The good, the bad and the ugly: Maryland

Sunday, November 6, 2016 - 7:01pm

Wilton Speight was one of Michigan's highlights Saturday against Maryland.

Wilton Speight was one of Michigan's highlights Saturday against Maryland. Buy this photo
Amelia Cacchione/Daily

 

Another home game at Michigan Stadium this weekend meant another blowout victory for the No. 3 Michigan football team. The Wolverines (6-0 Big Ten, 9-0 overall) have only had one home game that they won by fewer than 17 points, and Saturday’s 59-3 rout of Maryland never came close to changing that.

It’s tough to find flaws in a team that won by 56, but Michigan did look mortal at times, especially on the defensive side. The Daily breaks down the good, the bad and the ugly from the victory.

The good

For the third straight week, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh thought Wilton Speight had his best game of the season. It’s hard to argue based on the redshirt sophomore quarterback’s stat line — 19-of-24 passing, 362 yards, two passing touchdowns and a 10-yard rushing score. His stock continues to rise, and if he can reach the end-of-season form that former quarterback Jake Rudock found last year, the Wolverines’ offense will be in great shape.

After weeks of relying on four backs to produce as a unit, Michigan’s running game was dominated by a familiar face this weekend. Senior running back De’Veon Smith turned in his best performance of the season with 131 total yards and three touchdowns. The constant rotation has kept him fresh late in the season, and that was apparent Saturday.

The Wolverines’ receiving corps finally looked like the three-headed monster most fans expected it to be heading into the season. Fifth-year senior Amara Darboh has been the steadiest performer all year, and he added 77 yards and a touchdown to his impressive season totals. Senior tight end Jake Butt, who has proven to be an effective safety net for Speight, tallied 76 yards and broke the all-time Michigan record for receiving yards by a tight end (previously held by Jim Mandich). And in the most encouraging performance of all, fifth-year senior receiver Jehu Chesson — who had just one touchdown all season — put on the kind of explosive performance he became known for at the end of last season, racking up a team-high 112 receiving yards and a 33-yard touchdown.

Michigan’s defense was far from perfect, but it did a remarkable job keeping Maryland off the scoreboard. Twice in the first half, the Terrapins reached the one-yard line. The first time, the Wolverines pushed them back 10 yards and Maryland missed a field goal. The second time, redshirt junior linebacker Mike McCray tackled receiver D.J. Moore just short of the goal line on a 47-yard gain, just as the clock reached 0:00 in the first half.

Downfield, senior cornerback Jourdan Lewis continued to prove why throwing at him is a bad idea. The All-American broke up three passes Saturday, including one where the receiver had two hands on the ball and nearly took it all the way to the ground. Senior safety Delano Hill also joined in on the fun in the secondary, grabbing two interceptions.

The Terrapins finally managed a field goal in the fourth quarter, but those were the only points allowed by what redshirt sophomore defensive end Chase Winovich called a “bend but don’t break” Wolverine defense.

The bad

It didn’t break, but Michigan’s defense bent a lot on Saturday. The Wolverines allowed 367 total yards — the most by any team that gave up three points or fewer in the same game since 2014. Maryland’s offense used some creative play-calling, including several screen passes, to move the ball effectively against Michigan all afternoon.

Those plays succeeded in large part because the Wolverines struggled to make tackles for the second straight week. McCray and senior cornerback Channing Stribling occasionally struggled to bring down ball carriers in open space, allowing the Terrapins’ short passes to pick up additional yardage. It wasn’t all bad — McCray had two tackles for loss, senior linebacker Ben Gedeon had three and Stribling had a pass breakup — but Michigan’s defense left a lot to be desired against the spread offense.

The ugly

Maryland quarterback Perry Hills was knocked out of the game in the second quarter after a hit from Winovich, making him the eighth quarterback the Wolverines have chased from a game this season. Through nine games, only Penn State’s Trace McSorely, Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook and Illinois’ Jeff George Jr. have played full games against Michigan’s defense this season.

It’s not necessarily a trend to be proud of, but it is an indicator of how often the Wolverines’ defensive line has reached quarterbacks.

“You never want somebody to get hurt — that’s just not what we go for, we’re not targeting players,” Winovich said. “But it is a notable thing. … That is an interesting point of a defense, and it kind of reflects the style of play that we have.”