Stout offensive line enables Wolverines' ground game to rise above downpour
Ann Arbor — With the rain falling steadily and strong winds, the Michigan offensive linemen knew they were absolutely the key to the offensive operation which would lean heavily on the run game.
The Wolverines rushed for a season-best 303 yards on a season-high 57 carries and generated three rushing touchdowns in Michigan’s 45-14 upset of Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium Saturday night.
Hassan Haskins made his first career start at running back and had 149 yards on 20 carries, while Zach Charbonnet rushed for 74 yards and two touchdowns and leads the team with nine touchdowns this season. Tru Wilson had six carries for 45 yards and a 27-yard touchdown run.
“We said in the locker room we knew what kind of game it was going to be,” center Cesar Ruiz said. “We knew we were going to be grounding and pounding a lot. It’s the game we’ve been waiting for. We love running the ball. We knew today was going to be the day we were able to showcase it.”
Quarterback Shea Patterson said the rain and wind made it tough to throw and hang onto the ball. He credited the offensive line for allowing the offense to flow. Michigan had 437 total yards, while Notre Dame mustered 180. Patterson was 6-of-12 for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
“They set the tone,” Patterson said of the offensive line. “Really, from the first play of the game. Just really proud of them, the way they played all night, opened up the run game, gave these guys the ability to make plays when they needed to.”
Ruiz said after the Penn State loss a week earlier that he felt the offensive line had its best performance of the season. The second half of that game, the offense as a whole seemed to step up its play as it tried to come back from a 21-0 deficit before falling short, 28-21.
The players said that carried over to the win over Notre Dame.
“I think the second half of the Penn State game, I think we kinda found our stride,” Patterson said. “I think we realized after that game going into this week from Monday’s practice that we’ve got to come out that way from start to finish. We can’t come out flat and expect to make a heroic comeback at the end. Gotta help out our defense. Our defense played lights out tonight. We executed all night offensively, and the results spoke for themselves.”
Haskins also thanked the offensive line for giving him room to run.
“They made holes for me,” he said. “I just did my job.”
So what’s changed? Michigan, in the first year of offensive coordinator’s spread offense, has gone back to some of the plays that worked last year. Ruiz said the offensive line just continues to improve every week.
“We were able to show people we can still move people, we can still open holes, we can still pass protect,” Ruiz said. “What everybody is saying, offensive line this, offensive line, we cancel out a lot of noise, and we just work harder and harder every week, and as you can see it’s showing.
“Our past two games have been amazing. We’ve been playing great as an offensive line, especially today, and I’m just really proud of us and everything we’re doing. We’re not settling for anything. We’ll all come in (Sunday) as an O-line, and Monday we’re going to watch film again, and then we’re going to get ready to keep improving and attack it every single week.”