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Only those who know him closely will ever know the feeling Jim Harbaugh truly had when he trotted on the field at Michigan Stadium for the first time as a head coach as a capacity-plus (real numbers, this time) crowd welcomed him, Harbaugh and squad paid everyone back with something old becoming something new in a 35-7 thrashing of the Oregon State Beavers.
It started out ugly, with Oregon State of the Pac-12 going 79 yards for a score that would have brought groans during the first home game of any other coach. Instead, you knew Michigan would get it right.
Michigan rumbled for over 200 yards rushing, mostly by straight-line De’Veon Smith, who runs with the elusiveness of a mailbox and the hatefulness of a guy watching everyone at the bar hit on his girlfriend while he just waits for the chance to knock them all out.
It was a throwback game for Michigan, and one that Wolverine fans have been expecting since the days of Lloyd Carr (which were under-appreciated, as I think we can all agree to now) as Michigan has struggled to find an identity along both the offensive and defensive lines under Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez.
Smith right, Smith left, Smith up the middle, and when Smith needed a break, play action very safe passes that quarterback Jake Rudock couldn’t miss.
Michigan’s offense looks like Stroh’s … not the flashiest thing in the world, but it gets the job done.
What’s different about UM it seems already is the physicality on both the offensive and defensive lines. OL Ben Braden was exceptional at opening holes for Smith, who missed several against Utah last week and still some today, but is a hard-line north and south runner that is painful to tackle and seeks out contact when he gets going downhill.
Several times, the 110,000 plus at the Big House erupted as Smith tore into Oregon State defenders on purpose, moving the pile.
Now, the breaks should reasonably be tapped. Oregon State is one of the youngest teams in college football and certainly the youngest in the Pac-12. They’ve mostly been relegated to the bottom of the North division there in terms of where they’re expected to finish.
Also, the Beavers were a willing victim, often willing to beat the Beavers without Michigan helping out, from a 95-yard swing on a punt downed inside the five turned illegal formation turned high snap and Michigan ball (and subsequent touchdown) that swung the pendulum immensely before the half.
Add to that, their penchant for not all that timely penalties continues from the 2014 Mike Riley era to the 2015 Gary Andersen one.
Still, it was highly obvious that Michigan was more physical than they have been in so many years. This wasn’t the type of football team that’s going to struggle with the likes of UMass or Eastern Michigan as has become the norm it feels like in Ann Arbor.
Folks got a glimpse of what Harbaugh wants to get done here, having much experience running right at and over Pac-12 foes. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And the winner.