There were lots of questions about this Michigan Wolverines defense after losing half of the starters from 2021. But if the season-opening 51-7 win over Colorado State is any indication of what this team will look like, it appears they may not have missed a step.
The pass rush was elite early in this one, and that was the largest question heading into the year after losing Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, the team’s double-digit sack leaders in 2021. There was a total of eight sacks from eight different players, which was a promising indication of what this team could be as the season progresses.
The depth there is astonishing, and the defensive line dominated the whole game. It is what led to this scoop and score in the second half:
The secondary also caused a lot of issues on the back end. Mike Sainristil, who switched from wideout to corner this offseason, had a pass breakup and a sack in the first quarter. Overall, the Rams had just 56 first-half passing yards and were only 1-for-6 on third down. Sophomore safety Rod Moore also came away with an interception that put the Wolverines’ offense back in field goal range early:
Rod Moore has Michigan back in business ‼️ pic.twitter.com/gwGukHOUOn— 247Sports (@247Sports) September 3, 2022
The defensive play stole the show from the quarterback battle that has the attention of the nation. Cade McNamara, who is in the heat of a quarterback battle with sophomore J.J. McCarthy, appeared to be feeling the pressure early in the season. After the interception above, Michigan went three-and-out, McNamara nearly threw a pick himself and the Wolverines had to settle for three points.
It didn’t just happen once when Michigan was in the red zone, but three times in the first half. Against Colorado State, that will slide, but against some of the better defenses in the Big Ten, the Wolverines must capitalize.
McNamara was just 9-for-18 with 136 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Most of his yardage came on this screenplay to Roman Wilson that went for six:
ROMAN WILSON 61 YARDS TO THE CRIBBO FOR MICHIGAN pic.twitter.com/XJo3I7QY1w— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 3, 2022
Then, McCarthy got his shot at running the offense and they began to move in chunks. The sophomore actually took over a drive McNamara had moved into the red zone. He answered the call with this 20-yard touchdown run:
JJ McCarthy, ladies & gentlemen. pic.twitter.com/yHMTpL4IUb— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 3, 2022
The added element McCarthy brought on the ground was apparent. Each of his two drives finished with touchdowns. On the day, he was 4-for-4 for 30 yards and had three rushes for 50 yards and a score.
The offensive line was looking as advertised in this one, and that was without their starting left tackle Ryan Hayes. Olu Oluwatimi, the Rimington Trophy finalist center from a season ago, was spectacular and the Michigan running game had a lot of success behind him. Look at this block from Olu on the Blake Corum touchdown:
Overall, the Wolverines ran for 234 yards and four scores averaging almost six yards per carry. It was a significant indication the running game will continue to be the focal point of Harbaugh’s offense, and today it was firing on all cylinders. No matter who is lining up under center by season’s end, they are going to have a really good unit to rely on.
The Wolverines finished with 440 yards despite being 3-for-10 on third down. McCarthy will get the start in Week 2 as Hawaii comes to Ann Arbor for a game under the lights. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. on Big Ten Network.