Michigan's big win quiets Harbaugh's critics — for now
By CHRIS NELSEN
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan was eager for redemption after its loss to Notre Dame in the season opener.
Leading up to last Saturday’s home opener against Western Michigan, the Wolverines were criticized by fans, the media and even former receiver Braylon Edwards, who vented on social media.
A 49-3 thrashing of Western Michigan at the Big House has quieted coach Jim Harbaugh’s critics — at least for now.
No. 19 Michigan (1-1), which moved up two spots from last week in The Associated Press poll, will be seeking another lopsided victory when it hosts Southern Methodist (0-2) on Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor.
“The execution was better,” Harbaugh said Monday as he compared the two games. “There were things that were outstanding.”
The dominant effort against Western Michigan (0-2) also had players in a better mood. Michigan’s offense rushed for 308 yards and three touchdowns, transfer quarterback Shea Patterson tallied 125 passing yards and three TDs, and the Wolverines’ defense nearly pitched a shutout.
“Coming off a loss, especially one as hard as Notre Dame, there’s a lot of anger,” said Jordan Glasgow, who plays the team’s hybrid viper position. “Performing such as we did, it’s a confidence boost. We have the urge to keep improving.”
Receiver was one position group that showed its potential. Patterson’s 44-yard scoring pass to Nico Collins in the second quarter marked the first touchdown by a Wolverines receiver in 364 days.
“The receivers are doing things that receivers need to do,” Harbaugh said. “Create space first, then gain separation, then catch the ball. They’re doing it with an assortment of different routes. We feel good about the way they’re ascending.”
Michigan’s offensive line, which got harsh reviews after the Notre Dame loss, also played much better against Western Michigan. Left guard Ben Bredeson was named the Wolverines’ offensive player of the week.
“Keep improving; that’s our mindset,” Harbaugh said. “Three hundred yards of rushing, plus the pass protection. Yeah, you’re seeing good improvement.”
Michigan should have another chance to excel against SMU, which dropped its season opener to North Texas, 46-23, and lost to TCU, 42-12, last weekend.
“You really look back with a fine comb and see, ‘Did we do what we were supposed to do on every play?'” backup offensive lineman Stephen Spanellis said. “It’s less about the results and more about the process.”
Big wins, like the Western Michigan game, allow the Wolverines to build depth by playing reserves longer than normal.
“This past game, 74 players played,” Harbaugh said. “Of those, 18 started their careers as walk-ons.”