ANN ARBOR, Michigan (Ticker) -- Michigan coach Lloyd Carr finally may have found a running back.
Tiny true freshman Mike Hart ran for 121 yards, including a key first down in the closing minutes, as the 17th-ranked Wolverines eked out a 24-21 victory over a game San Diego State squad.
After the game, the 5-9, 194-pound Hart downplayed his accomplishments.
"It was a team effort, not just me," Hart said. "But it feels great. I was determined to play this year, so I came in and worked hard and just tried to be ready when I got the chance."
True freshman Chad Henne tossed three interceptions but had a pair of touchdown pasees to Braylon Edwards for the Wolverines (2-1), who narrowly avoided a second straight defeat.
Carr realizes that going into the Big Ten Conference season with two freshmen in key roles could be cause for concern, but he plans to make the most of the situation.
"It is what it is," Carr said. "I have confidence in every kid we have. Experience is great but it's hard to get without suffering sometimes. We could cry about what we don't have, but I prefer to be excited about what we do have."
Carr said that he worries the most about a freshman back missing his blocking assignments. That's why he used him mainly on running plays.
"Michael's not 220 pounds but he has great leverage and he's tough," Carr said. "Eventually, he'll be an excellent pass protector. Each week you'll give him a little more, but you don't want everybody to know if it's going to be a run or a pass.
"I felt good about Michael after last week's game when he made a couple of good plays. But I've felt good about him with the football since the start of practice."
Michigan trailed, 21-17, before Henne threw an eight-yard TD to Edwards - who had eight catches for 130 yards - 4:25 into the second half. Neither team scored again as Michigan's Garrett Rivas missed a field goal and the Aztecs' Garrett Palmer misfired on two.
San Diego State went three-and-out and was forced to punt with 2:47 remaining. Michigan got back the ball deep in its own territory, but on 3rd-and-9, Hart ran for 11 yards to the 22, and the Wolverines ran out the clock.
"I just hit the hole," Hart said. "We worked a lot last week on 3rd-and-10 situations. On that play, everybody executed what they had to do."
Michigan, which had averaged just 85.5 rushing yards through two games, ran for 148 against the Aztecs' heralded "Dark Side" defense in this one.
"We have guys at (running back) that if they're willing to play a role, they'll have a position," Carr said. "This year I don't think we have anybody who'll run the ball 50 times - 25 maybe."
Offensive guard David Baas said that the lack of a running game was addressed after the Notre Dame game by both the coaches and the players.
"It's embarrassing when you don't run the ball like a Michigan team," the senior co-captain said. "We just got it in our heads that we've got to work harder - the linemen and the backs. Everybody took part and addressed the issue. We wanted to do something about it. We're not there yet, but I think today we moved in the right direction."
Last year Chris Perry carried the ball 51 times against Michigan State. Perry, now with the Cincinnati Bengals, was the last true freshman to rush for 100 yards in a game when he picked up 103 against Bowling Green in 2000.
Matt Dlugolecki completed 26-of-42 passes for 277 yards, one TD and one interception for the Aztecs (1-1), who slipped to 0-7 all time at Big Ten schools and 0-16 vs. ranked opponents. They lost at Ohio State last year, 16-13.
"I think we're a better football team than we were a year ago," said San Diego State coach Tom Craft. "Michigan is a little more diversified than Ohio State in their approach both on offense and defense. They gave us a lot of different coverage. We saw a lot more offensively than we did last year against Ohio State."
Coming off a 28-20 loss at Notre Dame in which Carr was criticized for conservative play-calling, the Wolverines went deep on their first play from scrimmage as Henne connected with Edwards for a 54-yard touchdown down the right sideline.
After running back Michael Franklin tied it with a four-yard run, the Wolverines opened a 17-7 cushion on a 39-yard field goal by Rivas and a five-yard fumble return by linebacker Lawrence Reid with 2:51 left in the opening quarter.
But San Diego State survived the surge, pulling within 17-14 on a 12-yard option pass from Franklin to Jeff Webb just over a minute later and taking a 21-17 lead on a 14-yard pass from Dlugolecki to Robert Ortiz with 7:57 remaining in the second period.
"We rallied and responded after the first play and we didn't cave in at all," Craft said. "It's a tough group. I think the thing that's really important now, because it is early, is to keep getting better. I was proud of the way we played today."