Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh praised the offensive line and offense after win over WMU Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — After the season-opening loss to Notre Dame, fingers were again pointing at an offensive line for not creating holes for the running backs or protecting quarterback Shea Patterson.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said last Monday he would not change the offensive line, and the same five started against for the Wolverines in the home opener against Western Michigan. Michigan (1-1) won a lopsided meeting, 49-3, on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
A week after the Wolverines rushed for 58 yards against the Irish, they gained 308 against the Broncos (0-2), who have given up 104 points in their first two games.
Karan Higdon had 156 yards rushing and scored on a 67-yard run, and Chris Evans gained 88 yards and scored two touchdowns. Patterson, who took three sacks against Notre Dame and was hurried six times, was sacked twice against WMU and hurried once.
“Our O-line played a heck of a game,” Patterson said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen holes open up that wide.”
Karan Higdon and Shea Patterson praise the Wolverines offensive line Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Higdon immediately praised the offensive line, as well.
“I wouldn’t be where I am talking to you guys today if it wasn’t for them,” he said.
Offensive linemen are linked with run-game totals, so surpassing the 300-yard mark is a feather in their collective helmets. Jon Runyan started again at left tackle, Ben Bredeson at left guard, Cesar Ruiz at center, Mike Onwenu at right guard and Juwann Bushell-Beatty at right tackle.
“I thought they played really good,” Harbaugh said. “Tip of the cap any time the running game goes over 300 yards. Pass protection was really good. I thought they were sound, really making the right calls, getting on the right people. That was a phase that was really good today. On some of the longer drop-back throws, that was a clean pocket there from start to finish.”
The backups were able to come in later in the game. Jalen Mayfield was at left tackle, Chuck Filiaga at left guard, Stephen Spanellis at center, Joel Honigford was at right guard and James Hudson at right tackle.
Harbaugh wasn’t overly concerned with the offensive line play in the first game.
“I thought they played good last week,” he said. “I thought it was an improvement. They took another step this week, as well. Just calls, getting on the right guys, not turning anybody loose in protection. Getting the quarterback a chance to step up in the pocket and feel some space around him where everything isn’t just collapsing. Blocked really well in the run game. Hat on hat. Just good, sound fundamental football. I was impressed. It was good to see a lot of guys get in the game.”
Harbaugh said the run game improvements began during practice last week.
“It was 90 degrees on Tuesday and Wednesday and nobody was flinching or asking to come out,” Harbaugh said. “It was good. Not taking anything for granted and wanting to improve. And going out and starting fast and playing from start to finish, I thought we did that today. That’s why I think the offensive line made that jump. I think they have the ability to get better and better. I think we do as a football team, as well.”
Patterson said the run game success opened the pass game. He was 12 of 17 passing for 125 yards and three touchdowns.
"(That) got the safeties to come down and play in the box,” Patterson said.
Evans said he loved the way the offensive line rebounded from last week.
“Super great,” he said. “There were holes you could drive a car through and people in there with nobody to block because everybody was blocking and taken care of.”