Michigan runs wild, pulls away and routs Minnesota 33-10
Published 2:17 pm Sunday, November 5, 2017
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan took the ball out of Brandon Peters’ hands, and the plan worked out perfectly.
Karan Higdon ran for 200 yards and two touchdowns and Chris Evans added 191 yards rushing and two more scores, helping the Wolverines pull away to beat Minnesota 33-10 Saturday night.
“We’ve just really been focusing on the run game,” offensive tackle Mason Cole said. “We knew we had the backs to do it.”
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Peters made his first start and didn’t have many pressure-packed situations because the Wolverines ran for 371 yards on 37 carries, losing 23 yards on three sacks.
Instead of asking a redshirt freshman to throw on a wet night, coach Jim Harbaugh had him hand the ball off early and often.
“We were running the ball so well, 10 yards per rush,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “That’s pretty good.”
Michigan (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) has won two straight with a heavy dose of the run after losing two of three games in part because it couldn’t pass well.
“We got whooped,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said.
The Golden Gophers (4-5, 1-5) made it 7-7 on Rodney Smith’s 10-yard run late in the first quarter, but the game was tied for just 26 seconds.
Higdon scored on a 77-yard run on the ensuing drive and his 5-yard TD run padded the lead in the third quarter.
Evans had 60- and 67-yard TDs in the second half, giving Michigan a 33-7 lead.
“I’ve never seen that many 50-plus yard runs in one game that I’ve ever coached,” Harbaugh said.
The Gophers scored with 1:51 left, choosing to kick a field goal from the Michigan 5 instead of going for a fourth-and-4.
“I wanted to come away with points,” Fleck said. “Period.”
Minnesota: The Gophers are clearly rebuilding under Fleck in his first year with only a win over lowly Illinois in Big Ten play. The former Western Michigan coach wisely refused to build up the opportunity to upset the Wolverines because he is going to be given time to turn around the program.
Michigan: Peters was solid in his first start, handing the ball off much more than he was asked to throw. He was 8 of 13 for 56 yards with a 20-yard TD pass to Sean McKeon on his first possession.
“He didn’t have a lot of opportunities,” Harbaugh said.
The Gophers got to the Michigan 42 midway through the third quarter, trailing by 13 points, when the Wolverines seemed to seal the victory. Minnesota quarterback Demry Croft rolled to the right, linebacker Khaleke Hudson forced a fumble and defensive end Chase Winovich recovered it. Higdon scored on a 5-yard run on the ensuing drive, putting Michigan up 27-7.
What a night
Hudson had 13 tackles, including 6 ½ for losses.
“Spectacular performance by Khaleke Hudson,” Harbaugh said. “He was everywhere he was supposed to be.”
Minnesota running back Rodney Smith, who was held to 38 yards rushing on 18 carries, also raved about Hudson’s play.
“He did his job, made plays all over the field,” Smith said.
Michigan’s Quinn Nordin missed an extra point and was just wide on a 49-yard field goal attempt. Harbaugh said Nordin had been rushing too much on his kicks, a problem he worked on in practice.
“We thought we had that corrected,” Harbaugh said.
Minnesota offensive lineman Donnell Greene was ejected after punching defensive back Tyree Kinnell.
“That’s not our culture,” Fleck said. “That’s not acceptable”
Michigan defensive back Josh Metellus was ejected, too, after getting in Greene’s face.
The game started about an hour later than scheduled because of lightning strikes in the area and it ended as the clock approached midnight.
Minnesota: Hosts Nebraska.
Michigan: Plays at Maryland.