The Wolverines relied heavily on the rushing attack on its way to a 35-7 victory over Oregon State. U-M rushed the ball 48 times and amassed over 220 yards on the ground. Junior running back De’Veon Smith led the way with 23 carries, 126 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Though Harbaugh, in his typical style, wouldn’t discuss Smith’s performance singularly when asked, he grouped his running backs together and noted the change between last week and this week.
“I thought the backs ran well,” Harbaugh said. “They ran better, ran harder. Saw things better. We can get them to the line of scrimmage as coaches but they’ve got to see things. We can get them from seven yards deep to line of scrimmage and tell them what they’re supposed to do, they’ve got to see it. They’ve got to see the holes, the blockers and they’ve got to make the appropriate cuts and run physically when they have to.
“I thought our guys did a better job. I think on film they see that their guys were playing cutbacks, especially when they were playing more naturally.”
Of course, the key to a physical running game starts on the offensive line and it did just that. Making holes for Smith and company to run through with ease, it made a difference in Saturday’s game.
After Harbaugh challenged his offensive line during his Monday press conference this week, he believes they stood up to the test.
“I think (they responded) better, it was good to see,” Harbaugh said. “It was good to get the running game going, backs running hard. The interior line really looked like there was more precision and less route errors and how we got there is lower pad level. Keep playing lower, move lower and quick. That’s what you want all 11 doing. They were better it was better and I feel good about it.”