Michigan takeaways: Ronnie Bell's TD quest, Khaleke Hudson's 'max focus'
Five takeaways from The Detroit News' Angelique S. Chengelis after Michigan's 44-10 win over Michigan State on Saturday.
Bell the go-to receiver
Bell, once a basketball commit and barely on football recruiting radars, has become the go-to receiver for quarterback Shea Patterson this season. He is quick, athletic and has made some outstanding catches this season. He leads the team with 37 catches and 621 yards, but has yet to score a touchdown. In Michigan’s 44-10 victory over Michigan State on Saturday, Bell had nine catches for 150 yards. And no touchdowns.
“He doesn’t have a touchdown yet?” Patterson said after the game. “That’s weird. I didn’t even notice that.” Everyone noticed when Bell dropped a fourth-down, game-tying touchdown pass at Penn State, and although there were some on social media who were critical of Bell for the drop, his teammates and most Michigan fans rallied around him. But his teammates can’t help ribbing him about not getting a touchdown – yet. “It’s all right,” Bell said, laughing. “I’m going to get in there.” With two regular-season games left and a bowl, it’s bound to happen, right?
Michigan has been using some strange two-kicker rotations this season, with one kicker handling a field-goal attempt, then the other kicker taking the next three extra points, and so on. Against MSU, Nordin was 3-for-3 on field goals and made all five extra-point kicks. Jake Moody, 6-of-9 this season, did not attempt a field goal or extra point, but he was busy handling kickoffs – he had nine and averaged 60.8 yards.
Entering the game, Nordin was 1-of-4, including two long 50-plus-yard field goals. He made kicks of 28, 49 and 33 yards against the Spartans. He made the 49-yard field goal from the right hash with 2:13 left in the third quarter, giving Michigan a 27-10 lead. “He told me when I was recruiting him that someday he was going to kick a 49-yarder from the right hash to beat Michigan State,” UM coach Jim Harbaugh said. “So that was kind of a cool moment after he kicked that. I walked out there and reminded him of that. That was a big kick at that moment of the game.”
Michigan linebacker and co-captain Khaleke Hudson has five punt blocks in his career after he blocked a punt early in the fourth quarter, giving Michigan the ball at the MSU 22-yard line. Michigan scored one play later on a 22-yard pass from Patterson to Nico Collins for a 34-10 lead. Hudson had two blocked punts last season, including one for a safety in the Peach Bowl.
“Just max focus and executing your job,” Hudson said. “There were two punt returns I was close to blocking the punt and on the third one, I knew the guy was going to over pursuit, so I took it under him and I kept my eyes on the ball and ended up blocking the punt.”
This was personal
Safety Josh Metellus said it was personal for cornerbacks Ambry Thomas and Lavert Hill, both Detroiters and productions of Martin Luther King High. Each had an interception of MSU quarterback Brian Lewerke, and they have three apiece this season. Michigan has eight total interceptions and Thomas and Hill are big reasons why the Wolverines are ranked No. 4 nationally in passing yards allowed (154.8 yards).
Line finding its groove
Remember the days when Michigan’s offensive line would get zinged with criticism? Remember when former Michigan offensive linemen couldn’t hide their displeasure with the play and lack of enthusiasm from the linemen during the Wisconsin blowout loss? It seems this group has taken that to heart and become a meaner, nastier bunch.
The line was relied on in the crummy conditions against Notre Dame and blocked for 303 rushing yards. Against MSU, Patterson took four sacks but he threw for a personal record 384 yards and four touchdowns. Michigan is No. 16 nationally in tackles for loss allowed, a notable stat for offensive lines.