Fullback Ben Mason's 3 TD-performance puts smash-mouth signature on Michigan's crushing victory

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan fullback Ben Mason runs the ball in for his first touchdown of the day in the first quarter.

Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t wait long to answer why fullback Ben Mason got more carries in the Wolverines’ Big Ten-opening win over Nebraska.

Mason, a 6-foot-3, 254-pound sophomore had six carries for 18 yards and scored three touchdowns in the Wolverines’ 56-10 victory over Nebraska on Saturday at Michigan Stadium. They rushed for 285 yards with Karan Higdon leading the way after missing last week because of injury. Higdon had 136 yards and one touchdown and average 11.3 yards a carry.

But Mason gave Michigan that big physical burst scoring twice from a yard out and also a four-yard run.

“Inertia,” Harbaugh said simply when asked why Mason had a bigger role. “That was the main factor in that decision. When he gets going, I think he’s 258 pounds and he gets moving fast and he’s running hard, he’s got a talent and an ability. I like having Ben Mason in the game. Talk about a physical player … taking advantage of his skillset.”

More: Wojo: Riled-up Michigan flattens flailing Nebraska

Chris Evans, the No. 2 back behind Higdon, missed the game while he works through an injury suffered late a week earlier against SMU. That also provided Mason an opportunity. Third-string back Tru Wilson also had 43 yards on six carries.

Mason, considered one of the strongest players on the team, was told midweek he would be needed to run the ball more.

“There’s no problem with that whatsoever,” Mason said. “Just go in there and run.”

Regardless what he’s asked to do, Mason is consistent.

“I really try to bring the same mindset every single game,” he said. “Just come in, attack people and do the best that I can.”

Against Nebraska, he was asked to be the back at times.

“I think personally I can do a lot of things as a football player,” Mason said. “Today was the first time you got to see me as a single back and as a team we did a very good job executing everything that was asked of us to do today.”

How tough is Mason?

“He’s at the top,” left guard Ben Bredeson said. “He’s a tough kid.

“He brings a lot of physicality and he’s able to hit a hole really hard and he keeps his legs moving once contact hits, which you can see, and it just makes us look a little better, and he can always roll in there for touchdowns.”

Bredeson said Mason has been working on finishing drives in practice.

“And now he’s finishing them in games,” Bredeson said. “We all love Ben, so any time we can get him a touchdown, it’s good.”

Running backs coach Jay Harbaugh last week was asked about Mason’s mental approach.

“Just smash everything,” Harbaugh said, smiling. “He wants to bludgeon people and do it really fast and he’s relentless. He is good and he’s getting better. You give him something to improve, two or three things to focus on, he’ll relentless work on it.

“We appreciate that brand of football around here.”

Quarterback Shea Patterson and Mason spoke to reporters last Tuesday night after practice and Patterson was effusive in his praise of his fullback.

“Definitely a guy I’m very happy he’s on my team and I don’t have to line up across the ball and go head-to-head against him,” Patterson said. “One of our strongest guys, and he’s got a high motor and he’s going to give it everything he’s got on every snap.”

Defensive end Chase Winovich said he’s grateful he has never tackled Mason in practice.

“I’m thankful I’ve not had to do that because that would be tricky,” Winovich said. “He’s a big boy.”

He was asked how unique Mason presents as a running back.

“I feel like that question answers itself, but the dude is 255, 260 pounds, he’s one of the strongest guys on the team,” Winovich said. “He’s just a bull. He’s built to play football. He’s a football player.”

Mason sports some version of a mohawk. Winovich, who has long blond hair and is very aware of his hair style, said while Mason earns his respect as a football player, he’s not so sure about his hair game.

“It’s a big controversy with his hair style, I don’t know if you guys know,” Winovich said. “Obviously, I’m into the hair scene. He disagrees on what his hairstyle actually is because a true mohawk goes all the way to the back, but his stops in the middle. Is it a faux hawk? Is it a mohawk? Is it half of a mohawk?. Is it a fade?  There’s a lot of options on the table for him.”

That goes for his football table, as well.


Twitter: @chengelis