Max Cohen: Smith's run says it all about Michigan
Poor Michael Davis.
The BYU cornerback did not deserve the fate that befell him Saturday afternoon. His only folly was attempting to stop De’Veon Smith.
It was a task that other men have completed 199 times during Smith’s college career. But on this carry, when Smith crossed Brigham Young’s 35-yard line with 11:45 remaining in the second quarter, Davis was not destined to be among them.
Smith had started the run on Michigan’s own 40-yard line. He was stopped briefly at the line of scrimmage, forced so low to the ground that he believed he was down. But Smith kept going — he emerged from the scrum alone.
Davis streaked down the field to his left. The cornerback put two arms on Smith when he crossed the 35-yard line, grappling with his shoulder pads, but it was of no consequence. Smith broke free at the 30-yard line, but Davis stayed on the trail. He flailed at Smith’s upper body for 10 more yards before making one last attempt.
Davis grabbed Smith’s body as he crossed BYU’s 20-yard line, jostling his body in a circle. But as Smith completed his turn at the Cougars’ 10-yard line, Davis still latched on.
At the same moment, Smith used the force of the spin to make one final push with the back of his arm, the momentum churning. He threw Davis off of his body for good. It was a move straight out of a Marshawn Lynch highlight video.
Smith capped the 60-yard touchdown with a little hop into the end zone before he was mobbed by his teammates.
Davis stared off, shaking his head.
“Once I got to the second level, I knew for a fact I was not letting No. 15 tackle me,” Smith said with a smirk.
Davis had been emasculated to the point that his name was hardly of importance to Smith. He was just an obstacle in the way, another tackler that he had to get rid of. He was not alone.
By the time the first half ended and Michigan led, 31-0, it was clear that the Wolverines felt the same way about Davis’ entire team.
BYU entered the game with a national ranking and an offense that had continued to produce even with a backup quarterback. The Cougars had not scored fewer than 23 points in their first three games.
That was not the case Saturday. And Michigan was not even content with the shutout. After all, BYU managed to gain more than 100 yards in the game, a milestone it surpassed in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
“I think the thing that I’m still kind of irked about is we wanted that 100-yard mark too, that they hit at the end,” said Desmond Morgan.
The Cougars finished the game with 105 total yards of offense. They had gained at least 381 yards in their first three games. By the way Morgan and others reacted to the shutout, it was as if Michigan had no idea.
Amara Darboh, one of America’s newest citizens, didn’t seem to think much of what BYU could or couldn’t do in the first quarter, either. When a Jake Rudock pass came his way, one he had little chance of catching, he jumped into the air.
His body turned in the opposite direction of the ball as he reached out with his right arm. Still, he made the catch. Memes sprouted on the Internet that compared the play to a play Odell Beckham Jr. made for the New York Giants last season, the one some consider to be the best catch in the history of the sport.
It was that kind of day Saturday, one where almost everything went right. Michigan blew out an opponent — this time a good one — for the third straight weekend. The Wolverines appear to have rid themselves of any shred of self-doubt that can accompany a 5-7 season. There is a new standard, one that was punctuated Saturday.
The standard is not one based off other teams. Michigan’s players insist they care only about what they are capable of doing in any given game and any given practice.
It was difficult to envision the Wolverines doing much more Saturday. After losing nine of its last 10 games against ranked teams, Michigan won this one with authority.
The man at the helm of this renaissance, Jim Harbaugh, said he planned to take six hours to enjoy his team’s latest win. Then he will move forward, just like Smith did after he threw Davis to the ground. Smith said nothing to his unworthy adversary after he left him sprawled on the grass.
“I wish I would have said something,” Smith quipped.
But he didn’t have to. The Wolverines’ play did all of the talking, and they didn’t care about anything else.
Cohen can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @MaxACohen.