After a third consecutive blowout, the Michigan football team is rolling.
Saturday, the Wolverines made quick work of Maryland, taking a 28-0 lead into halftime and sending many of the Terrapin fans in attendance straight toward the exits. Capitalizing on untimely penalties and forcing three turnovers, Michigan ran Maryland and its fans out of its own stadium.
Here are five things we learned from the Wolverines’ 35-10 win over the Terrapins:
1. Sometimes numbers do lie
Despite Michigan’s comfortable 25-point victory, the final statline showed that Maryland outgained the Wolverines, 340-305. While that might cause some to be concerned about the state of Michigan’s defense, it shouldn’t.
That margin in yardage is misleading for a number of reasons, but mainly because the game was essentially over at halftime. In building a four-possession lead, the Wolverines’ offense gained 212 of those yards and their defense conceded just 112.
While the second quarter had the most striking difference on the scoreboard — a 21-point advantage — the first quarter had the largest difference in yardage. In the second, Michigan shut out the Terrapins even though they gained 86 yards, and in the first, the Wolverines forced a three-and-out from Maryland on each of its three possessions, giving up a measly 26 yards in the process.
The Terrapins gained 228 of their yards in the second half, but they still scored just 10 points as a result, which is a credit to Michigan’s defense. Even when Maryland reached the one-yard line halfway through the third quarter, the Wolverines put together a goal-line stand and forced a short field goal to end the shutout bid. It took until the start of the fourth quarter for the Terrapins to finally reach the end zone.
2. Evans is back and better than ever
Two weeks ago, sophomore running back Chris Evans looked like he might have been out of the picture in Michigan’s ground game. Against Rutgers, the Wolverines rushed for a then-season-high 334 yards, but Evans received just five of those carries.
The next week, Evans played a starring role in Michigan’s now-season-high 371-yard performance, gaining 191 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
Saturday, he continued to lead the way for the running game, and Michigan’s offense as a result. He received a team-high 15 carries and rushed for 90 yards, scoring two touchdowns again.
In the first quarter, after the Wolverines made it all the way to Maryland’s 16-yard line thanks in part to a roughing the passer penalty, Evans was given the ball three straight times and then leaped the final yard into the end zone. And in the fourth, after a pass interference penalty, Evans received two consecutive carries that he took 31 yards into the end zone to seal the win.
3. Michigan’s receivers need to step up
Redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Peters may have completed just nine passes, but only one of those receptions went to a wideout.
It wasn’t for a lack of targets, as Peters threw the ball to four other players — Evans and junior running back Karan Higdon as well as sophomore tight end Sean McKeon and redshirt sophomore tight end Zach Gentry.
Peters has developed a particularly strong connection with both tight ends, throwing a touchdown to each of them Saturday. He found Gentry for a 33-yard score over the top of the defense, and he found McKeon for a three-yard score on an out route.
Sophomore Eddie McDoom and freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones started at wide receiver, but neither could establish solid chemistry with Peters. While the ground game has shown an ability to carry the load, Michigan will need a more balanced attack to take on the challenging backend of its schedule.
4. The injury bug has bitten the Wolverines hard
It began with redshirt junior quarterback Wilton Speight and freshman receiver Tarik Black. Then sophomore receiver Kekoa Crawford and fifth-year senior running back Ty Isaac went down as well.
After Saturday, Michigan has even more names to add to its injury list, and the timing couldn’t be worse with contests against No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 13 Ohio State left to play.
Higdon and sophomore cornerbacks Lavert Hill and David Long all missed time against Maryland. Higdon went down near the end of the first half with an ankle injury and didn’t return after the halftime break. Hill had to go through concussion protocol on the sideline, and Long succumbed to an undisclosed injury before ultimately returning.
It is unclear if Higdon or Hill will be in condition to play next weekend, which could be a major blow on both sides of the ball.
5. BOLD PREDICTION: Michigan will beat Wisconsin in Madison
Next Saturday, the Wolverines will travel to Camp Randall Stadium to face the Badgers with the fate of both teams’ seasons hanging in the balance.
Michigan, already with two losses on the season, would drop considerably in terms of its bowl prospects if it tallied a third this weekend. Wisconsin, currently undefeated, would drop off the College Football Playoff picture entirely.
Out of the Badgers’ 10 wins, not many have come against the particularly tough opposition. Out of the Wolverines’ past three, the same could be said. However, Michigan made clear after its blowout loss to then-No. 2 Penn State that its new season goal is to win out.
That means it has to beat Wisconsin.