Football Michigan Monday The Rivalry

Michigan Monday: The Final Tune Up

 

It was another big division win this weekend for Michigan (8-2, 5-2) over Maryland (4-6, 2-5) as the Wolverines took it to the Terps 35-10.

Michigan led 28-0 midway through the second quarter and coasted from there like the world’s most determined conserver of gasoline.

The Wolverines were actually outgained in this one 340-305, with Maryland both out-passing and out-rushing Michigan. Yards don’t mean points, but they do mean that the UM defense wasn’t as stout as head coach Jim Harbaugh would have liked.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Peters got his second start in a row, but he has about as much freedom within the offense as a 15-year old who is only allowed to start the family car and maybe back it out of the garage.

The defense, meanwhile, might be getting a little bored. After allowing 359 yards against Rutgers and Maryland combined, they allowed 340 total yards to a Maryland offense that was starting its fourth-string quarterback. That’s not a good sign for the Michigan defense, but again, we can maybe chalk it up to having more important games on the schedule coming up, as Wisconsin and Ohio State loom for the Wolverines.

Basically, it was a 25-point win on the road in the Big Ten that didn’t require Michigan to do much of anything. No, it wasn’t pretty, but pretty wasn’t the goal this week. The goal was to win as quickly as possible and stay healthy for what is about to come. They did that.

When Michigan Was On Offense

For the last couple of years, I usually watch Michigan via YouTube — the “L” key is much better than the FF button and a DVR — and a few times while watching this game, I dozed off with my finger on the “L” key, so I would have to go back and figure out where I left off. It’s not my fault, it’s the Michigan offense’s fault.

I know Michigan fans pretend to love this stuff, but it can be a tough watch at times.

As I mentioned above, the Wolverine offense managed just 305 total yards. They rushed for 160 yards and threw for 145 yards.

Running back Karan Higdon had some kind of lower leg ding, so he only carried the ball 10 times for 50 yards. It doesn’t seem like a serious ding and he should be fine. In his place, sophomore running back Chris Evans stepped up in a nice way, rushing for 80 yards on 15 carries, including a pair of touchdowns.

After a rough middle part of the season, Evans has picked up some serious momentum, but I think some of that steam may just be hot air thanks to Minnesota and Maryland being on the schedule. Ty Isaac is still out, but could be back soon.

Michigan’s long rush of the day was just 17 yards, which is surprising — and disappointing — considering what they did last week against the Gophers.

The Wolverines missed Higdon, but the running game was still a disappointment. Rutgers rushed for 239 yards on the Terps the week before.

Brandon Peters is now 2-0 as a starting quarterback, but he hasn’t exactly been dynamic. He completed 9-of-18 passes for 145 yards with two touchdowns. He still hasn’t thrown an interception this season, which shows you how careful he tends to be with the football.

One of the downsides to that care, however, is that the wide receivers aren’t really getting involved. Eddie McDoom was the only receiver with a catch in this game, and that was a 2-yarder when the score was 28-3 in the third quarter.

Peters did throw two passes to receivers in the first quarter, but both passes fell incomplete. Both also featured uncalled pass interferences. All told, Peters threw six passes to receivers — four fell incomplete, one was caught, and another was negated by a pass interference that was actually called.

The tight ends continue to be Michigan’s most potent pass-catching weapons, which might send Ohio State fans into a nervous sweat.

Of note, since Peters was inserted into Michigan’s lineup these last three games, he has completed 27 passes for 325 yards. Only seven of those completions have gone to receivers (55 yards).

When Michigan Was On Defense

Maryland had just 112 yards of total offense at the half, which is probably the more important number than the 340 yards they finished with. But still, 228 yards of total offense in the second half against a unit led by 5-foot-8 quarterback (Ryan Brand) who was an Air Force transfer is a little concerning.

Sure, Tate Martell may be smiling right now, but I don’t know if Michigan should be.

Four different Terps threw the football. None of them threw it very well. The Michigan defense did not defend a throwback double-pass well at all, but fortunately for them, the second pass fell incomplete.

Former Ohio State commit Taivon Jacobs had eight receptions for 92 yards against the Wolverines.

Brand was only sacked once, which can be excused because he’s a pretty mobile guy. That being said, he wasn’t able to see over or through his offensive line, so I’m surprised he was never brought down in the backfield by a blitzing defender.

Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was again a dominator, finishing with nine tackles, including 1.5 TFLs and a sack. Defensive end Chase Winovich was active as well, picking up 2.5 TFLs. Defensive end Rashan Gary was involved as well, providing pressure and no passing lane wide.

Bored or not, Michigan gave up 180 yards rushing on 32 carries (5.6 ypc), which is the second-most rushing yards they’ve allowed this season — only behind Penn State’s 224 yards. Three different Terps had rushes of more than 25 yards.

The UM defense has shown soft spots out wide, but I am very interested to see how they hold up between the tackles this weekend at Wisconsin.

Having talked to Ohio State players for years about Wisconsin, it always takes time to recover from the Badgers’ running game. That’s going to be a tough ask of the Wolverines to heal up from the brutal nature of Saturday’s game and get ready for the speed and power of what the Buckeyes will be bringing one week later.

I can’t believe it’s almost here.

The Michigan Special Teams

The Wolverines blocked a Maryland punt in the second quarter, which then led to a 19-yard touchdown drive that made it 28-0 and effectively ended any realistic hopes that the Terps had of an upset in this one.

I harp on punter Brad Robbins not putting his kicks inside the 20-yard line just about every week, and he was 1-for-5 this weekend. Only one of his kicks really needed to be booted to reach the 20-yard line, so this continues to be a disappointing aspect for Michigan. The defense could use some help, and field position would provide a huge boost.

Of course, the one punt that he put inside the 20-yard line led to a Maryland drive that went all the way to Michigan’s 1-yard line before the Terps had to settle for a 20-yard field goal.

Speaking of field goals, Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin missed another, and this one was just from 31 yards. There was some jawing back and forth between Nordin and Harbaugh, but it was just coaching and responding. Harbaugh is just about ready to try a new kicker and Nordin understands that.

This virtually guarantees that Nordin is going to have a hand in the Ohio State outcome, for better or worse.

What Does It All Mean?

It means that the appetizers have been consumed and now it’s time to bring on the main dish — Wisconsin and Ohio State.

This season is going to be measured by what happens from this point on. Given the youth on this team, everything before now can just be forgotten.

Will Jim Harbaugh start to unfurl Brandon Peters’ wings, or continue to keep him cooped up where he is safe? I can see the benefit of keeping him safe, but I’m not sure if a safe game plan can do enough against Wisconsin’s defense to secure a win. After all, last week Wisconsin held Iowa — the nation’s very best offense — to just 66 yards of total offense. That performance would make Tecmo Bowl Lawrence Taylor bow down out of respect.

It also means that Michigan is about to face another ranked opponent. Only two other past opponents this season are currently ranked — Penn State and Michigan State — and the Wolverines lost both of those games. None of their wins are against teams that are currently over .500.

This is an opportunity to change all of that. It is an opportunity to change the way people think of this Wolverine team.

But for that to happen, we’re going to need to see a different Wolverine team. They’ll need to have their most complete game yet, which means Karan Higdon at full strength and unproductive wide receivers will need to get productive really quickly.

Wisconsin is far from unbeatable, but if Michigan is going to win, they’ll need to find some offense that I’m not too sure they have right now.

The Road to The Game

Sept. 2  Michigan 33 – Florida 17 (1-0)
Sept. 9  Michigan 36 – Cincinnati 14 (2-0)
Sept. 16  Michigan 29 – Air Force 13 (3-0)
Sept. 23  Michigan 28 – Purdue 10 (4-0, 1-0)
Oct. 7  Michigan State 14 – Michigan 10 (4-1, 1-1)
Oct. 14  Michigan 27 – Indiana 20 (5-1, 2-1)
Oct. 21  Penn State 42 – Michigan 13 (5-2, 2-2)
Oct. 28  Michigan 35 – Rutgers 14 (6-2, 3-2) (Rivalry Game)
Nov. 4  Michigan 33 – Minnesota 10 (7-2, 4-2)
Nov. 11  Michigan 35 – Maryland 10 (8-2, 5-2)
Nov. 18  Michigan at Wisconsin
Nov. 25  Ohio State at Michigan

 

2 Responses

  1. Sadly for the rivalry, but it would be far better for Ohio State for Wisconsin to roll in this one. A once-beaten Wisconsin isn’t going to impress Playoff voters (yes, it’s a “committee” but they’re just voters). They also need Alabama to win out (eliminating both Auburn and Gawja), Cryami (eliminating Clemson). Again, I’m not even sure I want the Buckeyes to be “in” ’cause if it’s the Buckeyes that played Iowa, better a lesser bowl, but if it’s the Buckeyes that blew out Sparty then HELLS to the YAH!

  2. Tate Martell is smiling? Shoot, I think Tate Forcier is smiling! Poor little guy.
    Good write up, Tony.

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