Football Michigan Monday The Rivalry

Michigan Monday: A Most Hostile Homecoming

Michigan Monday

A year ago, Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin was Michigan’s defensive coordinator, which made this past weekend’s game against the Wolverines (9-0, 6-0) somewhat of a homecoming. Unfortunately for him, that homecoming didn’t go all that well, as Michigan welcomed him back with a 59-3 list of chores that included both toilets and gutters.

The Terrapins (5-4, 2-4) were undermanned, overmatched, and everything in between. Michigan outgained Maryland 660 to 367, and just as many Terps rushed for negative yards as they did positive yards.

This was the third time in 2016 that the Wolverines have won by at least 56 points. Before this season, Michigan hadn’t even scored 56 points in a game since 2013. By my count, prior to 2016, the Wolverines have only had three wins by at least 56 points since 2000.

The last time they did it three times in a season? It was 1905 against Ohio Wesleyan, Albion, and Oberlin. Like today, some people back then certainly claimed that a weak schedule inflated Michigan’s numbers, as they lost to Chicago in their season finale 0-2, which happened to be the only two points they allowed all season.

That was then, however, and this is now — which, admittedly, is starting to look a whole lot like then. Saturday was yet another dominating effort where Michigan gave exactly what they were expected to give. There was no surprise with this game, only a constant wish that the clock would stay running.

It also doesn’t help when Michigan’s idea of the mercy rule is continuing to run the ball against a defense that retreats like coastal water following an offshore earthquake.

Before the season started I said there was no way that Michigan would go 3-0 in their three biggest road games. They are currently 1-0 thanks to their 32-23 win over Michigan State last week. This week they head to Iowa, where they are 21-point favorites. It would be good to see them run away with a road game against a team with a pulse since we haven’t seen that yet. That third road game, however, is still up in the air.

When Michigan Was On Offense

The Wolverines averaged exactly 10 yards per play against Maryland, amassing 660 yards of total offense on 66 snaps. Michigan passed for 387 yards and rushed for 273 yards. It was by far their best offensive yardage output of the season.

Quarterback Wilton Speight completed 19-of-24 passes for 362 yards and two touchdowns. He has thrown just two interceptions in his last 230 pass attempts.

Speight continues to be bafflingly nimble in the pocket, evading sacks like he’s changing the subject in a conversation he doesn’t want to have. He didn’t really float any passes in this game, which can be his weakness at times. He faced so little pressure in this game, however, that he was able to step into everything.

Michigan attacked down the field quite a bit, both outside and over the middle of the field. Speight has never been shy about attacking a defense deep, and now he’s bringing the accuracy and proper ball placement that has made receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson the best duo in the conference.

Chesson caught five passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, while Darboh checked in with four receptions for 77 yards. Tight end Jake Butt added a standard five receptions for 76 yards. Those numbers for Butt might not be a bad guess at a first half against the Buckeyes.

However, Darboh and Chesson against Ohio State’s cornerbacks might decide The Game.

The Wolverines did have a beautiful screen pass to freshman running back Chris Evans that went for 56 yards. I had almost forgotten Michigan’s love of the screen until that play.

Another play that I love that Ohio State will need to watch out for is when Michigan puts 6-foot-4 receiver Drake Harris in the backfield as a split back and then they run a wheel route with him. That’s a terrible matchup for a linebacker and a difficult matchup for a safety.

They also lined Chesson up in the diamond formation to the left of Speight. There are so many alignments and formations that defensive composure is sometimes half the battle. The other half is trying to sack Wilton Speight and having him spin away from you like a Roomba on a low battery.

De’Veon Smith carried the ball 19 times for Michigan, and no other player had more than Karan Higdon’s five rushes. Smith rushed for 114 yards and three touchdowns, frequently getting several yards past the line of scrimmage before the first Under Armour glove even got to him.

The Michigan offensive line controlled this game on every snap and Maryland’s defensive line could not have been more easy going. Half the time they asked Michigan’s offensive line where they were supposed to crumple to the ground. If there’s an All-B1G award for congeniality, I know where my vote is going.

Yes, Jabrill Peppers continues to be involved, but he had just two carries for 19 yards. He did participate in a double pass that had him take a sweep and throw it back to Speight, who then completed it downfield. Other than that, however, he was more show than go. But even the show goes because defenses have to pay attention to him.

When Michigan Was On Defense

This was a game that is going to pay some dividends for Michigan by pointing out a couple of flaws in their defense. Maryland successfully ran some wide receiver screens against the Wolverines, as the Terps quarterbacks completed 17-of-28 passes for 289 yards. Four different receivers had catches of at least 32 yards, and eight total Terps had receptions of at least 10 yards.

The tackling was not great, which will force defensive coordinator Don Brown to go back this week and hammer the fundamentals, which generally results in better numbers the following week.

Safety Delano Hill had a pair of interceptions on a pair of bad throws.

The Terps were held to just 78 yards rushing on 38 carries. Four players rushed for positive yards, while four players rushed for negative yards. Freshman Lorenzo Harrison did have some nice moments, rushing for 58 yards on nine carries.

Maryland tried to attack Michigan sideline to sideline. Sometimes it worked, other times it didn’t. When it came to running the ball, east and west was generally going to be stopped. With the tunnel screens, however, the Terps were able to spread the Michigan defense out while also getting some numbers advantages with their blockers. They obviously weren’t effective enough with it to reach the end zone, so credit Michigan for only being so tolerant.

The Terps did a nice job of taking Jabrill Peppers away from the play at times. They would line up in four wides, two to each side, forcing Peppers way out of the box, which evened up the numbers. Still, if you can’t get past the defensive line, it doesn’t matter how many linebackers you don’t have behind them. I can see this being something Ohio State does because if he’s out past the hash marks, then he’s not going to be as effective blitzing, which is one of his strengths.

Maryland again got middle linebacker Ben Gedeon on the wheel route, but if you’re asking him to defend the pass, you’re asking questions that you won’t like the answers to. He is a solid interior run defender, but the more he has to run, the less solid he becomes.

Gedeon still led with 11 tackles, three tackles for loss, and a half a sack. Fellow linebacker Mike McCray finished with five tackles and two tackles for loss. Peppers added five tackles and a tackle for loss.

Michigan finished with 13 tackles for loss. Two of them came in a flurry from defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, who now has 8.5 on the year.

This was once again an aggressive defense that was almost always in control. It has been difficult for teams to attack that aggression, but Maryland made some inroads, which will now probably be closed for the winter by Don Brown.

The Michigan Special Teams

One of the oddest stats from this game is that Maryland only punted twice. Neither punt was returned. In a game that you lose 59-3, you’d think there would be two punts a quarter, but such is life when you go 0-for-3 on fourth-down attempts.

Michigan didn’t bother punting, which is the second time that has happened for them this season (Hawaii). Only Army (26) and Navy (22) have punted less than Michigan (27) this season. Rutgers, on the other hand, leads the nation with 70 punts.

Kenny Allen hit a 29-yard field goal and put seven of his 10 kickoffs deep enough to be touchbacks. Michigan was a little spotty on kickoff returns, however, allowing 83 yards on those three failed touchback attempts.

What Does It All Mean?

It means that D.J. Durkin is going to make sure his Wikipedia page has him as a part of Urban Meyer’s coaching tree and not Jim Harbaugh’s from now on.

At least for a week.

It also means that Michigan’s offense does not suffer foolish defenses, and Michigan’s defense doesn’t suffer much of anything else.

I know Ohio State fans will point at Michigan’s schedule as a reason for their domination, but you still have to look at what they are doing against the teams they are playing. The Wolverines are doing things they haven’t done in over a hundred years, and they’ve had plenty worse schedules than this one in that time.

Heck, this is the first time in program history Ohio State has three wins by at least 56 points, so maybe football is just easier than it has ever been before. Or maybe Rutgers is just playing too many football games.

What we know for sure is that life on the road is a whole helluva lot different than it is at home. Had Michigan played Michigan State in Ann Arbor last week, you’d probably have the same 59-3 score you saw against the Terps, as opposed to the 32-23 score we got in East Lansing.

Venues matter, yet somehow the Wolverines need to show people that they don’t.

Mostly what this win over Maryland means, however, is that we are just three weeks away from what could be the most important matchup between Ohio State and Michigan ever. Or, if both teams somehow end up in the playoffs, possibly the most meaningless.

Either way, it’s going to be worth the wait, and that wait is thankfully getting shorter by the minute.

The Road to The Game

Michigan 63 – Hawaii 3
Michigan 51 – UCF 14
Michigan 45 – Colorado 28
Michigan 49 – Penn State 10
Michigan 14 – Wisconsin 7
Michigan 78 – Rutgers 0
Michigan 41 – Illinois 8
Michigan 32 – Michigan State 23
Michigan 59 – Maryland 3
Michigan at Iowa
Michigan vs. Indiana
Michigan at Ohio State