The Sunday Five: Karan Higdon Steals The Show For Michigan

The Wolverines earned their first win of the season. Our Sunday five looks at the best of the best from the win.

(This story was written by Josh Doering)

Michigan’s five best players

RB Karan Higdon: The senior tailback stole the show in the first quarter, highlighted by runs of 43 and 67 yards, both leading to Michigan touchdowns. He finished the game with 13 rushes for 156 yards and a touchdown. The Wolverines were dominant on the ground – their 308 yards rushing were the most since a week-nine 2017 win over Minnesota (371 yards) -- and it all started with Higdon.

QB Shea Patterson: The junior got in a rhythm right away, completing his first five passes of the afternoon, including a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Sean McKeon to open the scoring. He converted on 12 of 17 attempts for 125 yards and a pass efficiency rating of 190.6 before sitting for most of the second half. Patterson looked much more comfortable in his home debut and started to show why he was such a highly-touted recruit.

DE Rashan Gary: Despite all the attention he received from the Broncos offensive line, Gary was still able to register six total tackles and one of Michigan’s two sacks on the afternoon. His pressure was a big part of why the Broncos only threw for 85 yards in this game.

RB Chris Evans: Evans picked up right where Higdon left off, rushing for 86 yards and two touchdowns of his own, including a 27-yard first-quarter scamper. The Indianapolis native looked much more dynamic than he did against Notre Dame, when he, inexplicably, only carried the ball twice for one yard.

Viper Khaleke Hudson: Hudson did a little bit of everything in this game. He had six total tackles, which was tied for second on the team. The junior also blocked a punt, setting up U-M’s fourth TD of the game, while helping hold Western Michigan scoreless until the final three minutes of the game.

Michigan’s five best plays:

Karan Higdon 67-yard touchdown run: After setting up the Wolverines’ first touchdown on the previous possession with his 43-yarder, Higdon found pay dirt himself. The senior took a handoff on the opening play of the drive. Give credit to the offensive line for opening a massive hole on the left that allowed Higdon to find open space. From there, it was a sprint to the end zone.

Blocked punt: The Wolverines already held a 21-point lead, but it’s significant any time special teams can give the offense a short field to work with. Hudson’s block was recovered by Joe Hewlett to set up the Wolverines at the Western Michigan 24-yard line. Evans found the end zone six plays later.

Donovan Peoples-Jones’ TD: It was only a 5-yard completion in the third quarter, but there was plenty to like on this play. Peoples-Jones did a nice job creating separation and keeping his feet in bounds. The throw by Patterson was perfect. He put it in a spot where only Peoples-Jones could get it and gave him enough room to get his feet down.

4th-and-1 stops: With the game in danger of getting out of hand in the 2nd quarter and the ball at midfield, the Broncos decided to roll the dice on 4th and 1. Quarterback Jon Wassink was stopped short by Michigan junior defensive lineman Carlo Kemp and Hudson. Western Michigan tried again near the beginning of the 3rd quarter, only to be stopped short a second time by junior linebacker Devin Bush.

Karan Higdon 43-yard run: Higdon’s burst on third down kickstarted the Wolverine offense and energized The Big House. Instead of punting for a second straight possession to open the contest, Michigan opened the scoring two plays after Higdon’s gallop with a McKeon touchdown reception. This play set the tone for Higdon and Michigan’s offense.

Five most interesting stats:

• This was the first time in 364 days a Michigan wide receiver scored a touchdown.

Sophomore wideout Nico Collins finally broke the drought with a 44-yard touchdown in the 2nd quarter.

• Michigan nearly tripled its rushing total from last week in the first quarter alone.

The Wolverines recorded a meager 58 rushing yards against the Fighting Irish. They had 167 through the opening 15 minutes against Western Michigan.

• Following a punt to open the game, Michigan scored touchdowns on five straight possessions.

The streak only ended when the completion of the 2nd quarter brought the Wolverines’ seventh drive of the half to a close.

• The last time Michigan scored 35 points in the first half was the 2016 season opener.

The Wolverines also scored 35 first half points that day en route to a 63-3 win over Hawaii. They followed that up with a 34-point first half against Central Florida in week two.

• Third-string running back Tru Wilson's 54 yards rushing are the most by a player that began his career as a walk-on - WIlson was given a scholarship (as a one-off) in August -- in at least the last 28 years.

Five plays Michigan would like back:

Timeout and false start on opening possession: Michigan’s first drive started with Patterson finding redshirt junior tight end Zach Gentry for a 10-yard gain and a first down. U-M then had to call timeout only 40 seconds into the game. When the Wolverines finally lined up for their second play, fifth-year senior right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty was flagged for a false start. After starting with some promise, the drive quickly stalled.

Patterson overthrows McKeon after punt block: Looking to take advantage of the short field following the blocked punt, Michigan took a shot to the end zone right away. McKeon was wide open for his second touchdown of the game, but Patterson’s pass landed out of bounds. On a day where Patterson looked sharp and executed at a high level, this is the one glaring miscue he had.

Late hit in 2nd quarter: The Wolverine defense provided Western Michigan’s offense with 15 free yards via a late hit in the 2nd quarter. Junior safety Josh Metellus and Hudson were both involved on the play and Hudson was flagged (though it looked like Metellus was the guilty party).

Patterson’s near-fumble: With the game well out of reach late in the third quarter, Patterson rolled out to the right but felt immediately pressure. Like last week against Notre Dame, the junior QB thought he could outrun his pursuer (spoiler alert: he could not) and in desperation underhanded the ball. Confusion ensued. Replay eventually ruled him down for a 16-yard sack so there was no real damage done. That being said, Patterson needs to recognize situations like that and throw the ball away or take the sack.

Defense allows early big gain: After punting on its opening possession, Michigan took the field intent on dominating the Western Michigan offense, but on WMU's first play from scrimmage, tailback LeVante Bellamy outflanked the U-M defense along the right side and was able to get upfield for a 25-yard gain. That was the longest run of the season the Wolverines have surrendered.

Five performances of note:

RB Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin): The Badger running back and Heisman hopeful torched New Mexico’s defense for a career-high 253 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries. Taylor has 398 yards on the ground through the Badgers’ first two games.

QB Ben Hicks (SMU): Hicks struggled in the Mustangs’ loss to TCU yesterday, only completing 47.4 percent of his passes at under three yards per attempt. He's completing just 48.4 percent of his attempts this season.

QB Adrian Martinez (Nebraska): The true freshman completed 15 of 20 passes for 187 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, and also rushed for 117 yards and two TDs. He suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter and never returned. Walk-on Andrew Bunch replaced Martinez and tried to lead Nebraska to a game-winning TD but came up short.

Rutgers quarterbacks: Artur Sitkowski and Giovanni Rescigno both had rough outings against Ohio State. Sitkowski connected on 33.3 percent of his passes before an injury on the final play of the first half forced Rescigno to relieve him. Together, they threw for 65 yards and two interceptions in a 52-3 loss.

QB Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State): Haskins carved up the Scarlet Knights to the tune of 233 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. Of the 23 passes he threw, 20 of them found their intended target.

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