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Handing out position grades for Michigan’s 31-24 road win over Maryland

Survive and advance.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Erik Bean Erik is a lifelong Wolverines fan born and raised in West Michigan. He covers a variety of topics related to Michigan football including game analysis and recruiting.

The Michigan Wolverines secured their 1,000th program victory in nail-biter fashion. The game appeared like it was going to be another blowout victory against an overmatched opponent after the first quarter, with Michigan leading 16-3. But Maryland slowly started coming alive and making it competitive as the game went on.

For the first time this season, it was starting to look like the Wolverines were going to have to lean on their offense rather than their defense and outscore their opponent. As things came down to the wire, the defense shined and helped put the game away. It’s not how they drew it up, but the Wolverines come away with a victory nonetheless.

Let’s hand out some grades:

Quarterbacks: D+

Let’s be frank, that was J.J. McCarthy’s worst performance since the Bowling Green game. The junior signal-caller looked off all game. He finished the contest 12-for-23 for 141 yards and an interception. He looked out of rhythm all game and his accuracy left a lot to be desired.

McCarthy’s decision making was very questionable. With an opportunity to extend their lead heading into halftime, McCarthy made two forced throws, with the second one resulting in an interception. It appeared McCarthy knew before the ball was even snapped who he was going to target, and Maryland’s defense sniffed that out.

McCarthy was also doing his receivers no favors. He was consistently putting passes in difficult places and was completely off the mark on a pass to a wide open Cornelius Johnson in the fourth quarter that would have went for a touchdown. McCarthy will need to clean things up prior to The Game next Saturday.

Running Backs: B+

The running backs were asked to do a lot in this matchup. The offensive line wasn’t doing the best job creating holes, and McCarthy’s struggles resulted on leaning on the run game again. Michigan was humming on the ground in the first half when the offense looked more balanced, but yards were harder to come by in the second half when it became apparent the Wolverines were going to keep it on the ground as much as possible.

The team rushed for 150 yards, with Corum leading the way with 94 yards on 28 carries. Corum continues to be excellent at the goal-line with two touchdowns. The rush stats have been better the last couple contests, but unfortunately that is due to Michigan being more one-dimensional offensively.

Wide receivers: C

The wide receivers were pretty quiet all game. This may have been partially due to Roman Wilson leaving the game after a huge hit on the first drive. They had issues getting open all game and when they were, McCarthy struggled to get them the ball. Michigan’s receivers as a whole accounted for seven receptions for 89 yards. The only receiver to record a touchdown was freshman Semaj Morgan, who scored on a jet sweep run.

The receivers did a decent job run blocking for a second straight week. They got a heavy dose of it against Penn State and know if you don’t put the effort in on run blocking, they won’t see the field much.

Tight ends: B

The tight ends may have not had a huge stat line, but they came up in some big moments to help the Wolverines secure the victory. Colston Loveland led the game in receiving with three catches for 36 yards. AJ Barner was more quiet in the passing game, only recording one reception for seven yards. It was apparent with Wilson out that McCarthy was leaning on Loveland to have a huge impact as a receiver. He was regularly targeting Loveland even when the defense was smothering.

The tight ends were heavily involved in the run game, helping get things going when it became apparent McCarthy was struggling. Max Bredeson may not be much of a passing threat, but he continues to shine in short yardage situations. He came up with a huge block in the second quarter to help Corum find the end zone. The tight ends will continue to be asked to do a lot in both the pass and run game.

Offensive line: C-

This unit was not great, but they also were not at full strength. Left tackle LeDarius Henderson was ruled out prior to kickoff, and filling in for him was Myles Hinton, who also went down in the second half with an injury. Thankfully, Moore said in the postgame press conference that Henderson will play next week against Ohio State, while Hinton’s possible status remains unclear.

The Terrapins only recorded one sack on McCarthy, but spent quite a bit of time in the backfield. They were able to get a decent amount of pressure and a few hits on him, which may have contributed to his lackluster performance. For a second straight week, the pass protection was a little bit of an issue.

In the run game, they continue to not create a whole lot of space for the backs. As the game went on, it was up to Corum and Edwards to make something happen to pick up decent gains.

Defensive line: A-

Really the only knock on the defensive line was not putting enough pressure on the quarterback at times. With the secondary getting picked apart, the defensive line really needed to step up and get after Tagovailoa. Maryland’s passing strategy for most of the game consisted of short passes, not giving the defensive line much time to get in the backfield. When Tagovailoa did drop back and make something happen, the defensive line was able to get after him at times, ending the day with four sacks.

Derrick Moore also secured a scoop-and-score that helped Michigan pull ahead 14-3 in the first quarter. The pressure applied by the line also resulted in a safety in the fourth quarter, another turning point to help the Wolverines secure the victory.

Where the d-line shined was in run defense as well. Although they gave up a couple critical first downs and goal-line stands, they held the Terrapins to only 15 yards on the ground. This stat is skewed with sack yards factored in, but the rush defense was still outstanding.

Linebackers: B-

Michael Barrett was firing on all cylinders before leaving briefly with an injury. He had sacked Tagovailoa once and was regularly making plays.

The linebackers did not seem to help much in the pass defense throughout this one. To be fair, the linebackers have not had to be game changers in pass coverage this season, so it was uncharted waters for most of the game. Some questionable linebacker play was to be expected as well after Michigan dismissed Chris Partridge on Friday.

Defensive backs: C

The only thing preventing this grade from being an F is Sainristil’s two interceptions. Outside of those turnovers, the defensive backs did not play well at all.

It was well known heading into this matchup the secondary was going to be tested early and often. They absolutely were, giving up a season-high 247 yards through the air. The unit appeared to be playing soft coverage most of the game, giving up a ton of short yardage completions. Tagovailoa was able to do whatever he wanted until Michigan locked down defensively late in the second half. The receivers were regularly getting separation and making contested catches even when the coverage was decent.

Will Johnson had an unusually rough game as well, something you don’t want to see heading into his showdown with Marvin Harrison Jr. next week.

Special Teams: A

The special teams unit had arguably its best game of the season. Christian Boivan blocked a punt that led to a safety in the first half. James Turner hit all three of his extra points. Tommy Doman averaged nearly 50 yards per punt and pinned Maryland at its own one-yard line late in the fourth quarter, which led to another safety. All-in-all, Jay Harbaugh should be very satisfied with how the special teams performed.