ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Jim Harbaugh said Ben Mason made an impassioned pregame speech before Michigan football’s victory over Minnesota, then went out and backed it up.
Mason, who is officially listed as a running back but actually used as a fullback, had a strong opener against the Gophers. He scored his first career receiving touchdown and was the best lead blocker on the field.
“I don’t know how many guys he knocked on their back, but, I mean, it was pretty significant -- five to eight, maybe,” Harbaugh said. “He was tremendous.”
Harbaugh said Mason and the team’s four running backs -- Zach Charbonnet, Hassan Haskins, Chris Evans and Blake Corum -- were named the offensive players of the game.
The Wolverines rushed for 253 yards on 31 carries -- an average of 8.2 yards per attempt -- and five touchdowns. Mason didn’t gain a single yard on the ground, but Harbaugh said he was still a critical part of the success.
“The holes that he was creating, the touchdowns blocks,” Harbaugh highlighted.
Mason was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that killed Michigan’s first drive of the game. Replay showed him blocking a Minnesota defender out of bounds well after the whistle.
Harbaugh admitted the flag was probably deserved, but also praised Mason’s effort.
“They made a movie out of that called ‘The Blindside,’” Harbaugh said. “Ben was penalized -- and probably rightfully so -- but it was a tremendous block, tremendous, tremendous block on a tremendous player.”
Mason was named one of seven team captains for Michigan during the preseason, and before the opener, he had a few words for his teammates.
“Ben Mason kind of called up the team pregame ... and what he said was, ‘Joe (Milton), this is your night. We’re gonna block. We’re gonna catch. We’re gonna do everything in our power to make you successful,'” Harbaugh said. “It was a very passionate speech.”
Harbaugh said football players make speeches all the time, but what stood out to him after the game was how Mason backed up his words.
With Michigan facing a second down and goal from Minnesota’s 8-yard line in the second quarter, Mason caught a short pass from Milton in the flat and turned it up the left sideline. He took a hit around the 3-yard line but dove up over the pylon for the score.
That was his only touch of the game, but he was a key contributor on several of Michigan’s long runs and scores.
“It’s easy to make the speech, but there’s maybe a dozen or so that I can think of after making the speech actually went out and did what they said they were gonna do in the speech,” Harbaugh said. “He did that, and then some. Just a tremendous game by Ben Mason."
You can hear Harbaugh’s full comments about Mason below.