'We love it': Michigan defense admires team's ground-and-pound attack
Ann Arbor — Michigan linebacker Josh Ross leaned into the microphone, smiled and repeated his answer just to make sure everyone understood his enthusiasm for the Wolverines’ offensive attack.
“We love it,” Ross said, beaming. “We. Love. It.”
What Ross said he and the rest of the defense loves is the Wolverines’ emphasis on the run game. Michigan had 343 yards on 56 carries and scored four touchdowns in Saturday's 31-10 victory over Washington at Michigan Stadium.
Blake Corum led Michigan (2-0) with 171 yards on 21 carries and had three touchdowns, including a long of 67 yards. Hassan Haskins had 155 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown. Michigan has rushed for 678 yards in two games.
“We love when we see the offense coming off the ball, see Blake trucking people, Hassan trucking people and making them miss,” Ross said.
Through two games, Corum leads the team with 282 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries. Haskins had 225 yards and two scores on 40 rush attempts.
“We just kind of feed off each other, thunder and lightning,” Corum said, for the second week describing the two of them that way. “We don’t go into the game thinking, ‘You’re going to get this many carries, I’m going to get this many carries.’ We just kind of go with the flow.”
Both credited the offensive line for opening holes for them.
“They were having a hard time tackling Hassan and Blake,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “When they started bringing the edge pressure, there were some real creases.”
Corum said he and Haskins make it difficult on defenses.
“You don’t really know who to stop,” Corum said.
Two games, two wins, but Corum said the Wolverines haven’t done anything yet.
“We’ve got more to prove,” Corum said, “and I can’t wait to see how far we go, because it’s going to be far.”
'Pivotal' fake punt
Having stalled on its previous possession at the Washington 1-yard line, Michigan decided to get tricky its next opportunity.
On a fourth-and-1 at the Michigan 30-yard line, Michael Barrett faked the punt and ran for 3 yards. Corum then went 67 yards on the next play to give the Wolverines a 10-0 lead in the second quarter. Corum said special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh installed that play in the game plan during the week.
“We knew going into the game we were going to run this fake punt, and it was perfect timing,” Corum said. “It was a great play, a great call, and we knew we were going to catch them off guard.”
Jim Harbaugh called it a “huge” play.
“Might have called it off with the personnel they had out there, but they said they weren’t going to call it off,” Harbaugh said. “They had the mindset they were going to get it. They weren’t going to be denied. That was big, pivotal.”
Managing the game
In two games, starting quarterback Cade McNamara has gone a combined 16-of-26 passing for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Against Washington, he threw for 44 yards.
“Cade did a heck of a job managing everything,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh credited Washington's pass defense for partially dictating the Wolverines’ emphasis on the run.
“Their pass defense is outstanding,” he said. “Winning the game going throw for throw with those guys, we didn’t think was the best formula to win the football game.”
McNamara’s biggest completion was a 33-yarder to Cornelius Johnson on a third-and-15 in the first quarter. Michigan reached the 1-yard line that drive but turned the ball over on downs after driving 59 yards on 13 plays.
Center Andrew Vastardis limped off the field late in the game because of cramping, Harbaugh said.
“Guess when you run the ball (56 times) you might get a cramp,” Harbaugh said, before praising Vastardis. “He’s the guy up there making the adjustments, making the calls. He did a tremendous job with that.”
… While Ross led the team with 11 tackles, Aidan Hutchinson was a disruptive force and was credited with 2½ sacks.
“They couldn’t block Aidan,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve been watching Aidan in fall camp, we couldn’t block him either.”
Defensive backs Vincent Gray and Daxton Hill each had six tackles. Safety Brad Hawkins had a tackle for loss, forced a fumble and led the team with two pass breakups.