The No. 2 Michigan Wolverines opened their 2023 season at home with a 30-3 win over the East Carolina Pirates. Behind acting head coach Jesse Minter, the Wolverines had a flair for the dramatic despite this being a non-conference game.
With East Carolina going all in on containing Michigan’s notorious run game in lightning-lightning duo Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, J.J. McCarthy took to the air. He led the Wolverines through three quarters, completing 26-of-30 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns to end the day.
After a dud of an opening first drive, Michigan sparked to life with an interception from Mike Sainristil. At that point, the momentum truly started rolling, with McCarthy finding Roman Wilson for a 14-yard touchdown, the first of the game.
The Pirates couldn’t find a rhythm and soon found themselves punting for a third time in the first half. With just under five minutes left before halftime, the Wolverine offense took the field once more. After some sequential first downs courtesy of McCarthy and the receivers, Michigan was set for a first and goal. McCarthy found Wilson again in the end zone, putting the Wolverines up 20 before halftime.
This drive by McCarthy and the later 10-yard touchdown pass from McCarthy to Wilson defined Michigan’s ability to adjust to a system that grants them success, therefore it garnered the first turning point of the game for 2023. Finding little ability to generate a consistent run game in the early minutes of the game didn’t leave them stranded, but it did allow for a glimpse at the expansiveness of the Michigan offense.
While I think Wilson and McCarthy making connections all game led to Michigan’s win, credit has to be given to Sainristil and the efforts of the defense as well. The Pirates were sitting ducks in calm water, as they tried out two different quarterbacks that combined for 132 passing yards and no touchdowns. Their ground game didn’t fare any better, with multiple rushers combining for just 103 yards.
Much of the offseason found the senior Wilson discussing how his relationship with McCarthy had grown. It was clear what he shared was true. There was no doubt both were pulling for each other’s success. The same could be said for Cornelius Johnson and Colston Loveland, but after the events of the Fiesta Bowl, it felt justified Wilson began his senior year with a hat trick. He ended the game with 78 yards and three touchdowns.
Michigan returns to take on UNLV at home with both Mike Hart and Jay Harbaugh splitting head coaching duties between two halves.