The Michigan Wolverines won their season opener in convincing fashion against the Colorado State Rams on Saturday afternoon. Michigan won 51-7 and the final outcome was never in doubt.
Here’s a look at takeaways from the blowout.
An impressive showing on defense
The Michigan defense and new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter both deserve a major tip of the cap. The defense got into the Colorado State backfield early and often.
Michigan piled up 7 sacks, but more impressively, they came from a handful of players. Mike Sainristil had one sack, Eyabi Anoma had one sack, Michael Barrett had one sack, R.J. Moten had one sack, while Mason Graham, Kris Jenkins, Rod Moore, Jaylen Harrell, and Mazi Smith all had a half sack.
Michigan’s defense was flying around the field and created two turnovers. Rod Moore had an interception, and D.J. Turner scooped up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown. While Michigan was just short of having a shutout, it was one solid showing for the first week of the season. The unit didn’t look rusty overall.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh said last month that he has a suspicion that this defense could be even better than the stellar unit they fielded in 2021. Harbaugh might be right. It’s still too early to tell but today was encouraging to say the least.
McNamara’s day could have been better
Michigan didn’t need McNamara to light up the stat sheet against Colorado State, but the Michigan QB left some plays out there, made a few errant throws (one of which was initially ruled an interception before being overturned), and left some points off the board. However, it is worth noting there were a couple drops and Jim Harbaugh felt McNamara had a good game and led the team on scoring drives. Field goals are nice, but touchdowns are better, and it would have been great to see the offense convert at a higher clip on third down when McNamara was in the game (just 1-of-6 on third down conversions in the first half).
McNamara is in the midst of a quarterback competition with J.J. McCarthy, and the ideal situation for him against Colorado State would have been to dominate. McNamara was 9-of-18 for 136 yards and one touchdown. 61 of those yards came on a screen pass to Roman Wilson that went for a score. The bottom line is McNamara could have played better against the Rams. Completing just 50% of his throws isn’t something that McNamara, nor the coaching staff will find acceptable in games to come. The bar must be set high.
J.J. McCarthy’s athleticism was on full display. In the third quarter McCarthy had an impressive 20-yard touchdown run in which he had to juke out a defender. Not only did McCarthy juke out the defender successfully, he didn’t really break stride doing so. McCarthy is one of the fastest quarterbacks in all of college football.
McCarthy also was able to, albeit briefly, show off his arm strength. McCarthy throws lasers. His arm strength is also top tier. McCarthy was 4-for-4 for 30 yards and rushed for 50 yards on just three carries with the 20-yard touchdown scamper.
Harbaugh announced before the season that McNamara would start Week 1, and McCarthy would start Week 2 against Hawaii. If McCarthy continues to make big plays, there’s a good chance he will be the starting quarterback in Week 3 when Michigan takes on UConn.
Running game picked up where it left off last season
Michigan had one of the best rushing attacks in the nation last year, and the duo of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards may be quite dynamic this season. Corum rushed for 76 yards with one touchdown, Edwards rushed for 64 yards and one score. In all, Michigan rushed for 234 yards with four touchdowns on the ground. The offensive line, which won the Joe Moore Award last season (which goes to the best o-line in the nation), created sizable holes for the backs to run through.
The running game should continue to be a strength for Michigan.