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Michigan overcomes offensive struggles to top Maryland, 34-27

It was not a pretty game in the Big House.

Connecticut v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Many scrutinized the Michigan Wolverines' non-conference schedule and questioned how this team would look heading into conference play. On Saturday, the Maryland Terrapins came to Ann Arbor and gave the Wolverines everything they had, competing for four quarters with the Wolverines.

Michigan was dominated in the first half by the Terps, primarily because of sloppy play from the Wolverines. True freshman C.J. Stokes fumbled the ball in plus-field position. Then, Jim Harbaugh and his staff called a wonky trick play at midfield while being down by three points. It didn’t work, and the Wolverines went three-and-out. On the next drive, J.J. McCarthy killed a drive by fumbling twice, with the second losing significant yardage in the redzone. A missed field goal and Michigan came away with no points, again.

The playcalling overall was just puzzling. There was very little pre-snap motion, screens, and play-action dump-offs underneath that we saw early in the season to get McCarthy in a groove early in the game. It felt like the Wolverines were going for a home run on every play instead of hitting the base hits that the Terps were giving them closer to the line of scrimmage.

If it weren’t for a muffed opening kickoff, the Wolverines would have gone into the break down at least a touchdown. Still, they somehow did enough to be up 17-13. Most of the yardage and scoring came from Blake Corum. After scoring five touchdowns a week ago, Corum ran for 132 yards on just 13 touches in the first half, including the touchdown on fourth-and-1 right before half:

There were some pretty glaring issues with the front seven as well. Some of it came as part of the game plan. Jesse Minter decided Maryland’s star quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa would not be the reason the Terps would compete in this game. There were plenty of nickel and dime packages early in the game, where Michigan was relying on their guys one front to win.

That just was not happening. The pass rush was still nowhere to be found and Tagovailoa was being given all day to move the ball down the field. The Terps also took advantage of the Michigan game plan by running the rock right at them. Antwain Littleton averaged 6.8 yards per carry in the first half and scored an easy touchdown on the goal line.

We saw several examples of coverage downfield being spectacular. Gemon Green was lights out, and DJ Turner came away with a half-altering interception.

The secondary’s play is what kept this defense alive and it forced this one to be closer than it should have been heading into the half.

It continued to take the Wolverines a long time to get their offense figured out. Their first drive out of the halftime break was all runs, and it resulted in a quick drive. They were just out of sorts for the first three-quarters of this game.

However, the defense started picking things up in the third quarter. Mike Morris came off the edge and got the first quarterback hit of the game, which put a hitch in Tagovailoa’s gait for the remainder of the game. Overall, the pressure was getting home a little more often from the Michigan defense and the coverage on the back end stayed rather strong. A late interception from R.J. Moten helped push the Wolverines to victory:

Starting in the third quarter, the Wolverines began to diversify their offense a little more. It began to look like the Michigan offense again in the passing game. McCarthy was hitting the tight ends underneath, and the Wolverines went on a 10-play, 85-yard drive that put them up two scores.

Later, McCarthy finally converted on a deep ball that help set up a field goal that would once again put the Wolverines up by eight.

McCarthy was not sharp today, especially in shots down the field. But, he still did enough to manage the game and help the Wolverines win.

The best player on the field from start to finish was Blake Corum. A late 47-yard touchdown run from the Michigan runningback would seal the win:

He finished with a couple of career highs. His 30 carries for 243 yards and two touchdowns were the difference in this game. In a game of so many inconsistencies for the Wolverines, Corum was the one guy they could rely on all game.

This Maryland team is much different than the one we saw last season in College Park. Many people were underestimating them coming into today, myself included. Nevertheless, the Wolverines had ample opportunity to win this game comfortably, and they didn't because they continued to shoot themselves in the foot.

Against the Terps, at home, this team can overcome that because of their talent. But, we saw some glaring issues today that will need to be addressed by the players and coaches. It wasn’t an easy win, but Michigan would get it done 34-27 in the Big House and remain undefeated through the first four games of the season.

Next week, they head to Kinnick Stadium for a rematch of the Big Ten Championship against the Iowa Hawkeyes. It will be a major road test for the Wolverines a week after they struggled. Kickoff is at noon on Oct. 1.