The Football season is fast progressing. The Wolverines fifth game of the year was played Saturday at home against the Maryland Terrapins.
SLOW FIRST QUARTER START OFFENSIVELY, BUT TOUGH DEFENSE FOR THE GAME: The Wolverines started slowly again in the First Quarter, starting off with a couple of three and outs, and added a Shea Patterson interception.
While Michigan fell behind 0-7 in the first quarter, that was not the fault of the defensive unit, but a breakdown of Special Teams KO coverage.
The defense looked crisp against the multiple offensive sets of the Terps. They held the Terps to 42-yards of offense in the first half. The offense recovered their winning ways in the second quarter, and the defense was outstanding during the half, and for the rest of the game until they let up on the gas in the fourth quarter. The first quarter ended M-3, MD-7. The Wolverines offense took control in the second quarter and never looked back.
The much-maligned M offensive line looked improved against the Terps-they are more consistent. At the half the Wolverines had amassed 291-yards to 42 for the Terps for a 17-7 lead. The Wolverines produced 462-yards to the Terps 220-yards for the game. For much of the game, the statistics showed an M dominance not always visible in the scores.
MARYLAND HEAD COACH, AND EX-WOLVERINE DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR, IS ON FORCED EXTENDED ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE: D.J. Durkin did not Coach the Terrapins Saturday because of the tragic death of a football player in a pre-season “gasser”. D.J. left the Blue to guide Maryland as its Head Football Coach on January 8, 2015,
Subsequent to the sad and unfortunate death of the Terrapin player, allegations were reported in the press that some Terrapin players averred they were harshly treated by Terrapin Coaches.
It is alleged that Coaches mis-treated the players with foul language, and insults as well as physical torment. The question as to whether this behavior by the football program, if it indeed existed, constituted appropriate football motivation, or simply abuse. The issue is being studied before an investigating committee.
Well into the season, Coach Durkin is still missing on the sidelines. Strength Coach Rich Court has been sacked.
It has not been finally determined whether this was appropriate motivation as stated by the coaches, or abuse as stated by some players? It may be that lawsuits will provide some an answer to that question even after the committee reports, and after the Athletic Department further decide the question.
This has been a sad situation for Maryland players, coaches, and the families involved. Also, for the University’s Athletic Department, and the University of Maryland. And for the Big Ten, and college football in general.
THE TERRAPINS HAVE PLAYED FAIRLY WELL IN SPITE OF TURMOIL: Pushing this turmoil into the background for game days as they should, the Terps have played some decent football this season under Offensive Coordinator/QBs Coach Matt Canada. He is acting as interim Head Coach.
He has extensive experience coaching at a variety of locations, most recently having been at LSU before Maryland in the same capacity. The Terps had shown a good running attack until Saturday. They have a fleet of smaller, fast and athletic backs, and offensive sets with multiple shifts. D.J. Durkin had recruited well, and they have some talent. They stress the running game, have some speed, and talent. In spite of this, the 15th ranked Wolverines had their number Saturday, but Maryland played hard, and never gave up. Their Achilles heel is the number of penalties they are awarded. The complex and multiple offensive sets aggravate this, but targeting, holding and face mask call also hurt them Saturday.
TERPS BEAT RANKED TEXAS IN SEASON OPENER 34-29: Then they walloped the MAC’s Bowling Green 45-14. Temple dumped them 35-14. One wonders how that happened. Last Saturday they pasted the Minnesota Gophers 42-13.
The Terps have led the conference in third down conversions coming in, but not against the Wolverines. But they did prove their ability break KO runs for chunks of yardage. Terp Ty Johnson broke contain and streaked 98-yards down the sideline to what used to be called pay-dirt.
THE BIG TEN HAS SPOKEN ON THE PHANTOM HOLDING CALL ON KARAN HIGDON IN EVANSTON: You saw it or heard about it, and now the Big Ten has spoken, commenting: “Sorry, we missed it”. There is no penalty for officials that miss a call, and no remediation, but just maybe, and it is a huge maybe, they will not do it again. There was another disputed call Saturday. In my opinion not as egregious as the one on Higdon, but bad enough. I have watched the replay several times, and I am still convinced Tru Wilson did not grab with his outstretched arm. There seems to be skinny proof of holding, but the call is the call. It negated a TD.
HOMECOMING IS ALWAYS A BLAST: There are always the older ex-band members making music and strutting their stuff for one more time. I used to have many friends among that aggregation, but now they are much younger than I.
Maybe I need a Blast From The Distant Past. No? I hear ya, so I guess not. But before any of you youngsters get too many ideas regarding young age advantage, you must remember that any of us, young or old, at any given time, have never been so old, and will never be that young again. And so it is. An eternal truth we all have to live with, young or old.
SHEA PATTERSON IS LOOKING BETTER EACH SATURDAY THAT HE WEARS HIS WOLVERINE REGALIA: Patterson had a good day. On the day, he was 19 of 27 for 282-yards, 3 TDs and an interception. The interception was an ill-advised toss while scrambling, but the rest of his day was highly acceptable. He again showed an uncanny knack to scramble. and escape.
The other M player with a completed pass was Grant Perry, who threw a 12-yard completion to Sean McKeon. Grant threw the pass short, thereby avoiding the TD that certainly would have ensued from a better pass, but obviously a12-yard gain is much better than nothing. The trick play worked.
SOME ADDITIONAL INDIVIDUAL STATS: Receiving-TE Zach Gentry nabbed 7 for 112-yards, with a Long of 31. WR Nico Collins had 1 reception for 51-yards. Ronnie Bell clutched 2 for 24-yards with a long of 22-yards for a most spectacular TD. Peoples-Jones caught one for a nicely executed 34-yard run. The versatile Ben Mason grabbed one for 15-yards early and leaped over a would-be tackler. On the ground-Karan Higdon carried the load again. He is a playmaker. He lugged 25 for 106 net yards with a long of 18 and averaged 4.8 per haul.
Tru Wilson is earning his scholarship. He had some good blocks and takes on bigger players effectively. He ran 5 for 32 net yards.
HOW THEY SCORED: As they did last week the Wolverines saved their best for last. The punted the first two times they had the ball. When they finally put together a scoring drive for a 34-yard FG, the Terps special teams snatched momentum from the Wolverines with a stunning 98-yard TD run. The Terps Ty Johnson is a very talented return man. The First Quarter ended M-3, MD-7.
Patterson was intercepted, but the defense kept fighting, and Shea Patterson produced an 11-play drive for a TD. This second Quarter Drive was the drive of the game as it put the Wolverines ahead for the first time in the game, and they never trailed again. A 51-yard pass to Nico Collins, in which he came back for the ball on a splendid reception greased the skids to control the game. Slot Grant Perry’s 12-yard pass Sean McKeon, and the wheels of Karan Higdon on four runs in a row, provided Ben Mason with the opportunity for a 1-yard TD, and he did not disappoint this time. Earlier in the game, the Terps stuffed a stab at a 4th and 1 first down. It was M-10, MD-7, and the Wolverines were on their way to victory.
The clock only had 16 ticks left in the first half when Shea threw a precise laser to Ronnie Bell. Bell’s speedy and well-timed crossing pattern in front of a defender bent on catching the pass prevented an interception, as well as got the points. The Terps roughed Shea on the play. It was 17-7 at the half. The defense was remarkable all game.
The Wolverines received to start the second half. An apparent TD by Donovan Peoples-Jones was cancelled by a block in the back. That was a live ball call. The Terps were charged with targeting when DJP was whacked in the face after the ball had gone by. That was a dead ball call. There is some controversy that says the after-play ball spot favored the offending party, the Terps. Peoples- Jones left the field briefly, but returned to catch a TD later. Nordin hit a 31-yard TD, and it was M-20, MD-7.
The Terps Ty Johnson received the KO, and it squirted out of his hands, the ball was deep in Terp territory, and the Wolverine defense checked them there. M received the punt at the Terrapins 43. In the last play of the ensuing drive, Patterson scrambled to the left and threw across his body to Donovan Peoples-Jones who tight-roped the sideline for a 34-yard TD. Along the way he broke two would be tackles, and it was M-27, MD-7.
The Terps answered with a three-yard TD end around. M-27, MD-14.
The Wolverines answered in with a nine-play, 81-yard drive that culminated with a pass to Jared Wangler. Last week he caught his first pass, and this week his first TD. Nice to see him getting some chances that he can long remember. Mason split the middle to run for the two-point conversion. M-35, MD-14.
Then DB Brandon Watson made a dream come true when he intercepted and ran 46-yards into the end zone for a score. M-42, MD-14
The Terps got a late TD to make the final M-42, MD-21. Near the end of the game Coach Brown had taken his foot off the defensive gas.
TAKE AWAY: Even with a 70-minute rain delay, the player’s footing on the field was acceptable. I saw a couple of early slips, but the track was fast for most of the game, and the fans did not have to fight heavy rains in their seats.
One of the remarkable aspects of this game was the step up of the second level defensive line to a high level. DE Rashan Gary did not dress due to a shoulder injury that has plagued him this season, as it needs more rest. DE Kwitty Paye replaced Gary and did a credible job. From Coach Harbaugh’s comments it seems Aubrey Solomon is nearer playing readiness. Michael Dwumfour was injured (lower leg or foot). Carlo Kemp was dinged later than Dwumfour. Lawrence Marshall replaced them. So far, the next man up concept is working for them.
Offensive line play was better, the defense stalwart. Higdon has become the guts and glue of the running game.
There was no play more surprising that seeing a big blaster leap over a tackler and keep running with speed. This is not expected of a road grader who weighs 258 or thereabouts. FB Ben Mason is a rare athletic talent.
The challengers get bigger, larger, faster, and the wins perhaps more difficult, starting next week with a primetime game against the Cheese heads, err Badgers, as they roll out the barrel in primetime in Michigan Stadium. I think the Wolverines will be ready and seeing Red.