The Michigan Wolverines won their opening tilt at The Big House 30-3 against the East Carolina Pirates on Saturday afternoon. Here are key takeaways from the game.
McCarthy, Wilson, and Michigan’s passing game shine
East Carolina did their best to shut down Michigan’s rushing attack and their plan looked to challenge J.J. McCarthy and the Wolverines passing offense. This plan failed and McCarthy was dynamite. McCarthy was accurate from every quadrant of the field and showed he has great arm strength as well as great touch. His rapport with receiver Roman Wilson was notable to the tune of six receptions for 78 yards and three touchdowns. Overall, McCarthy was 26-of-30 for 280 yards and three touchdowns. Other targets fared well including Cornelius Johnson with five receptions for 71 yards and Colston Loveland with four receptions for 57 yards.
This very well could be the start of a Heisman campaign for McCarthy. Michigan has plenty of receiving weapons and a more than capable dual-threat quarterback on a team that could push for a National Championship. While Michigan has two great running backs in Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, more teams will try to neutralize them this season and take their chances with McCarthy. If that’s the case, it could become a fatal mistake for the opposition throughout the season and be fruitful for McCarthy and Michigan’s passing offense. It was just an inferior East Carolina team they were going up against, but this was about as good of a start as McCarthy could have hoped for.
Defense almost pitches a shutout
Michigan would have had a shutout if not for a last second ECU field goal to make it 30-3. It was truly a team effort on the defensive side of the ball. There weren’t a lot of flashy plays, Michigan’s D didn’t record a sack, but they didn’t give up a touchdown and were able to rotate an absolute ton of players into the game. Nebraska transfer Ernest Hausmann led the team in tackles with six, while Keon Sabb, Michael Barrett, and Junior Colson all finished with five. One of the biggest plays for the unit came in the first quarter when Mike Sainristil picked off ECU QB Mason Garcia for a seven-yard return. Sainristil’s INT set up Michigan’s first score of the day, a lead they never relinquished.
Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter said his main focus wasn’t giving up many big plays, and that mission was accomplished.
Kirk Campbell’s play calling was stellar
Quarterbacks coach Kirk Campbell was Michigan’s offensive play caller in this one with offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore suspended for the season opener. Campbell had a good flow to the game. When the rushing attack wasn’t working, he didn’t stubbornly run the ball repeatedly and leaned on J.J. McCarthy and the passing offense instead. Campbell dialed up a variety of different pay designs via the air and made sure multiple players were involved. Further, Campbell put wideout Roman Wilson in advantageous situations to exploit one-on-one matchups between he and safeties who were in over their heads.
Michigan played for their coach
Head coach Jim Harbaugh’s suspended the first three games of the season, and they definitely went out and played for him today. J.J. McCarthy wore a “Free Harbaugh” shirt, Michigan line up in a train formation on offense and all put their hands up making the No. 4, Harbaugh’s number as a player. At the presser Harbaugh said he wants his coach back and was missing him today, Blake Corum said the same. However, life goes on, this is the hand Michigan and Harbaugh were dealt, and instead of feeling like victims they went out and executed at a high level against East Carolina. Harbaugh’s suspension could galvanize the Michigan team and coaching staff — the Wolverines will likely come out of this stronger, Harbaugh included.