Well, well, well! We finally know the Michigan Wolverines are for real. No one can doubt Team 143 dominated the Penn State Nittany Lions in a 41-17 rout. Barring a 50+ yard scamper by Sean Clifford and a lucky pick-six, this game was a clinic in physicality and persistence.
Let’s hand out some grades.
J.J. giveth, J.J. taketh away. From flashy plays to interspersed rookie mistakes, this was a game we have come to expect from McCarthy. The foolhardy across-the-field throw (which ended up as a completion but should have been a pick-six) and rollout interception are the biggest knocks against the sophomore in this game. However, a welcome sight was he was more willing to keep the ball on read options. His legs continue to keep plays alive and pick up tough first downs. This wasn’t his best game, but it didn’t need to be.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: B
Much like McCarthy, this group didn’t need to set the world on fire. Ronnie Bell, Cornelius Johnson and Roman Wilson all made plays when called upon. It was a surprisingly quiet game from the tight ends, but they did their part in the run game
Running Backs: A+
What can I say? I’ll just give you the stats — Donovan Edwards: 173 rushing yards, 21 receiving yards, 10.8 yards per carry. Blake Corum: 166 yards rushing, 15 yards receiving, 5.9 yards per carry. Even C.J. Stokes got in on the action. When it was all said and done, Michigan ran for 418 yards. Keep in mind, this came against the fifth-best rushing defense coming into the contest which only surrendered 399 rushing yards all season before this game. Insane. Whatever Mike Hart is making, Warde Manuel needs to triple it.
Offensive Line: A
The prophet Moses must have gifted his staff to the Wolverines’ offensive line before the kick because it looked like the Red (or, more accurately, White) Sea parting when they were on the field. All allusion aside, this was a textbook game for this group. The only thing holding me back from awarding an A+ were the several tackles for loss given up. But that shouldn’t tarnish this sterling and clinical performance. The Joe Moore Award might stay in Ann Arbor with a few more dominant performances like that.
Front 7: A
The two sacks and four tackles for loss don’t do this showing by the front seven justice. If you take off Clifford’s 62-yard keeper, Penn State doesn’t even sniff the century mark on the ground. Of all the position groups, the front seven has improved the most since the beginning of the season, and there are no signs of a slowdown.
It’s downright impossible to lose games if you hold your opponent’s starting quarterback to only a 36% completion rate, and that’s precisely what this group did. Clifford and backup quarterback Drew Allar looked out of sorts on nearly every drop back. Will Johnson and Mikey Sainristil are coming into their own. This was a nearly flawless performance.
Special Teams: A
Jake Moody is money. No punts for Brad Robbins. A.J. Henning is solid. No news is good news for the special teams crew.
The 41-17 final score is not representative of how lopsided this one was. In every facet, Michigan was by far the better team. Team 143 played like it deserves to be in the upper ranks of the college football universe, and the coaches cooked up a consummate, old-school plan of attack that beat the Nittany Lions to a pulp. Michigan is for real.