Michigan bounced back from its opening weekend letdown by dominating Western Michigan 49-3 at the Big House.
The win moves the Wolverines to 1-1 on the season and gives fans a chance to breathe a sigh of relief. Here are the biggest takeaways from the victory.
Not One, Not Two, But Three Wide Receivers Caught Touchdowns
Entering Saturday’s game, a Michigan wide receiver hadn’t caught a touchdown pass since September 9, 2017 when both Grant Perry and Kekoa Crawford reached the end zone in a non-conference game against Cincinnati.
Michigan ended that streak at 364 days when quarterback Shea Patterson found wide receiver Nico Collins for a 44-yard touchdown in the second quarter. In the third quarter, Patterson hit wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones for a five-yard score, which gave U-M a 42-0 lead.
After many of the starters exited in the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Dylan McCaffrey threw his first career touchdown pass to walk-on receiver Jake McCurry from 18 yards out. It was McCurry’s first career reception.
Minus a few throws that sailed high and a questionable decision to get rid of the ball on a second half play that ended up being a sack, Patterson played extremely well. He ended the day completing 12-of-17 passes for 125 yards and three touchdowns. He also tacked on a 16-yard run, which was wiped out in the final stats thanks to taking a sack.
The offense as a whole looked complete, as it should’ve against inferior competition. The unit won’t win over the fan bases’ trust until it shows it can deliver in a big game, but the performance is absolutely a start in the right direction and should serve as a confidence booster.
Higdon And Evans Deliver
A week after running backs Karan Higdon and Chris Evans recorded just 73 yards against Notre Dame, the duo bounced back in a big way against Western Michigan, combining for 242 yards on 23 carries - the same amount the pair had last week.
The split in carries was much different this time around. Higdon finished with 13 carries for 156 yards and a touchdown, while Evans tallied 86 yards and two touchdowns on 10 attempts. Both backs looked explosive, especially Higdon, who had runs of 43 and 67 yards, the latter going for a score.
For Michigan to be successful this season, both running backs will need to stay involved. The Wolverines can’t end up letting Evans waste away on the bench in big games like he did against the Fighting Irish.
Defense Is Back
The Wolverines fell just shy of a shutout, allowing a field goal late in the fourth quarter, but the unit looked like the group we saw in the second half of last week’s game.
The Broncos put up 621 yards of offense in week one, but was limited to 208 against U-M. They also went 4-for-17 on third down, a big improvement for Michigan, which stopped Western Michigan on both of its third down attempts that were nine yards or longer.
While a shutout would have been enjoyable, it’s important that Michigan was able to escape without any major injuries, especially given the news that defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon had surgery this week. Defensive coordinator Don Brown will have his guys ready to go again next week, and probably won’t be tested again until Nebraska comes to town.
What Lies Ahead
Michigan came out and did exactly what it was supposed to do, dominating a middle of the pack MAC team (let’s check in on Purdue). Maybe it makes you feel a little better about the season, maybe it doesn’t. It’s hard to read too much into a game like this, but hey, there isn’t much you could’ve asked Michigan to do differently.
The Wolverines should have a repeat performance next week against SMU before Big Ten play begins, so for now, go have a few brews and enjoy the Michigan victory - it’s been a while.