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Michigan overcomes sluggish start, runs away from SMU 45-20

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    Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones leaps into the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter against SMU.

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    Michigan tight end Zach Gentry catches a 32-yard pass for a first down, defended by SMU cornerback Eric Sutton, in the first quarter.

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ANN ARBOR — Michigan took to the air to overcome a sluggish start Saturday against undermanned Southern Methodist as the Wolverines corralled the upstart Mustangs, 45-20.

After a scoreless first quarter, Michigan scored 21 points in the second punctuated by a fantastic 73-yard interception return for a touchdown by Josh Metellus. The pick-six jolt came as time expired in the first half.

After failing to score on their first three possessions, the No. 19 ranked Wolverines scored on every offensive possession from the second quarter onward. Much heralded quarterback Shea Patterson settled in after a slow start and completed 14 of 18 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns. Patterson connected with receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones on scoring strikes of 41, 7, and 35 yards.

Michigan, which entered as a 37-point favorite, led just 14-7 when Metellus stepped in front of a Ben Hicks' pass, intercepted it, and sprinted down the sideline.

Senior tight end Zach Gentry finished with four catches for 95 yards.

The Wolverines allowed 319 yards of total offense to the Mustangs, including 209 passing. Michigan, which was without leading rusher Karan Higdon because of an injury also lost Chris Evans late in the contest, finished with 197 rushing yards.

Jim Harbaugh, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Shea Patterson on Michigan’s win

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Michigan, which tallied 434 yards of total offense, improved to 2-1.

What happened: It was an inauspicious start for the Wolverines, who went three-and-out to start the game. Patterson was then picked off by Mikieal Onu as SMU (0-3) took over at its 2 and the game was scoreless after one.

But early in the second, Patterson showed a flash of his elusiveness when it looked like he'd be sacked, shaking off several tackles to pick up a key first down. He then threw a perfect strike to Gentry for a 12-yard gain, then rolled out and hit Grant Perry for a 12-yard gain. Michigan then took a 7-0 lead as fullback Ben Mason scored from a yard out on fourth-and-1.

However, SMU tied it up just five plays later on a 50-yard bomb from quarterback Ben Hicks, who found James Proche, with 5:16 left in the first half.

A 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct on SMU coach Sonny Dykes keyed the next UM drive, as one play later the Wolverines went up 14-7 on a 35-yard scoring strike from Patterson to an open Peoples-Jones with 2:34 left in the first half.

After Metellus’ pick-six, Michigan took control as Patterson hit a 29-yard pass to Gentry that set up a 7-yard touchdown pass from Patterson to Peoples-Jones as UM took a 28-7 lead early in the third.

On an ensuing 16-play drive, SMU made it 28-13. The Wolverines, who were whistled for 13 penalties for a whopping 137 yards, were called for a two pass interference calls, plus a targeting call on linebacker Khaleke Hudson on the drive.

Patterson connected with Peoples-Jones on a 43-yard scoring pass for a 35-13 lead with 1:23 left in the third. The Mustangs responded with another lengthy drive (12 plays, 80 yards) and scored to make it 35-20 with 10:43 left.

Michigan then stuck to the ground with runs of 35 yards (Evans) and 12 yards (Tru Wilson) before settling for a 45-yard field goal from Quinn Nordin as the Wolverines went up 38-20 with 8:03 left.

Michigan tacked on a late score on a 9-yard run by Wilson, his first career touchdown, for the final margin.

It was over when: With Michigan leading just 14-7 with less than a minute left in the first half and SMU on the move, Michigan junior defensive back Josh Metellus came up with an interception and returned it 73 yards as time expired. Metellus was called for pass interference on the previous play. With time clicking under 10 seconds, Metellus cut back to the middle of the field, broke three tackles, and scored to give Michigan a 21-7 lead. It also is the sixth-longest interception return for a touchdown in U-M history and the longest since Brandon Herron's school-record 94-yard return Sept. 3, 2011, against Western Michigan.

They said it: Metellus on his pick-six interception: “Going into half it was 14-7. That's a close game. To get seven on the board when there was no time left on the clock … those seven points gave us good momentum going into the half.”

Michigan LB Chase Winovich, who had a team-high eight tackles (two for loss), on the defense giving up 20 points and 319 total yards: “I don't want to say we are searching to be dominant again. We're honestly working to be better. If someone says we're not dominant enough, maybe you could make the case on that. I'm sure we will be better next week.”

Wolverine standouts: Peoples-Jones, a sophomore, had four catches for 90 yards. It was the most touchdowns scored by a Wolverines receiver since Jehu Chesson scored three against Indiana in 2015.

Along with his key interception, Metellus had five tackles and one pass breakup.

Next up: The Wolverines open Big Ten play on Saturday against a Nebraska team that suffered a stunning 24-19 loss to Troy at home. The Cornhuskers fell to 0-2 under first-year coach Scott Frost, the former Nebraska quarterback.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com419-724-6354, or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.

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