Michigan 59, Maryland 18

Michigan 59, Maryland 18

November 21, 2021
Donovan Edwards (image via Michigan Daily)

That was quietly ugly for Maryland. With my high school season having ended last week, I made the trip to Maryland because I had never been there for a game. Watching the game in person, Michigan was certainly in control for the whole game but in the first half, it seemed like the Terrapins were holding their own. Michigan should have been able to run all over them, but they couldn’t. Michigan should have been able to beat up and bruise Taulia Tagovailoa, but they couldn’t. It was a comfortable 24-3 lead at halftime, but it never seemed like Michigan was beating the pants off them. And then . . . well . . . the third quarter happened, when Michigan exploded for 28 points. Even though Maryland scored 15 in that stanza, the rout was on. I looked up at the scoreboard and thought, “Is Michigan about to score 60 on a Big Ten opponent not named Rutgers?” In truth, no, they weren’t. But they got as close as possible.

Hit the jump for more.

We witnessed Donovan Edwards’s coming out party. Edwards had 8 carries for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns against Northern Illinois earlier in the year, but you can never trust performances against MAC opponents too much. Then Edwards went dormant for several weeks while Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum carried the load. Edwards missed the Indiana game and played sparingly against Penn State, and then this game was an explosion. While he had just 3 carries for 8 yards, he had 10 (!!!) catches for 170 (!!!) yards and 1 touchdown against Maryland. That was the most catches for a running back in Michigan history, topping Anthony Thomas, who had 8 against Ohio State in 1997 and 8 in 1999 against Syracuse. The most electrifying was a 77-yard wheel route catch and run where Edwards outraced a Maryland linebacker to catch the ball and then made three defensive backs look slow as he cut back across the field for the score.

Cade McNamara looked shaky early. McNamara did not look sharp to start the game, throwing a ball into the ground and getting some wide open looks where the ball was batted down at the line of scrimmage. Throwing a ball past the line of scrimmage from the pocket when the ball comes through at about five feet off the ground is generally a bad idea. And then by the end of the game, McNamara was 21/28 for 259 yards and 2 touchdowns. I know Maryland’s defense isn’t good, but offensive coordinator Josh Gattis called a very good game, attacking all kinds of weak spots. McNamara rarely had to throw at a well covered receiver, and even backups J.J. McCarthy, Dan Villari, and Alan Bowman had receivers running free.

Good for the young guys. It was great to see a bunch of young guys get some playing time, such as linebacker Jaydon Hood, defensive end T.J. Guy, walk-on receiver Will Rolapp, and others. Walk-on receiver Matt Torey blocked a punt, Guy got a sack, and Rolapp caught a 26-yard pass from Villari. Those things might be the pinnacle of Torey and Rolapp’s careers, and it didn’t come against an FCS or MAC school – it came against a Big Ten foe.

Speaking of young guys . . . I’m legitimately concerned about the outside linebacker situation for 2022. Aidan Hutchinson is certainly leaving for the NFL after this year, and I imagine David Ojabo is likely to go, too. Hutchinson’s primary backup is Braiden McGregor, whose next good play will be his first. McGregor still looks a bit gimpy from the knee injury he suffered as a senior in high school, but even his left (uninjured) leg looks very skinny. He looks tentative coming off the ball. I thought he was going to be the next Hutchinson, and maybe he still can be pretty good, but I can’t help seeing a huge drop-off next season in the pass rush. Mike Morris, Taylor Upshaw, and Jaylen Harrell have all played those edge spots this year, but none of them are as explosive as either Hutchinson or McGregor.

All hail Jay Harbaugh! The younger Harbaugh is just riding Jim Harbaugh’s coat tails . . . except Jay Harbaugh’s units are always excellent. Is it a coincidence that Erick All and Luke Schoonmaker are better in 2021 than Nick Eubanks/All/Schoonmaker were in 2020 after Harbaugh moved from running backs coach to tight ends coach? Maybe. Michigan averaged 0.0 kickoff returns for touchdowns for the five years from 2010-2014. They have averaged 0.7 per year since the Harbaughs came on board in 2015, and Jay has been the main special teams guy in that time, except when John Baxter was on the staff that first year. Furthermore, Michigan has blocked 17 punts/kicks from 2016 onward. The only year Michigan didn’t block a single kick was – you guessed it – the 2020 pandemic year when everything sucked. Even if he changed his name to Jay Schmarbaugh, he would be a good coach.

Pass rush issues. Michigan got 2 sacks on Saturday, and they came from the expected sources: Vincent Gray and T.J. Guy. Uh, what? For the second week in a row, it seemed like Michigan’s edge guys were just going willy-nilly after the quarterback with no regard for hemming in the quarterback. That was a bad idea against Penn State because Sean Clifford is willing to step up and run inside. It’s a slightly less bad idea against Tagovailoa, who is afraid to run inside but has very good speed. That hurt Michigan more than once, but especially when Tagovailoa broke out for a 17-yard touchdown. Hutchinson ran way too far upfield, middle linebacker Josh Ross was caught not understanding how to keep outside contain (not a common task for a middle ‘backer), and Tagovailoa walked in untouched. Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud isn’t much of a runner (he has 0 rushing touchdowns and ran for a long of 15 against Oregon in week two), but if he can step up and underneath the pass rush to buy extra time, that’s going to make it very tough on Michigan’s defensive backs next week.

What was Maryland like? Having never been there before, I didn’t know what to expect. I actually really liked the campus. I had no idea where to park, so I drove around campus for a while before settling on a random residential street curb. It was a long way from the stadium, but I like to walk so I enjoyed it. There were lots of interesting nooks and crannies, random outdoor stairs, streams running through campus, pedestrian bridges, etc. When I got to the stadium, it seemed like it was 75% Michigan fans. As I looked around, the only real pockets of red I saw were the backs of empty seats. The only people who talked crap to me were a couple drunk college kids, whom I ignored. All the other Maryland fans were pretty sheepish. At one point the announcer said something to the effect of:

Maryland students, if you’ve attended all seven home games this season, your name will appear on the video board and you will have a chance to win a prize.

I looked up at the video board, expecting to see a list of 100 student names or so and saw . . . five. At a school with 41,000 students, only five of them (0.0122%) went to all the home games. Yikes.

The battle for bowl eligibility is next week. Maryland faces Rutgers next week, and both teams are 5-6. For all the talk that Maryland’s Mike Locksley and Rutgers’s Greg Schiano have their programs headed in the right direction, being 6-6 or 5-7 in year two isn’t great. Maryland is 1-6 in its last seven games and Rutgers is 2-6 in its last eight. More importantly regarding bowls, though, Michigan is facing Ohio State next week and could end up in the Big Ten Championship game with a possible Rose Bowl trip or playoff appearance coming. This will be an exciting week for Michigan fans.

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