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How Michigan’s passing attack had one of their best weeks of practice

McNamara was efficient in a blowout over Northern Illinois.

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan dominated on the ground a week ago versus Washington while quarterback Cade McNamara threw for 45 yards.

A week removed from a rushing onslaught, Michigan still had traction on the ground to the tune of 373 yards rushing, but the offense moved towards a more balanced direction in a 63-10 win over Northern Illinois.

“That was a goal of ours going into the game, we wanted to rush for 200 yards, pass for 200 yards,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Felt like the timing’s there. The execution’s been there in practice with Cade.”

McNamara was 8-off-11 for 191 yards and 1 touchdown in two quarters of action.

“This week we saw a weakness (in the Northern Illinois defense) in being able to take some shots, and we took advantage of that weakness,” McNamara said after the game.

Michigan knew Northern Illinois wanted to play up in the box, and they tried to use that to their advantage.

“We knew that this defense was going to play a little low, based on what we’ve seen on film,” McNamara said. “Coach Gattis called some shots and we were able to execute.”

The highlight of McNamara’s day was a 87-yard touchdown to Cornelius Johnson — the third longest passing touchdown in Michigan history.

“I thought Cade really hung in the pocket good and went through his progressions, just saw well and threw a perfect pass,” Harbaugh said.

McNamara noted that Michigan attempted to go vertical three times but hit on just one of them, and said that there’s work to be done in that facet of the passing game. Even with improvements to be made, Harbaugh mentioned that McNamara’s deep ball and the rapport he built in practice this week with the likes of guys like A.J. Henning, Cornelius Johnson, Daylen Baldwin and others, stood out.

“The deep ball is something that they — they had some really good days in practice this week. Might have been one of their best weeks of practice this past week,” Harbaugh said. “To see that translate to the game, take that from the practice field to the game, I was just really happy, and just told him that. The way he stood in the pocket. Cool, cool as a cucumber.”

Michigan’s next test will be versus a Rutgers defense that has gotten increasingly stingy, fundamentally sound, and aggressive.