The Michigan Wolverines faced the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday afternoon and while Maryland moved the chains a bit on offense, the Wolverines had the game in hand from start to finish.
Here are takeaways from Michigan’s 38-7 victory.
Two deep shots hit by Patterson, hoping to see more
Shea Patterson managed the game and hit stats are skewed somewhat due to a lack of possessions with Maryland winning the time of possession battle for much of the first half. Patterson’s final stat-line was 13-of-22 for 151 yards and a touchdown.
Patterson was able to find Nico Collins deep for 51 yards, leading to a Zach Charbonnet touchdown run. On the next drive before the half, Patterson hit Sean McKeon for 29 yards down the sideline. It was a perfect pass by Patterson and one in which looked like McKeon went out of bounds (albeit stumbling somewhat) had enough green ahead of him to take it to the house.
Michigan has play-makers at wideout, and Nico Collins is a tall physical target that will win more 50-50 balls than he’ll ever lose. When Michigan hits these big plays it seems so clear that if they attempt more of them, they’ll continue to hit enough of them to warrant dialing them up at a higher frequency. The counter to this for today’s game is the fact Michigan got out to an early lead and there was no reason to be overly aggressive and risk turning the ball over.
There may have been just a couple vertical throws by Patterson today, but he hit them and the hope should be that we see more of them from Michigan when they’ll need them in more tightly contested games.
Defense bent, but didn’t break
Have to give Maryland’s offense a bit of credit, they moved the chains frequently throughout the day, totaling 16 first downs, the same amount as Michigan. However, time and time again when Maryland was knocking at the door, Michigan’s defense never opened it and the Terps never scored on offense.
The Michigan D tallied 4 sacks (2 by Josh Uche who was excellent today), Josh Metellus had a red zone interception, and Maryland averaged just 3.4 yards per play and were 4-of-16 on 3rd down.
Defensive coordinator Don Brown certainly hoped his dudes could have got off the field faster in the first half, and maybe they could have played a little more aggressive out of the gate, but it’s hard to knock a defense that allowed zero points.
McCaffrey needs reps
Backup quarterback Dylan McCaffrey suffered a brutal concussion against Wisconsin that knocked him out of action for a while this season. McCaffrey was able to get into the game versus Notre Dame last Saturday (2-for-2, 34 yards, 1 TD), and was able to see the field for a quarter today against Maryland with Michigan up 35-7 in the game.
Jim Harbaugh has said that at the quarterback position it’s especially important to have time on task, and I equate that to how McCaffrey fared against the Terrapins. He needs more time on task.
McCaffrey went 3-of-7 for 25 yards and rushed 2 times for 4 yards. One of McCaffrey’s passes was a drop by Mike Sainristil, and another should have been an interception that was dropped where McCaffrey didn’t see the spy sitting underneath on Luke Schoonmaker’s crossing pattern. Quarterback runs are something we see in Michigan’s offense but on one of McCaffrey’s runs he dove head first with defenders closing in, instead of sliding, and on his other attempt he lowered his head which led to incidental helmet to helmet contact that didn’t look like it felt too good.
The bottom line is McCaffrey hasn’t had that many opportunities to throw the rock around this season, and he’s one play away from coming in if Shea Patterson is to get injured. Practice reps alone don’t cut it, and as long as McCaffrey doesn’t get hurt himself when he takes the field in a blowout, getting on the field is a positive thing whether he has success or not.
Special teams has an up and down day
The Michigan’s special teams got off to one hell of a start. Giles Jackson returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, and then on a fake punt run Michael Barrett picked up 14 yards to give the Wolverines a first down.
On the flipside, Jake Moody missed a 37-yard field goal before the half that would have put Michigan up 24-0, and then in the third quarter the kickoff unit allowed Maryland’s only score of the day, a 97-yard Javon Leake kickoff return.
Major props to Jackson for a great return and an excellent play call to pick up a first down, but Chris Patridge will be the first one in the film room seeing what went wrong on the kickoff return Michigan gave up.
Running game gets going
The Michigan offensive line wasn’t opening up big holes to start the game but it looked like something snapped at halftime and they started throwing the Terrapins d-line around. Michigan had 47 yards on the ground in the first half (3.4 ypc) but rushed for 108 yards in the second half (5.4 ypc) on just six more attempts.
The cold weather has arrived in America and this time of year a productive running game can carry a team to victory. This is the fourth week in a row that Michigan’s offensive line has played well overall, along with a good amount of production from their running backs.
No reason to over-analyze this game
Maryland isn’t a very good football team, and Michigan didn’t need to go out and do anything fancy today or over exert themselves. The Wolverines did what they had to do to win handily. Quite frankly, it looked like a glorified scrimmage out there, and it’s hard to get overly amped up when you know you’re going to win the game before you even get off the plane.
Michigan played well enough to keep the momentum going, keep the belief in one another high, and now they have a bye week before they play Michigan State, Indiana, and Ohio State. Those games will have a different feel than today, all three opponents will be gunning for Michigan and the Wolverines will have to start fast and be aggressive.