UM's Cade McNamara: With run game rolling, 'there's no reason stopping it'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara said being off to a 2-0 start this season far outweighs the Wolverines attempting only 32 passes.

The Wolverines are coming off a 31-10 victory over Washington last Saturday night during which McNamara was 7-for-15 passing for 44 yards. Michigan back Blake Corum had 171 yards rushing and three touchdowns and Hassan Haskins ran for 155 yards and a score.

A week earlier in the season-opening 47-14 win over Western Michigan, McNamara threw for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 9-of-11 passing and backup J.J. McCarthy was 4-of-6 for 80 yards and a touchdown. Michigan rushed for 335 yards and three scores.

Michigan leads the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 339 yards per game, but is 13th in passing, averaging 130 yards.

Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara hands the ball off to running back Blake Corum during Saturday's win over Washington.

“Obviously, we put a big emphasis on our run game this season, and I think the O-line has embraced that,” McNamara said during an appearance Tuesday morning on the "Stoney and Jansen" show on 97.1 The Ticket. “We have two really good backs and getting the ball in their hands, whether that’s the passing game or the running game, is going to be beneficial to this offense.”

McNamara was asked about the lack of emphasis on passing.

“When something’s working as well as it was last game, there’s no reason stopping it,” McNamara told the show.

The last time Michigan had so few attempts from its starting quarterback was in the rain during a 45-14 victory over Notre Dame in 2019. Then-quarterback Shea Patterson was 6-of-12 passing for 100 yards and two touchdowns, while the team rushed for 303 yards on 57 carries.

Michigan players have said that comments before the game from Washington players about stopping the Wolverines’ run motivated them. Washington did stop them on fourth down at the 1-yard line, leaving the Wolverines empty-handed on a 13-play, 59-yard drive.

“(The offensive line) took us not getting in the end zone on fourth down very personally, and I think that fueled them the rest of the game,” McNamara said. “They were moving people.”

This week Michigan is preparing to face Northern Illinois (1-1), which is led by Michigan State transfer quarterback Rocky Lombardi. Lombardi directed the Spartans’ 27-24 win over Michigan in Michigan Stadium last season, throwing for 323 yards and three touchdowns. The Huskies have allowed an average 231 yards rushing this season, and there’s no reason to think Michigan will curtail its run game.

“I think around college football they know at this point we’re very confident in our run game, and I think other teams will start to pick up on that,” McNamara said. “Overall, our balance and our attack week to week, we’re going to play it off what the defense does and we’re going to run the things we do best.”

Staying focused

Because Michigan played a night game this past Saturday, that gave the players ample opportunity to check out other games, including rival Ohio State.

McNamara said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh encourages the players to not get invested in the other games before a night game. So while the Wolverines knew the Buckeyes lost to Oregon, 35-28, at Ohio Stadium, it wasn’t a source of motivation.

“We knew they lost, but that didn’t affect our emotional status going into the game,” he said on the radio show.

Zinter's hand

Zak Zinter, called the offensive line’s best player earlier this year by offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, returned to the starting lineup at right guard against Washington and continues to play with a cast on his right hand.

Zinter suffered a broken right hand during preseason camp and underwent surgery, Harbaugh said Monday night during the “Inside Michigan Football” radio show. He did play during the season opener against Western Michigan, mostly as an extra offensive lineman playing tight end and occasionally spelled Chuck Filiaga, who started at right guard.

Harbaugh said they wanted to ease Zinter into playing during the opener to see how he could perform with his right hand in a significant cast while making certain he couldn’t make the injury worse. X-rays of the hand were taken after the WMU game.

“And it was good, so he went full time and started at right guard and did a heck of a job,” Harbaugh said.

Right tackle Andrew Stueber said it was good to have Zinter back next to him in the lineup, but said having Filiaga step in proves how much versatility there is in the position group.

“Having Zinter back is great,” Stueber said. “He’s grown so much in the offseason mentally. Physically, coming in as a freshman, he was very impressive, but mentally he’s learned a lot this offseason working beside (center Andrew) Vastardis and myself. He’s progressed a lot and it’s great to have him back in there.”

Twitter: @chengelis