What started as a gut check turned into yet another validating win, and Harbaugh's Wolverines proved once again that they can win even when the cards are stacked against them.
Whether it was the weather, which contributed to a turnover-riddled affair, or injuries to De'Veon Smith, Mario Ojemudia, and Channing Stribling, or a tough road atmosphere against a spirited opponent - not to mention more struggles by Jake Rudock - there was a lot that held Michigan back from a truly dominating performance. But this Michigan squad was not going to be denied from getting another win.
The Wolverines now move to 49-12-2 in Big Ten openers since the 1953 season, and while this wasn't a BYU-level performance, the Wolverines still kick off Big Ten play on a fairly encouraging note. Northwestern looms after this, and Michigan State will travel to the Big House the week after. It only gets tougher from here. Luckily, Michigan is built tougher than most.
Next Man Up
This game was not without a price, as Mario Ojemudia left the game with a lower leg injury.
Mario Ojemudia needing crutches to go back to the locker room.— Maize n Brew (@MaizenBrew) October 3, 2015
Football season always comes with big losses, and if Mario is done for an extended period of time, there's no doubt this hurts Michigan's defense. But Michigan will find an answer somewhere else, just like they did today in lieu of De'Veon Smith and Channing Stribling. Drake Johnson stepped up for his 'sore' and recovering teammate, while Jeremy Clark got a very nice interception while filling in for Channing.
This offense relies on the ground game.
It was a rough start without De'Veon moving the chains, and it didn't help that Smith's back-up, Ty Isaac, put the ball on the turf twice, losing one. Jake Rudock used his feet a couple times to good effect, and Drake Johnson put the offense on his back late, getting runs of 20, 19, and 12 yards in the final fifteen minutes.
But this offense struggled through the air without a good play-action. Deep throws were often dropped or overthrown, and Maryland defenders were all over Michigan's screen game. No one caught more than 4 passes, and there were only 180 pass yards in the game.
This defense relies on nobody.
On the flip side, none of Maryland's receivers had more than Levern Jacob's 3 catches, and there were only 10 receptions overall in 36 passes. This was a dominant, dominant performance, just like last week and the week before. Michigan has now out-gained every single opponent it's faced: +18 yards to Utah, +267 to OSU, +142 to UNLV, +343 to BYU, and +273 to Maryland. Michigan's defense has three games in which it's allowed fewer than 140 yards; only Utah has gotten more than 235.
Quietly, there are some All-American seasons brewing.
Jake Butt had a quiet stat line - only four catches for 61 yards - but he made big plays and led this team in receiving yards and receptions. Besides, tight ends don't need really big numbers to end up with All-American recognition, and anybody who's seen Butt play knows he's a special caliber.
And Butt is not the only one - cornerback Jourdan Lewis has been a complete terror for opposing offenses, shutting down his side of the field and playing with the focus and energy of a veteran leader. Jabrill Peppers has played spectacularly as well, and Desmond Morgan put on a show for those who like disruptive, nasty, all-out linebackers.
What were your takeaways? Did Michigan follow up its 'breakout' win over BYU adequately? What does Michigan have to show against Northwestern to prepare for Sparty?