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UM running back Karan Higdon said the Wisconsin game was a "personal game" for the Wolverines. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News

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Ann Arbor — It felt fitting to Ben Bredeson, Michigan’s left guard co-captain, that the offensive line would play such a solid game with a number of former Wolverine linemen greats on hand.

Before the game, about 25 former Michigan offensive linemen who were captains, All-Big Ten selections or played in the NFL at least five years, were honored. Some spoke to the linemen Friday night.

Michigan rushed for 320 yards in a 38-13 victory over Wisconsin Saturday night at Michigan Stadium. Running back Karan Higdon had 105 yards rushing on 19 carries, his fifth-straight 100-yard rushing game, and quarterback Shea Patterson had 90 yards on nine carries, including an 81-yard run. Each scored a rushing touchdown, and backup quarterback Dylan McCaffrey scored on a 44-yard run.

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“It was incredible to see,” Bredeson said of the former linemen. “You really see the tradition this place has as a program and especially from an offensive line standpoint. Just seeing the support the former players have for us, the support they’re giving us, it’s very humbling.

“As a player it just makes you so much more confident knowing you have all these greats behind you watching you every week and rooting for you. Having them out there for this game and for the offensive line to have a great day like we were able to do, it was the only way we could say 'Thank you' to them.”

Michigan gained 83 yards rushing on 16 carries in the first half, then made adjustments at halftime and the run game flourished.

“We really felt like we were grinding them down through the game and the running game really clicked in the second half,” Bredeson said. “As an offensive line we did a good job finishing this game.”

Bredeson is a junior starting for the third straight year. Jon Runyan is a new starter this season at left tackle, Cesar Ruiz is a first-year starter at center, Michael Onwenu is at right guard and Juwann Bushell-Beatty is at right tackle. They’ve all praised first-year position coach Ed Warinner for simplifying the game for them.

It’s paying off.

“We’ve been in those big games I’ve personally seen us not be able to finish them,” Bredeson said. “That was a big focus for us this offseason was changing the culture of the offensive line room. We were going to finish games. We needed a first down to win or a touchdown to win it, we were going to be able to deliver.”

And that’s what the Wolverines did against Wisconsin. Even the defensive players have seen a difference in the group.

“Offensive line improved tremendously since January,” safety Josh Metellus said. “They’ve gotten stronger in the weight room, more attentive, more confident. It’s just good to see them — they’re like their own brotherhood on the offensive line. They love each other, they want to do good for each other, they want to protect Shea, they want to protect Karan, Chris (Evans), Tru (Wilson). They want to protect those guys behind them. They don’t want to be the one reason the team doesn’t win.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has been saying from the start of the season, even when the line was criticized for its play at Notre Dame, that this is an improving bunch.

“Confident group that’s really trained themselves this offseason,” Harbaugh said. “They’re all playing their best football.”

angelique.chengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter.com @chengelis

 

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