Michigan: Five things we learned vs. Penn State

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan running back Karan Higdon has rushed for 963 yards this season.

Five takeaways from Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News following Michigan's 42-7 victory over Penn State on Saturday.

Higdon is a big deal

Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson said what many have not — it’s time for running back Karan Higdon’s name to be mentioned for some major college football awards. It’s not that Higdon has quietly posted seven straight games of 100 yards rushing or more. The stat screams from the box scores. But not so much when you have a defense like Michigan’s that ranks first in the country, a quarterback who has been a difference-maker on several levels and an offensive line that is getting attention for its significant improvement.

Higdon, a senior, rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries in Michigan’s romp and scored on a 4-yard run. He is now one game from tying Mike Hart’s program record of eight straight 100-yard rushing games set in 2007. Higdon has 963 yards this season, 37 from the magic mark of 1,000, which he missed by six yards last season. “It’s time for him to get nominated for some big-time awards,” Patterson said of Higdon, who ranks ninth in the nation in rushing per game (120.4 yards).

Backup QB is out

Redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey suffered a broken collarbone against Penn State and while Patterson has been solid throughout as the starter, McCaffrey has made smooth transitions and significant contributions when called upon. Brandon Peters, who came in late in the Penn State game, and Joe Milton are the backups behind Patterson. Time will tell how much McCaffrey’s loss will affect the Wolverines this season, but his availability and contributions before the injury should not be underestimated.

Gary returns

Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary, who missed the last three games with a right AC joint shoulder injury, made his highly anticipated return. He started against the Nittany Lions and recorded two tackles and a quarterback hurry. In the opening drive of the game, Gary put pressure on Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, freeing defensive end Chase Winovich to get the sack. “Rashan definitely helps,” Winovich said. It’s unclear if Gary is good to go the rest of the season or if this will be a week-to-week situation to see how effective he can be.

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Black is back

Receiver Tarik Black, who broke his right foot a week before the start of the season, was in uniform two weeks ago at Michigan State and went through pregame warm-ups. He did get on the field but Michigan called a timeout and he did not return. Black did not have a catch against the Nittany Lions, but he looked like his old self early in the fourth quarter. He caught a 41-yard pass from Patterson in the end zone with 11:55 left in the game, but it was called back because of a holding penalty. “We all kind of see the hard work he puts in to get back out there,” Patterson said. “Just to see him out there and have fun and make that play is an amazing feeling.”

Black was the team’s leading receiver last season as a freshman before he broke his left foot in the third game, which sidelined him the rest of the year. Both injuries required surgery. But when he has been on the field, he's a big-play threat.

Stifling defense 

This isn’t a news flash but Michigan’s defense is strangling offenses. The Wolverines have held every opponent under 320 yards of total offense, including the 186 yards Penn State racked up on Saturday. Eight of the nine opponents have been held to their lowest yardage total of the season.

Michigan has also intercepted a pass in seven of the nine games, including two against the Nittany Lions from David Long and Brandon Watson, who returned his for a touchdown. That’s the second time this season the Wolverines have had two interceptions in a game. Four of the team’s nine interceptions have been returned for touchdowns — Watson has two, and Josh Metellus and Lavert Hill each have one.


Twitter: @chengelis