The Wolverines continued their winning ways on Saturday with a 38-7 win on the road at Maryland.
Michigan built a 35-0 lead and then managed to hold on despite a furious 7-point rally by the Terrapins in the third quarter.
This game featured a pair of 97-yard kickoff returns and little else.
Michigan started the game off with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by freshman receiver Giles Jackson. Maryland running back Javon Leake responded with his own late in the third quarter to make it 35-7.
Both teams managed just 16 first downs on the day.
Michigan rushed for 155 yards against a Maryland defense that has allowed 321 yards to Minnesota, 186 yards to Indiana, 198 yards to Penn State, and 151 yards to Rutgers.
That’s right — the Wolverines managed four more rushing yards than the mighty Scarlet Knights.
One week after Michigan put 303 yards on Notre Dame, they managed just about half that against a much worse defense, but in much better conditions.
The positive spin here is that the Wolverines averaged 4.6 yards per carry, which was their fourth-best mark in nine games this season. It’s not a great number, but they only carried the ball 34 times and didn’t really do well enough to begin leaning on the Terp defense for bigger gains later on.
As it was, however, they still got a 39-yard run from Tru Wilson late in the third.
Defensively, the Terps made it into Michigan’s red zone three times, but came away with zero points. I would call it bend-but-don’t-break, but there wasn’t all that much bending going on. The Terps simply failed to score on their three best drives, the longest of which was just 63 yards.
There was nothing exceptional about this game, other than how quickly Maryland realized they had no shot.
When Michigan Was On Offense
I am of the crazy opinion that Michigan should throw the ball deep to Nico Collins about four times per game. Sure, that depends on safety help and whatnot, but if a defense isn’t going to give safety help, then this should be an open invitation.
In fact, I bet if Michigan went deep to Collins on first down once a quarter, they’d probably end up with more passing yards in those four plays than every first-down run for an entire game combined.
Anyway, quarterback Shea Patterson threw a 50/50 ball to Collins in the second quarter and — surprise, surprise — Collins came down with it for a 51-yard gain. There was even a deep safety, though he dropped off and didn’t follow through with the coverage.
That was one of Collins’ whopping two catches for 65 yards on the day.
The dude is a walking 80/20 ball and Michigan uses him down the field once every month. He’s a wide receiver, not a magazine subscription.
Collins has 22 catches and three of them have gone for 40 yards or more. Only five receivers in the Big Ten have more 40-yard catches than he does — and those guys on average have 39 catches this season to his 22.
I’m not trying to tell anybody how to run speed in space, but more Nico Collins downfield can’t possibly be a bad thing.
(Also, just as an aside, my favorite anagram for “speed in space” is “sans Pep, I cede.”)
Interestingly, however, as Josh Gattis and Jim Harbaugh continue to protect themselves from their quarterback play, the statistics may dwindle, but the wins go up.
Shea Patterson completed 13-of-22 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. This came one week after he threw just 12 passes in unfriendly weather against Notre Dame.
By the way, just four times in Patterson’s Michigan career has he thrown the ball fewer than 20 times in a game. All four times, however, the Wolverines have scored at least 40 points and won the game. Michigan is 7-5 when Patterson has been asked to throw the ball at least 25 times (which is his career average passing attempts per game as a Wolverine).
I’m not going to get into causation and correlation because we all know there’s no need to throw when a team can’t stop the run and that you also need to throw the ball in games you’re losing. But it’s interesting.
It just felt to me like this would have been a good time to build some confidence in the passing game because you’re going to need it down the stretch.
Instead, Collins, Tarik Black, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Ronnie Bell combined for eight catches for 111 yards.
Purdue and Penn State threw for 420 and 421 yards against this Maryland defense, respectively. Syracuse and Indiana went for 330 and 334.
Michigan? They managed 176 yards with two quarterbacks completing 16-of-29 passes. That’s a whopping 6.1 yards per pass. The Gophers averaged 5.9 yards per rush against the Terps a week ago.
Even Rutgers averaged 6.5 yards per pass against Maryland. The only team to average fewer than Michigan’s 6.1 yards per pass against the Terps this year was FCS Howard.
This was an opportunity and it was wasted, and it’s not the first time. Which is why it continues to feel like they are protecting themselves from the guy who touches the ball on every snap, as opposed to helping him improve and getting him ready for November.
But enough about the passing game. Let’s talk about the running game and where it went.
Hassan Haskins led the team with 60 yards on 13 attempts and a touchdown. His long carry on the day was 14 yards. Tru Wilson went for 50 yards on six attempts, with his aforementioned 39-yarder doing the bulk of his work.
Zach Charbonnet ran the ball eight times for 28 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey added nine yards on four carries.
Overall, it was a disappointing rushing day against a defense that has been gashed by solid running teams this season. The Michigan offensive line was unable to build off of their impressive week last week, which makes you wonder just how much of that performance was thanks to the weather, and just how much of it was thanks to the Notre Dame defense.
Michigan also lost the time of possession battle 31:58 to 28:02 to a team that is 13th in the Big Ten in time of possession
When Michigan Was On Defense
Attacking Michigan’s defense east-west isn’t going to work if you don’t also have some north-south punch to keep the Wolverines honest.
Maryland didn’t have such a punch and Michigan’s defense didn’t have an honest snap in them in this game.
Maryland ran for 129 yards on 46 attempts (2.8 ypc) and threw for 104 yards on 10-of-22 completions with an interception to safety Josh Metellus inside the Michigan 10-yard line.
The Terps had three drives worth mentioning all game long, and the third was just a freshman quarterback running the ball on the final drive of the game.
Michigan held Maryland’s explosive running backs down, allowing Anthony McFarland and Javon Leake to combine for only 98 yards on 23 carries, which was about 24 yards under their average.
Quarterback Josh Jackson had no time to throw, completing 9-of-20 passes for 97 yards with an interception and four sacks.
Outside linebacker/defensive end Josh Uche was responsible for two of those sacks, while defensive end Aidan Hutchinson got a third, and Khaleke Hudson and Carlo Kemp shared the fourth.
Middle linebacker Cam McGrone was a bit quiet with just three tackles, but safety Josh Metellus (9 tkls, 2 TFLs) and linebackers Jordan Glasgow (8 tkls) and Khaleke Hudson (8 tkls) more than picked up any slack.
Of Maryland’s 13 drives, eight went for 13 yards or less.
Michigan’s defense was never really tested in this game and there’s no further point in analyzing what a defense did against an offense that is more damaged than the Bonnie and Clyde car.
The Michigan Special Teams
As mentioned above, each team had a kickoff return for a touchdown, which is good and bad. It’s nice to have one, but bad to give one up.
I wouldn’t get too hung up on it since kickoffs are almost dead. It does probably perk the ears up of Michigan’s next three opponents, however, and maybe they take another glance rather than just preparing for touchbacks.
The Wolverines went with their two-headed kicker again, giving Jake Moody an opportunity from 37 yards in the second quarter, which he missed. Quinn Nordin then got a 38-yard attempt in the fourth quarter, which he totally nailed.
They say if you’ve got two quarterbacks, you ain’t got one. Well, my friends, if you have two kickers and they have both missed three field goals this season in fewer than 10 attempts, then you really ain’t got one.
The Wolverines also pulled off a fake punt for a first down. This gave them their second-longest run of the day.
What Does It All Mean?
It means that Michigan is talented enough to dominate a broken team without playing all that well.
The question then becomes why didn’t they play that well when worse teams have played so well against Maryland this season?
One answer is because Jim Harbaugh just wants to win the surest way possible, which is run the ball, punt, and play field position. That would be fine if they would have run the ball better than they did.
Actually, it still wouldn’t have been fine because this offense needs to have more of a passing threat. Let Shea Patterson throw it around. Give him a cow bell and tell him to really explore the room.
It also means that this is November. No more time for pretending. Weather gets colder and teams die from exposure all month long.
The Wolverines have a week off to get ready to face a Michigan State defense that could be a bit of a mess now that starting linebacker Joe Bachie is suspended for a failed drug test.
Everybody knows that Sparty is being held together by worn-down velcro and a sweaty grip — but this is still a rivalry game and Michigan better approach it as such because Mark Dantonio sure as hell will be.
As a reminder of how this rivalry goes, the team that runs the ball better has won this game 44 of the last 49 meetings.
In this one, however, 60 yards may be enough.
The Road to The Game
Aug. 31 — Michigan 40 – Middle Tennessee 21 (1-0)
Sept. 7 — Michigan 24 – Army 21 (2-0)
Sept. 21 — Wisconsin 35 – Michigan 14 (2-1, 0-1)
Sept. 28 — Michigan 52 – Rutgers 0 (3-1, 1-1)
Oct. 5 — Michigan 10 – Iowa 3 (4-1, 2-1)
Oct. 12 — Michigan 42 – Illinois 25 (5-1, 3-1)
Oct. 19 — Penn State 28 – Michigan 21 (5-2, 3-2)
Oct. 26 — Michigan 45 – Notre Dame 14 (6-2, 4-2)
Nov. 2 — Michigan 38 – Maryland 7 (7-2, 5-2)
Nov. 16 — Michigan State
Nov. 23 — at Indiana
Nov. 30 — Ohio State