Wolverines’ powerful run game bolsters young QBs
LON HORWEDEL COURTESY PHOTO
ANN ARBOR – As the University of Michigan began Big Ten play, the Wolverines can lean to a strong running attack to help support freshman quarterback Tate Forcier.
While Forcier has showed great poise and skills, he can’t do it by himself. He needs a running game to get the offense going. And he has one, run by committee.
Seniors Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown along with freshman Denard Robinson and sophomore Michael Shaw are providing the horsepower it a surprisingly potent attack, thanks to an offensive line that has created huge holes for them to run through.
“When I ask coaches deepest position, they all say running back,” Rodriguez said. “I really feel good about our depth.”
Minor couldn’t play in the opener against Western Michigan University, but he showed his value against Notre Dame. He rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown against the Irish.
Carlos Brown tallied 187 yards in an impressive outing against Eastern Michigan University.
“The O-line did a great job of opening holes,” Brown said. “As long as we’re getting yards we’ll keep running the ball.”
Brown even took a handoff and scored from 90 yards out, marking the third-longest rushing touchdown in Michigan history.
“I feel like I played okay,” Brown said. “I could have played a whole let better, though.”
He wasn’t the only Wolverine to run wild. Robinson busted off two touchdown runs on just three carries, averaging 20-yards a carry in limited action.
Michigan racked up 380 yards against EMU. As a team Michigan would have had 401 yards rushing, but two Forcier sacks lowered the total. That was the most rushing yards by a Michigan team since Sept. 6, 2003. Chris Perry and David Underwood led Michigan to 392 rushing yards against the Houston Cougars.
“All credit goes to the offensive linemen,” Robinson said. “(To) get 300 yards is crazy, I love it.”
Robinson has scored three rushing touchdowns on the year, leading Michigan. The Wolverines have spread out the rushing attack, with six different players rushing for touchdowns through three games.
“That’s our MO offensively, to try to get little bit faster,” Rodriguez said. “Particularly when you run the ball, get good gains on first and second down. It allows you to control it. Our fast guys did a good job showing some speed going north and south.”
Even the wide receivers had gotten into the rushing mix. Kelvin Grady took a reverse for first down against WMU and Martavious Odom took one for a 13 yard score against EMU too.
Third string running back Shaw is even raising some eyebrows. Shaw has rushed for 87 yards in the two games he’s played in. Shaw averages 5.4 yards-per-carry as he bruises between the tackles.
After the three early non-conference games Michigan had four rushers over 100 yards on the season: Brown, Robinson, Minor and Forcier.
Brown and Robinson both averaged more than eight yards per carry as well. Brown averaged 8.8 yards a carry, while Robinson got 8.6 yards a carry.
When you stack up what Michigan has done compared to other Big Ten teams it’s stunning. Michigan rushed as a team 812 yards after three games. The second highest rushing team is from Purdue with 632, 180 yards fewer than Michigan.
Penn State, ranked fifth in the nation, had rushed for only 400 yards.
As a total offense Michigan leads the Big Ten in points scored with 38 points per game.
This has been done with a relatively weak passing game. Michigan is 10th in the Big Ten in passing yardage. Forcier could only manage to throw for 68 yards against EMU. This was the lowest passing yardage for a Michigan team in at least eight years.