The goal for the Michigan Wolverines was to get to next week unscathed, and that mission was accomplished on Saturday, though it was not always pretty. The Maryland Terrapins fought back from a 20-point deficit to make it a frustrating and nervous game for the visitors, but were never able to take the lead.
Three times in the fourth quarter the Terps got the ball down 29-24 with a chance to go ahead, but none of the drives got past their own 35-yard line. After a ridiculous Tommy Doman punt that died a yard short of the end zone, Taulia Tagovailoa and company had one last shot to win the game. Instead, the Wolverines got the points — the ball.
The play: Inevitability
Tagovailoa is a good quarterback with mobility that has troubled Michigan over the years, but he is also prone to mistakes. Stuck in his own end zone, there was nowhere to go against the strong Michigan front four, as the back seven left nothing open as the quarterback’s internal clock quickly evaporated.
Intentional grounding was called on this play and a safety was given— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 18, 2023
Do you agree with the call? pic.twitter.com/VJbVWqdDCW
This was the right call from the referees, which might surprise some Michigan fans. Even amidst the ongoing controversy, the officiating the last couple weeks has been reasonable. Both potential targeting calls in this one were treated consistently, and the refs were bold enough to call intentional grounding here, even though they knew it would decide the game.
The impact: Who escapes?
The Maryland offense did much more than expected on Saturday, but it was not all perfect. The Terps’ final three drives went punt-interception-punt and never threatened to overtake the slim five-point Michigan lead. As a result, the Wolverines return home undefeated and unblemished despite some sloppiness.
Meanwhile, Tagovailoa made some nice throws but ultimately ended the game with two picks, a strip sack for a touchdown, and a safety. The pressure was inconsistent and lacking in certain moments, but ultimately stepped up during the final three passing plays: a Kenneth Grant sack, a Mike Sainristil interception, and the intentional grounding in the end zone.
The bigger picture: n/a
I take very little from this game. Michigan almost fell victim to that cliche big-game-hangover, week-before-The-Game combination, but instead did enough on the defensive side to avoid the upset. The last few Maryland drives could be a good sign, but realistically everyone would be better off just forgetting everything about this one.
The Wolverines will not be too sad to say goodbye to Tagovailoa. Though he has fallen short each time, there is no denying that the Terps have been an annoying matchup while he is at the helm, and he characterizes the type of quarterback that can cause some problems for Michigan. Fortunately, Maryland moves off the schedule next year; maybe Northwestern will be the new pre-Ohio State thorn.