“Disappointment” was the word of the day on Saturday. After Michigan crushed its first three opponents, a sizable number of voices were putting Michigan on upset watch. While it was reasonable to expect some hiccups from the marked increase in competition, watching the Maryland Terrapins expose Michigan’s weaknesses in real time was not for the faint of heart.
Subpar grades take up the lion’s share of this report card, so let’s get right to it.
Given his promising performances in the non-conference slate, J.J. McCarthy’s debut Big Ten start was just okay. The sophomore did just enough to keep Michigan multi-dimensional, but the overthrows, one underthrow and misreads on read-options need to be cleaned up if the offense is to run at full capacity.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: B-
This group also did what they needed to do to get the job done, but not much more than that. Granted, if McCarthy added a little more touch on the deep ball, a higher mark would be in the conversation. Luke Schoonmaker is a solid, consistent target, and Ronnie Bell stepped up when Michigan needed him most with a huge catch in the fourth quarter.
Running Backs: B
For the second straight week, if Blake Corum was his own category, he’d get an A+. Quite simply, he put the Wolverines on his back and carried them to victory. Averaging 8.1 yards a tote, Corum’s 243-yard, two-touchdown performance was easily the brightest spot in, frankly, a disappointing start to the Big Ten season.
Donovan Edwards better get healthy fast — without No. 7, Michigan does not have a reliable second option. CJ Stokes’ fumble was costly and Isaiah Gash’s lone carry only went for a couple yards. As a result, the entire position only gets an average grade.
Offensive Line: B
The men in the trenches were the unsung heroes of this game. Aside from a sneaky corner blitz hitting home deep in Michigan territory, McCarthy had all day to throw. Additionally, Corum would not have been as successful in this outing as he was without the line allowing him to get to the edge.
But there still is plenty for the linemen to improve upon to even think about defending its crown as the best offensive line in America. Maryland mustered seven tackles for loss and at times, it looked like Corum had to pull a Houdini act just to get out of the backfield. This is unacceptable for a group that has the potential to be one of the best in the country.
Front 7: C-
The front four did not make their presence felt for the majority of this game, and the Wolverines should be thankful Maryland abandoned its rushing game in the third quarter. Failure to generate pressure allowed Tagovailoa to carve up the Michigan secondary in the first half. Stats from this performance are deceptive: the three sacks and five tackles for loss had a minimal impact on the flow of the Terrapin offense. And although Michigan held Maryland to 3.8 yards per rush, the Terrapin running backs’ efforts on early downs created far too many third and shorts.
Unfortunately, concerns about this unit have proven to be well-founded, at least for this week. A much better effort is a must if Michigan is to have a shot at defending its Big Ten crown.
Without DJ Turner’s interception in the second quarter, I might be writing an entirely different article. Michigan’s secondary did a fair enough job of checking the explosiveness of Maryland’s star wideouts but was caught flat-footed on several key plays. Some of this underwhelming output can be blamed on the defensive line, but there was enough miscommunication and missed assignments to warrant a lower grade.
Special Teams: A-
Thanks to outstanding hustle from the kick coverage team, Maryland got smacked in the mouth, literally, to get the game started. Brad Robbins saw too much game time for comfort, but the mustachioed punter played well, pinning the Terrapins inside their 10 yard line several times.
Aside from an uncharacteristic miss from 47 yards away, reigning Lou Groza winner Jake Moody had a fine day. He continues to be dependable and could be able to repeat as the best kicker in the nation.
The staff has a lot to clean up before next week’s trip to Iowa City. But now we know what some of the weaknesses are, and efforts can be made in time to mold this team into championship shape.
Is there any grade inflation here? Was I too harsh? Let us know down below!