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Michigan wraps up pre-Big Ten slate vs. SMU

After a dud of a performance in its season-opening loss at Notre Dame, Michigan came out firing on all cylinders in beating Western Michigan 49-3 to open its 2018 home schedule.

“I thought we played well, start to finish in the ball game,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said following that game. “The week of practice was really good. There was a feeling everybody wanted to get rid of. That’s what we want to be as a football team.”

One more nonconference tune-up remains, that coming Saturday afternoon at home against winless SMU. It figures to be another chance for the Wolverines to fight the right balance on offense as the Mustangs have allowed 44 points per game and 5.59 yards per play in losses at North Texas (46-23) and to No. 15 TCU (42-12).

Michigan averaged 8.51 yards per play against Western Michigan, the fourth-highest average under Harbaugh and best since averaging 8.54 yards per play in last November’s 33-10 win over Minnesota. Much like that game, the Wolverines did their damage on the ground by rushing for 308 yards last week. It was their fifth 300-yard rushing game of the Harbaugh era. They had just 58 rushing yards against Notre Dame.

Senior Karan Higdon had 156 yards and a touchdown against Western Michigan while junior Chris Evans, who had just two rushes in the opener, ran for 86 yards and two scores.

Though junior quarterback Shea Patterson only threw for 125 yards, he was 12-of-17 and had three TD passes and connected with eight different targets.

“He’s ascending,” Harbaugh said of Patterson, an Ole Miss transfer in his first year with the program. Three of those TD catches were by wide receivers, the first time a Michigan wideout had found the end zone on a reception since the second game of last season.

Michigan came within 2:34 of its first shutout since blanking Rutgers 78-0 in October 2016, holding Western Michigan to 208 yards. The Wolverines had yielded 300-plus yards in their previous five games, the last four all losses.

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