Here are key takeaways from the game.
Mike Sainristil is a Michigan legend
Coming up with huge plays is something cornerback Mike Sainristil’s done throughout his Michigan career — and Sainristil came through clutch yet again against Maryland, recording two interceptions against a QB in Taulia Tagovailoa who did a good job pushing the ball down the field. The game wound up being a close one and without Sainristil’s interceptions, Michigan may not have been victorious for the 1,000th time in program history.
Tip of the cap to Maryland
Michigan played a close game against the Terrapins in 2022 winning 34-27. This one was nearly as close with Michigan winning 31-24. Michigan had a 20-3 lead but allowed Maryland to get back in the game and make things too close for comfort. Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa performed admirably despite throwing two picks, and backup quarterback Billy Edwards was just as valuable. Edwards recorded three goal-line touchdowns in a formation reminiscent of the Philadelphia Eagles “tush push.” Hats off to head coach Mike Locksley for having his team battle and give it their all, it just wasn’t enough — Michigan’s the better team.
Michigan allowed the most points they have all season (24) and didn’t play up to their standard. They allowed three passing plays over 20 yards, allowed three goal-line touchdowns and allowed 2-of-2 fourth down conversions. However, the defense also had shining moments. Michigan’s defense allowed just 15 rushing yards, tallied four sacks, one forced fumble and two interceptions. Michigan also forced two safeties (one on defense via intentional grounding by Taulia Tagovailoa and another on special teams on a blocked punt by Christian Boivin). Michigan also scored a defensive touchdown when Michael Barrett forced Tagovailoa to fumble with Derrick Moore scooping it up for a 4-yard TD return. Michigan’s defense looked more human today after being one of the best in the nation all season long. Despite a few hiccups here and there, there’s still plenty of positives to take away from their performance against Maryland.
Causes for concern on offense
- Michigan was without starting offensive tackle LaDarius Henderson and lost another lineman to injury in Myles Hinton during the game. With the line banged up and less than 100 percent, they did not fare well in pass-protection. Karsen Barnhart, who played right and left tackle, was beat around the edge numerous times throughout the game. Running back Donovan Edwards didn’t have his best day in pass protection either. While Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy was sacked just once, his timing was often disrupted.
- Things weren’t easy for Michigan on the ground either. While Blake Corum rushed for 94 yards and two touchdowns, he had 28 carries and averaged 3.4 yards per carry. Donovan Edwards had 11 carries for 39 yards and averaged 3.5 YPC and the team as a whole rushed for 150 yards on 3.3 YPC.
- QB J.J. McCarthy made some nice throws throughout a windy afternoon, but also missed a wide open Cornelius Johnson deep (throwing behind him) that could have been a touchdown. McCarthy also two consecutive passes in the end zone that should have been picked, with the second of those attempts being an interception. There were more than a few throws that were forced where the risk heavily outweighed any reward. On the day, McCarthy was 12-of-23 for 141 yards with one interception.
Correct any miscues swiftly because Ohio State is next
A lot of people were calling the tilt against Maryland a trap game, with a matchup against Ohio State lingering on Nov. 25. Combine that with the noise surrounding the program in light of alleged sign stealing by former analyst Connor Stalions — which has led to linebackers coach Chris Partridge being fired and head coach Jim Harbaugh accepting a three-game suspension by the Big Ten (despite the Big Ten and NCAA acknowledging they have no evidence Harbaugh knew of any improper conduct). There was every reason to believe that this week could be a trap game for the team with Ohio State on the back of their mind and their head coach not on the sideline on the road.
The bottom line is the team and coaching staff will need to get used to Harbaugh not being around, they’ll have to play at a higher level next week if they’re going to beat the Buckeyes. Communication. Execution. Strength. Tenacity. Michigan will need more of it. That’s not to discount what Michigan’s accomplished this season now at 11-0, but they have to play their best game of the season next week. And their best route to have next week be their best game of the year is to look in the mirror and acknowledge any errors or mistakes and make sure they don’t happen against OSU. There won’t be much margin for error. One blown pass-protection assignment, one lapse in pass coverage, one inopportune interception could be the difference between making the Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff or being left out of the playoff conversation all together.