The Wolverines trekked into Maryland and to College Park for a battle with the University of Maryland’s Football Terrapins in spite of a predicted rough weather spillover from Hurricane Joaquin.
Fortunately much of the worst of that storm missed College Park, and the worst weather enemies of good football on the field were just gusty winds, drizzle, and a wet football.
It turned out that Hurricane Joaquin had veered away from the East Coast, preventing much anticipated severe destruction, and some probable loss of life, but it still bestowed a legacy of significant winds, and harmful rainfall to the region as a whole.
This was the Wolverine’s first visit to Byrd Stadium (51,802). It recently had artificial turf installed. The field was playable Saturday with intermittent drizzle.
Last year’s Wolverine loss to the Terps was inexplicable, even unimaginable, a further sign of a crumbling season, and Brady Hoke’s coming end of tenure. The Wolverines, while out gaining the Terps fell victim to their own errors, and let the Big Ten newcomer Terps walk away from M Stadium with a win that everyone on the Michigan side felt should have been theirs, but wasn’t.
For a short time last Saturday I wondered if it wasn’t going to happen again, but the Wolverine’s returned the favor today with domination.
After today’s win, M now leads the series 4-1. The Terps nabbed an interception and a fumble in the first half, and Michigan countered with their own interceptions as Maryland made its own mistakes. Wolverine’s LB Desmond Morgan, Corner Jeremy Clark, and Corner Jourdan Lewis all collared interceptions.
Maryland hadn’t been playing well this season. In their four prior games, they had collapsed big time against Bowling Green, and also against Number 23 West Virginia, giving up some 600-yards each game.
Their offensive angst was further proved by the musical chairs that their quarterback corps was playing. First, QB Perry Hills, starter for the 1st two games, was replaced by Caleb Rowe in the second game. He did well against South Florida, but imploded against WVA, tossing four interceptions. Last Saturday, fifth year coach Randy Edsall jerked his chain in favor of Daxx Garman later in their game against the Wolverines. As advertised, Rowe had started against the Wolverines, but had a rough outing.
The Terps have some talented players. Good tight ends and running backs, such as rising RB Ty Johnson. DE Yannick Ngaboue has been outstanding. BB Davis had been a terror on one corner, causing fumbles and interceptions, while the other corner back position was filled by the team’s best player, who owns the unlikely name of Will Likely. Against the Wolverines he had four returns for 24-yards, with his longest being 12-yards. M special teams were up to the task. Likely made some impressive defensive plays from his corner back position.
Prior to the game, Coach Harbaugh referred to Likely as perhaps the best return man in college football. He owned returns of 67 and 85-yards prior to Michigan’s visit. Wolverine special teams prevented him from being a factor Saturday.
This had every indication of a trap game. Poor weather conditions away from home, against a desperate team fighting for a respectable B1G season, before a crowd trying to generate winning electricity. I thought this game might find the Wolverines possibly subject to a letdown after their hard fought victory against BYU.
It seemed that way offensively in the first quarter and one half, and defensively for a few series.
Early errors by M’s offense were a concern. Two fumbles and an interception (a fumble and interception by Jake Rudock, and two fumbles by Ty Isaac, one lost, one recovered), all led to early concern regarding M’s offense. A half without a TD is a concern. Sloppy play is another. So is converting only 5 of 17 first downs.
The offense helped themselves out of the first half doldrums by scoring some TDs in the second half through inventive play calling, the return of a healthy Drake Johnson at running back, a speedy Jehu Chesson, and some good blocking.
Drake Johnson was the leading rusher with 23 attempts for 68-yards.By the middle of the third quarter the offense had corrected the earlier TD scoring deficiency. The offense had some stalwart help from its friends on the defense and special teams.
It didn’t take the defense as long to correct things.
Except for a little stint at the start of the game when the Terps got 70-yards on 16 plays, the defense was spectacular. After that, the Terps were shut down to a total 35-yards gained on 46 plays for an average of 0.8 yards gained per play.
The defense pitched its second shut-out of the season back to back with the one last week against BYU. Peppers had a kick return of 21-yards, and a punt return of 29-yards. Blake O’Neill has a terrific game spot punting, dropping one on the one and leaving one another inside the five.
Despite M’s 3 turnovers (two fumbles, and an interception), the Terps managed just a minus one yard after the errors. The Terps punted twice, and threw an interception of their own after M’s errors. The defense effectively erased the effect of these errors. Maryland was 1 of 18 on third down attempts. They gained 105 yards as did BYU last week.
The defense handled sudden turnover situations well, and almost everything else, well. They are a weapon.
The only bad news for the defense and the team is that reliable reports indicate that the injury to Mario Ojemudia is a serious achilles tendon injury.
After a Jake Rudock run of thirty-yards, M’s Kenny Allen finally hit a 30-yard FG late in the second quarter, and the Wolverines were on the board. After a TE Jake Butt screen pass catch and run of 44-yards, Allen hit another 32-yard FG for a skinny 6 to zip lead at the half. The Wolverines had squandered opportunities, but fortunately the Terps matched that with errors of their own. This is a blessing that likely will not happen in future games.
Jake Rudock did not have an extraordinary game. He fumbled once, and threw an interception. He missed Chesson once on a sure long TD. He drew a flag when he threw the ball away into an area with no receiver, compiling too many mistakes. That will bite the Wolverines as the competition toughens up as it does next Saturday and will after. But he did engineer a 28 to nothing win, this time, in spite of them. Rudock was 16 of 32 for 180-yards with one TD, one interception, and was sacked once.
The offense didn’t take significant command of the game until, at 8:11 of the third quarter, Drake Johnson captured a screen pass, and sped outside to his left for 31-yards, making a tremendously athletic move to make the ball violate the plane of the end zone for 6. A 2-yard pass to Kahlid Hill secured the 2 point conversion, and finally the Wolverines had a more comfortable lead. A score of M-14, T-0 relieved some of the tension.
The good field position before the TD was set up by a 59-yard O’Neill punt to the Terp 29. On the ensuing Terp possession, Jourdan Lewis intercepted a Terp pass. Cutting in front of the receiver, he tapped the ball so he could catch it, and M was in great scoring position, and took advantage.
The offense then got the ball to Jehu Chesson, and on one play he scampered 66-yards on a jet sweep down the sideline for six. The call or QB read gave the ball to Chesson on a play that had been run before with the back getting the ball each time. It was a great call, as was its blocking and execution. M-21, T-0.
It was Drake Johnson again as he ran one in from one yard, jumping high over the pile into the end zone for six. The Final was now established at 28-0.
The return of Johnson to form could not have been any more-timely than it was, with Smith’s injury against BYU keeping him in Ann Arbor, and the es of the other backs struggling against the Terps. They needed a slasher among their corps of big backs, and some speed. Johnson is both. Final M-28, Terps-0.
The stakes will be considerably higher next week as the undefeated Northwestern Wildcats charge into Michigan Stadium for a 3:30 PM start. In order to win the Wolverines will need to bring their best game of the season to date, as the schedule toughens up. The Wildcats have a great defense, and they are undefeated. Last Saturday they hammered the Minnesota Gophers 27 to 0. The Wolverines will have their hands full, and will need to play error free football.
It will be a 3:30 start.