ARLINGTON, Tex. — Tarik Black’s name had been tossed around plenty throughout the offseason.
Talk of an “electric, young” wide receiver buzzed about, but questions remained as to if he — or any of the receivers — could step up and replace Michigan’s leading wideouts from 2016.
Saturday afternoon at AT&T Stadium, Black answered the call in his first career game, as the No. 11 Michigan football team (1-0) beat No. 17 Florida, 33-17.
Early on, with the game tied at three and the Wolverines’ offense deep in Gator territory, Black lined up to the left. His matchup was another true freshman, Florida cornerback Marco Wilson.
Michigan snapped the ball, and Black ran 10 yards down and in, 10 yards down and out and then cut in one last time. He’d completely shaken off Wilson and streaked unguarded to the end zone.
Redshirt junior quarterback Wilton Speight threw a lofty pass, landing it right in Black’s arms. It was Black’s first career reception, and a 46-yard touchdown at that.
“I was a little nervous,” Black said of the play. “I used to play in front of a hundred people, now I play in front of 100,000. It was pretty nerve-wracking, but as long as you just focus and look at the ball all the way in, you should be fine.”
The play call also signaled that Michigan’s new passing game coordinator, Pep Hamilton, can adjust well on the fly.
On the prior play, Florida’s senior safety Nick Washington left the game with an injury. Replacing him on Black’s side of the field was another true freshman, defensive back Shawn Davis.
Michigan’s coaching staff recognized the Gators’ inexperienced secondary, and attacked it to perfection.
Black ended the day with 83 receiving yards, looking very sure-handed for the Wolverines.
Michigan’s other offensive standout was fifth-year senior running back Ty Isaac. Sophomore Chris Evans earned the start, but when Evans struggled, Isaac stepped in to settle the nerves and ultimately made the biggest impact.
Isaac ran for 114 yards on 11 carries Saturday, highlighted by a 36-yard gain to help Michigan escape a third-and-13 situation in the first quarter.
“We called some off-schedule third-down runs… and we were able to pick those up through the running game,” Harbaugh said. “Ty Isaac did a great job, so really happy for him. That really gave us a boost.”
Isaac’s performance marked his first 100-yard rushing game since 2015. Consistency has been an issue for him ever since he transferred to Michigan from Southern California after his freshman year. But, a running back rotation with Isaac, Evans and junior Karan Higdon provides quality depth for Michigan in case one of them struggles to perform. Saturday was evidence of such.
Isaac and Black were instrumental in sparking Michigan’s 433 yards of total offense, quieting any questions about ‘filling gaps from 2016’ at the running back or receiver slots.