Run-crazy in Ann Arbor?

Well, through the first 2 games of the season — yeah, Michigan appears to be in love with its running backs and enamored with run, run, run.

It might not the prettiest style of football, but Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh doesn’t really care; his job is to devise ways to win games — which he did in Week 2, pounding Washington with 56 carries for 343 yards and four touchdowns during a 31-10 victory Saturday in Ann Arbor.

Through 2 games this year, Michigan has rushed the ball 99 times for 678 yards and 7 TDs.

Against Western Michigan in Week 1, it was clear that Michigan was physically superior — so running the ball was an easy way to wear down the Broncos. Against Washington, intel suggested that running — and running a lot — would be the best way to emerge on the right side of the scoreboard.

Harbaugh was criticized for staying with the ground-and-pound vs. the Huskies, but he was simply following his original game plan.

“Heard a little bit of noise about it. ‘Why so much running? You’ve go to throw more.’ That kind of thing,” Harbaughs said during his postgame press conference. “There’s a lot of ways to travel. Some people choose to travel on the ground — some people by air. George Patton was able to get his job done on the ground. Neil Armstrong through the air. Last Saturday night, we chose to grind it out on the ground … and were also able to get our mission accomplished.”

Side note: Harbaugh might be back to normal. He’s appeared to be off the past couple of seasons. When he gets historical and metaphorical, then you know he’s feeling like his old self. Citing a famous WWII Army General and the first man to walk on the moon serves as proof.

Hey, it’s not referencing the children’s book “If Worms Had Machine Guns,” or quoting poet Henry David Thoreau — like he’s done in the past — but it’s a sign that Harbaugh is happy with the direction of his Wolverines.

Harbaugh likes to run the ball. Since arriving at Michigan in 2015, he’s made it a point to really exercise his ball-carriers throughout the first 2 weeks of the season.

Here is a look at some stats through 2 games that reflect his affinity for rushing like there’s no tomorrow.

  • 2020: 65 attempts for 405 yards and 8 TDs (172 total carries in six-game season)
  • 2019: 90 attempts, 341 yards, 5 TD (491)
  • 2018: 68 attempts, 364 yards, 4 TD (549)
  • 2017: 86 attempts, 408 yards, 1 TD (529)
  • 2016: 80 attempts, 425 yards, 6 TD (571)
  • 2015: 77 attempts, 459 yards, 2 TD (491 total)

Michigan has rushed more than 500 times in 3 of 5 full-schedule seasons under Harbaugh. His teams have been 9 carries short of the 500-mark twice. With that said, it’s a safe bet that the Wolverines will run the ball roughly 500 times per season, just like clockwork — which is easy to do when backs such as De’Veon Smith, Karan Higdon and Khalid Hill (FB), among others, patrol the backfield every Saturday.

Today, Michigan has Blake Corum — Week 2 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week — and Hassan Haskins to do the dirty work on the ground. With Corum and Haskins, the Wolverines have — at least it appears so far — one of the more dynamic backfields in college football. Haskins supplies the power and Corum supplies the highlight-reel material.

This past Saturday, the Wolverines ran the ball 56 times, the most since running 57 times in 2019 during a 45-14 win over Notre Dame. In 2018, the Wolverines ran the ball 48, 53 and 52 times during 3 consecutive weeks, winning decisively over Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State, respectively.

Michigan rushed 51 times vs. Rutgers in 2017, racking up yet another lopsided win. In 2016, the Wolverines again used the ground game to demolish Rutgers, 78-0, by way of 53 rushing attempts. One week later, they gouged Illinois with 59 carries. Later that same season, they ran 50 times vs. Indiana. In 2015, 50 attempts vs. BYU led to a 38-0 win in Ann Arbor.

The moral of the story? If Michigan runs 50-plus times, it’s going to win. Harbaugh is 7-0 when running the ball 50 or more times. He’s been successful when getting close to that mark as well, evidenced by 48 carries against Wisconsin in 2018.

It’s easy to criticize a team for being bland and committing all resources to the run, which is what happened this past weekend. However, wins are wins — and Michigan needs wins. Michigan fans want to see all the razzle-dazzle potential the offense has to offer, not necessarily Corum and Haskins making teams tap-out due to exhaustion.

But if it works, it works.

And history supports Harbaugh’s missions to run the ball until media and fans complain.