Running back De'Veon Smith was one of the stars of Michigan's 35-7 win over Oregon State Beavers and provided a huge boost to a team that struggled rushing the football against Utah.
Smith ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries and led the way for the Wolverines' rushing attack, which totaled 225 yards and four touchdowns as a team.
The running backs looked good, but the offensive line was a big key during this game. As the game went on, the run blocking improved and helped the Wolverines pound the rock in the second half as they pulled away.
"Shoutout to my offensive line. They did a great job today," Smith said. "They made some huge holes that buses could drive through. They did a great job running and pass blocking. I’m proud of them."
It did not come without work, though. Smith says that offensive coordinator Tim Drevno was tough on both the offensive line and the running backs in practice this week.
"Coach Drevno definitely yelled at them a lot during the week to make sure they had the right keys and blocking assignments," he said. "We actually went in there with the lineman and coach kind of yelled at both of us because it is not all their faults because the runner makes the blocks good.
"We all made mistakes last week, we had to come out this week and make sure we made a great statement to the world today."
Well, it worked. And the Wolverines were able to dictate the tempo of the game on both sides of the ball. Smith says that he did not notice much difference outside of the pad-level being a bit lower and the line coming off of the ball stronger.
"I felt like the offense wore down the defense a lot," Smith said. "We started grounding and pounding it. So if you have more than one big back, they are going to start getting tired of tackling a big guy."
Smith was the lead back against Utah and ran hard, but he had some missed opportunities. He knows it, the coaching staff knew it and they addressed it in practice this week.
"Coach Harbaugh wasn’t really in my ear," Smith said. "It was more so (running backs) coach (Tyrone) Wheatley. He told me I have to be more patient in reading the holes and helping my vision out. He knows I have great vision and says if I’m more patient, it will come."
Smith delivered several punches down the stretch that helped the Wolverines build on their lead and wear down the Oregon State defense. When the game is on the line and the team has a chance to knockout the opponent, he wants the ball.
"You want the ball more," he said. "Give me the ball more. If you can tell a defense is wearing down, you want the more even more because for me personally, my strongest quarter is the fourth quarter."