Eight prior Wolverine wins this season were but a prelude to the game that unfolded Saturday against the Maryland’s Football Terrapins. The Wolverine’s sought to step up another notch towards wining the Eastern Division B1G Championship by bringing home their ninth victory of the season.
This Maryland game was at the same time, no less and no more, important than the ones already in the bag, or yet to come, but it was as necessary as all the others this season. Again the Wolverines were the odds on favorites, being pegged as 29.5 point or more winners. The Terrapins had lost to PSU, Indiana, and Minnesota. To this group, add the Wolverines, as they blew out the Terps on Saturday. Overwhelmed, routed, dismantled, swamped, any cliché you want to use to style a butt kicking applies. You could also call it a bit of a Butt kicking as TE Jake Butt contributed necessary yardage. Jake is now the all-time leading tight end receiver at the University of Michigan in terms of yardage.
Coming to Ann Arbor the week after M’s battle in Spartan Stadium, the Terrapins probably wondered what all the shouting was about last Saturday, as they too had dismantled MSU this season (28-17). For the Wolverines, this was a game where they might as well have been wearing a neon sign displaying trap game, but it was the Terps that got trapped. It looked like the Maryland team wore neons with their bright uniforms, and funky helmets.
THE TERRAPINS: The Terrapins are under the leadership of first year Head Coach DJ Durkin. Durkin is a master of hard shell defense, and as you know, was last year’s Wolverine defensive coordinator. This year there is no question the Terrapins have struggled at run defense and pass protection, and it proved so again Saturday.
Because of his experience at Michigan, there was worry Durkin had well-conceived plans based solidly on his previous first-hand experience. He had unique insight into the Wolverines and their methods, but if this made any difference it did not show on the scoreboard. The innovative Harbaugh changed things up. An example: Speight made a handoff to Peppers who passed latterly to a standing Speight. Speight fired it downfield 40-yards to Jehu Chesson. Speight said at the presser afterwards that “That was a cool trick play we’d been practicing for a couple of weeks…I was able to rip it deep”.
Of course Don Brown’s defense was different than that under Durkin last year.The Terps came into Ann Arbor being the second best rushing team in the Big Ten at 252-yards per outing. Only TOSU had piled up more. The pass efficiency rating of Maryland QB Terry Hill led the Big Ten prior to Saturday. Hill was knocked out of the game, after tossing 4 passes, for 4 completions, with a long of 47-yards. He was sacked twice. His back-up, C. Rowe threw 8 for 129-yards, and an interception. He tossed a long of 32 and was sacked once.
They have two very good backs Ty Johnson, and L. Harrison. They broke free occasionally but did not score.
FINAL COMMENT REGARDING THE WIN OVER MSU: Harbaugh mentioned at his Monday Maryland presser that some M players had been ill during MSU game week, including Mason Cole, and Jake Butt. He also said “There’s going to be some things to teach off of this past game, which is a good thing. A good opportunity for us to make further improvements. It’s good that our defense was tested and there’s things we can improve. I say that for all our players, us coaches, it’s a good opportunity for us to make further improvements”.
Many fans felt after the game that the Wolverines seemed to lose concentration late in the game. Harbaugh would have none of that afterwards, but mentioned he would address any conditioning problems of the Wolverines during the MSU battle “by more push-ups, more whole milk”. He also mentioned the significance of alcohol hand wash to prevent illness. There were no signs of player illness for the Maryland game.
M QB WILTON SPEIGHT DRAWS HIGH PRAISE FROM HARBAUGH POST MARYLAND. Wilton passed for a career best 362-yards against Maryland, and for a record 262-yards in the first half. He also ran for his first rushing TD at Michigan. Obviously enjoying himself, he hopped over the goal line. His passing was outstanding. He hit 19 of 24, and he showed adroit mobility while avoiding capture in the pocket. He engineered an offense that produced a combined 660-yards, and a 59-3 win.
Harbaugh was profuse in his appreciation post game, saying “That’s the best half of football I’ve ever seen a Michigan quarterback play…Moving and throwing, and accuracy – I don’t know how you play any better than Wilton did…It was a perfect game as a quarterback and that’s darned hard to do”.
Harbaugh was so pleased he mentioned Speight’s name as belonging in the Heisman race.
SPEIGHT HAD MORE THAN A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS ON OFFENSE: Running Backs: De’Veon Smith had a great day. He was at the top of his blistering running style, running with violence, great balance and good vision. Smith lugged 13 times for 3 TDs and 114-yards. Ty Isaac ran twice for 56-yards with a long of 53. K. Hill scored twice on short yardage dives. Other backs also contributed.
Receiving: Jehu Chesson was active again nabbing five passes for 112/yards and a TD. He had and catch of 40-yards.TE Jake Butt managed to grab 5 for 76, with a long of 37. Amara Darboh had 4 for 47wtih a long of 34.Kekoa Crawford caught a 16-yard TD pass from Jon O’Korn to close the scoring, and caught another for nine.
SPEIGHT HAD MORE THAN A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS ON DEFENSE. The defense provided good field position all afternoon, even if they did give up some yardage. Maryland gained from both running (131-yards) and passing (289-yards). This was more yardage than the Wolverines liked to yield, but when the ball was deep in Michigan territory and near the goal line they stuffed any scoring attempt. In the post- game interview, M’s Chase Winovich was incensed that the Terps kicked a field goal to ruin the zero in their score column when they obviously needed TDs to win. The Wolverines are tuned in.
Ben Godin led the defense with 5 solo tackles and six assists, for 11 total. He had 3 TFLs, plus one half a sack. Delano Hill followed with 5 solo tackles and and assist. Eighteen others had one or two tackles. The group had three sacks total.
WOLVERINES v TERPS: Maryland won the toss and deferred. Despite an illegal block penalty, this 10-play, 91-yard drive was the Wolverines best of the day. Jehu Chesson grabbed one for 23-yards, Smith, Evans, Spieght and Peppers all contributed rushes under ten yards, and Chesson grabbed another for 8. They marched methodically to the Maryland 34. Amara Darboh took it from there, on a 34-yard pass from Speight. The TD with point made it 7-zip.
M got the ball back and produced another score. Darboh caught on for 15, Isaac rushed for 3, Eddie McDoom 12. Chesson nabbed one for forty yards to the Maryland 13, Higdon got three, and then Speight put on his wheels and ran up the middle for a ten yard score, and it was M 14-MND-0 to end the quarter. A Maryland drive stalled and their ensuing FG missed.
On the next possession Smith ran for 14, and Jake Butt got it down to the MND 29 with a 37-yard reception. A pair of short Smith rushes, and a Peppers rush of 13, put it at the MND 3. Smith bulled in for the score and it was 21 to zip.
The Wolverines struck again, overcoming a pair of penalties, one of which negated a catch by M WR Drake Harris.
This unreasonable call negated a beautiful TD catch and run by Harris. Then came another disputed call. Chris Evans caught a short pass and ran to the MND one. Called out of bounds there, the Michigan Fans thought that the review would reverse the call, and validate the score. The call on the field was not overturned to the surprise of fans and Harbaugh. He commented on it afterwards. Kahlid Hill bulled it in, and it was 28-zip. Harris was burned last week on another penalty call which robbed him of a TD.
Maryland moved the ball to end the half, but time ran out as they got to M’s 1-yard line. This was a close call for the Wolverines.
M’s defense started the third quarter with a bang. Delano Hill intercepted and returned it to the MND 49. Smith rushed for eight, then caught a 17-yard pass. Chesson caught one for a short gain, but the drive stalled. Kenny Allen hit a 29–yard FG and it was 38-zip.
The quarter ended with a Butt catch for 15-yards, plus two Smith rushes for a combined 20-yards, and then a short Higdon tote. Smith was back at it with two more short and tough runs, for a combined 11-yards. A Terp penalty got it to their one. Smith ran it in for six, to make it 45-0.
The Terps finally replaced the zero in their scoring column with a 3, culminating a decent drive of 10-plays and 55-yards. The Terps were assisted by an M face mask penalty. It was M-47, UMD-3.
The Wolverine’s Ty Isaac answered with a 53-yard jaunt to the UMD 11, and Smith did the rest in two attempts. Now it was M-52, UMD-3.
A Dymonte Thomas interception put the ball at the M 17, and QB John O’Korn was on tap. He immediately tossed a pass to Kekoa Crawford for 16-yards. A roughing the passer penalty on the Terps, a couple of 6-yard rushes by Karan Higdon, and a Chris Evans push for thirteen yards, plus another by Evans for 10, sandwiched a B.Henderson rush for 8. Kekoa Crawford caught the nine yard TD pass to make the final score Michigan 59, Maryland 3.
This outstanding performance by the Wolverines, offense, defense, and special teams for their ninth win of the season shows solid improvement. They are playing with more and more confidence, with many young talents progressing.
Now it is on to what could be one of their toughest challenges so far this season. The Hawkeyes at home are never easy. It will be another battle for win #10.