Sunday Five: Karan Higdon Shines in Blowout Win

Our Sunday Five breaks down five things from different categories about the game.

The Wolverines destroyed Nebraska in all three phases, coasting to a 56-10 win in their Big Ten opener. Our Sunday Five Looks at the best of the best from the win.

Michigan’s five best players:

RB Karan Higdon

It’s becoming clear that Michigan is simply a different team with Higdon in the backfield. He averaged 11.3 yards per attempt on 12 carries, including runs of 44 and 46 yards, the former resulting in a touchdown. The senior brings a big-play capability to the Wolverines’ offense the rest of the running backs haven't been able to match to this point - Higdon has four rushes of 30 yards or more this year, Chris Evans is second with one.

LB Devin Bush

Michigan’s front seven was absolutely dominant and Bush led the way with a team-high six tackles, all solo efforts. He also contributed two tackles for loss, one of which was a sack. Bush’s performance was a big reason why Nebraska didn’t move the ball at all in the first half after its opening drive. The preseason first team All-American played like it in this game.

DE Rashan Gary

Gary had two solo tackles and a sack before departing with the game well in hand. Gary and the defensive line got consistent pressure, turning Nebraska’s running game into a non-factor. The numbers could be better for the former top recruit in the country, but he continues to make an impact every week for the Wolverines.

Viper Jordan Glasgow

Glasgow filled in admirably in the first half for the suspended Khaleke Hudson, collecting a sack and two tackles. The fact that Michigan didn’t miss Hudson at all is a credit to how well Glasgow played and how lopsided this game was. With Hudson out for the first half again next week, Glasgow will be called upon to replicate this performance against Northwestern.

LB Josh Ross

Ross’ four solo tackles ranked second on the team, no small accomplishment in a defensive performance as impressive as this one. The sophomore has quietly registered at least four tackles in each of the team’s games this season. His play is a testament to the depth and talent defensive coordinator Don Brown has to work with.

Michigan’s five best plays:

Donovan Peoples-Jones 60-yard punt return touchdown

Peoples-Jones’ second punt return touchdown of his Michigan career extended the Wolverines’ lead to 46-0 after the extra point. The sophomore capped off a terrific 60-yard return with a nice spin move on the last Cornhusker between him and six points. Having a threat in the return game like Peoples-Jones, who can score any time he touches the ball, is a wonderful advantage and a headache for opponents.

Josh Metellus' interception

Following a 32-yard completion that put the Cornhuskers on Michigan’s side of the field, Nebraska’s offense was moving the ball with ease on the opening drive of the game. Lawrence Marshall tipped quarterback Adrian Martinez’s pass, popping it up in the air for Josh Metellus to grab. Not only did the interception give Michigan a short field on their first drive, which ended in a touchdown, but it also might have saved seven points. Martinez had a receiver wide open on the play who probably would’ve walked into the end zone.

Karan Higdon 44-yard touchdown run

Up 7-0 and on Nebraska’s 44-yard line after a fair-catch interference penalty, Higdon promptly scored on the first play of the drive. The Wolverines offensive line opened up a massive hole for the senior to run through. He wasn’t touched until he was practically in the end zone, which speaks to how good the blocking was on this play. Higdon displayed his explosiveness once again and his linemen made his job incredibly easy.

Ronnie Bell 56-yard touchdown reception

With the game out of reach, backup quarterback Dylan McCaffrey stepped in for Shea Patterson and delivered a perfectly placed ball for Bell, who did the rest. This play will do wonders for McCaffrey’s confidence and demonstrates the kind of talent he has. Should something happen to QB Shea Patterson, McCaffrey appears ready to step in without too much of a drop-off.

Shea Patterson 21-yard completion to Zach Gentry

Michigan’s running game was so effective that Patterson wasn’t forced into many tough throws. However, his connection with Gentry on a 3rd and 11 in the first quarter sent a message. Patterson stood in the pocket even though he knew he was going to get hit and delivered a strike to move the chains. Through this play, Patterson once again demonstrated his willingness to take a hit for the betterment of the team.

Five most interesting stats:

  • Quinn Nordin is the third kicker in Michigan history with three made field goals of 50 yards or longer.

Nordin converted from 50 yards against the Cornhuskers to go with his makes from 50 and 55 yards out in the Florida game last season. He is now only one behind Hayden Epstein, who holds the program record with four.

  • Michigan is now 4-0 in Big Ten openers under Jim Harbaugh.

In those four games, the Wolverines have outscored their opponents 161-30 and haven’t given up more than 10 points in any of them.

  • Karan Higdon has accounted for 43 percent of Michigan’s rushing yards this season while receiving only 30 percent of the carries.

Higdon is averaging 7.9 yards per rush while the rest of the team is averaging 4.4.

  • In the first half, Nebraska gained 0.65 yards per play and rushed for -6 yards.

The Cornhuskers’ rushing totals were negative in the first and second quarter.

  • Nebraska’s 132 total yards were the fewest by any Michigan opponent since Rutgers in 2016.

The Scarlet Knights only managed 39 yards in their 78-0 nothing loss to the Wolverines.

Five plays Michigan would like back:

Khaleke Hudson ejected for targeting

Suspended for the first half of this game due to last week’s suspension, Hudson, with less than seven minutes left in the game, drilled Nebraska quarterback Andrew Bunch after he released the ball. Hudson was called for targeting again, meaning he will miss the first half of the Northwestern game next week. While last week’s targeting call was controversial, this one was simply careless. There is absolutely no need to make that hit.

Botched snap

Standing in the shotgun, Patterson didn’t see Cesar Ruiz’s snap until it was too late. Patterson did well to make the most of a bad situation, but the miscommunication between center and quarterback could’ve been disastrous. Without those two positions on the same page, any offense will struggle to move the ball on a consistent basis. In the end, it’s one miscue in a game with very few of them.

Quinn Nordin missed extra point

Nordin’s extra point that would’ve put Michigan up 21-0 flew wide left. While it obviously had no bearing on the outcome, special teams can be the difference between winning and losing games in the future. Missed extra points happen and Nordin’s been fairly consistent with them (35 for 38 last season), but it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Nebraska 32-yard completion on opening drive

On the third play of the game, Martinez avoided pressure from Michigan’s defense and found Stanley Morgan for a 32-yard gain. While Martinez’s ability to extend plays presents an extra challenge, the Wolverines’ secondary lost concentration for a split second and allowed Morgan to get some separation. That being said, it’s hard to be too critical when the Cornhuskers didn’t have another play over 30 yards the entire game.

Read option almost leading to fumble

Already winning 23-0 early in the second quarter, Higdon nearly fumbled on a read option. As the quarterback, it’s Patterson’s job to make a decision quickly. He didn’t on this play, putting Higdon in a really tough spot. Patterson should learn from this and be sharper on read options moving forward.

Five performances of note:

RB Miles Sanders (Penn State):

The junior posted a season-high 200 yards on 22 carries and scored three touchdowns in the Nittany Lions’ win over Illinois. He is averaging just under seven yards per carry this season and has found the end zone five times.

RBs Ty Johnson/Anthony McFarland (Maryland)

Maryland’s duo combined for 235 yards and both averaged better than 11 yards per attempt against Minnesota. They had touchdown runs of 81 yards (Johnson) and 64 yards (McFarland), finding the end zone a total of three times between them.

QB David Blough (Purdue):

Blough completed 21 of his 28 attempts for 296 yards and three touchdowns, helping guide the Boilermakers to their first win of the season, upsetting No. 23 Boston College. The fifth-year signal caller connected with Rondale Moore on a 70-yard touchdown and didn’t throw an interception.

WR Whop Philyor (Indiana):

Philyor erupted for 148 yards and a 65-yard touchdown in a loss to the Spartans. The sophomore caught a total of 13 passes, eight more than he had coming into the game. As Indiana’s offense continues to evolve, Philyor could emerge as a favorite target of quarterback Peyton Ramsey.

QB Alex Hornibrook (Wisconsin):

Hornibrook connected on 77 percent of his pass attempts, throwing for 205 yards and three touchdowns in a win in Iowa City. The redshirt junior led the Badgers on a 10-play, 82-yard drive to take a 21-17 lead with 57 seconds remaining. It was the first time since week one that Hornibrook passed for over 200 yards.

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