is as good a linebacker as I have ever seen play,” 247Sports reported. “That kid is a really, really special football player. He can really run, he plays physical. He is an exceptional player, so my hat’s off to him.”

Gentry taking off

Tight end Zach Gentry is second on the team in receiving with 116 yards on seven catches, just behind Donovan Peoples-Jones, who has 159 yards. Gentry led the team against SMU with 95 yards on four catches, but he has yet to score a touchdown this season. He had a big 32-yard reception in the game and also had catches of 28, 11 and 24 yards. Gentry is a big 6-foot-8 target and sure to become a bigger feature in the offense going forward.

"Everybody is getting used to playing and communicating and knowing their responsibilities,” Gentry said.