The official attendance at Maryland Stadium was 40,071 fans, but the eye test seemed to contradict that. Opposite the press box, the stands were full of maize and blue. This was the Terrapins’ homecoming, but few of their own fans showed up.
And honestly, who could blame them? The Nationals’ World Series parade was at the same time, 30 minutes down the Beltway. Few Maryland fans thought their team would beat Michigan, even before the Terrapins lost five of their last six six coming into Saturday. For the Wolverines, this game was just a stopgap before Michigan State and Ohio State.
It seemed destined to be another boring, easy, road win for Michigan, and save a few special-teams plays that kept it just interesting enough, that’s exactly what it was.
The Daily breaks down the good, the bad and the ugly from the Wolverines’ 38-7 win:
Freshman running back Zach Charbonnet scored two touchdowns to bring his season total to 11, a program record for touchdowns by a true freshman.
The offense looked effective in both the running and passing game, and Michigan ran a balanced attack that had been missing earlier in the season, with 155 yards on the ground and 176 in the air. While the offense didn’t seem quite as dominant as it did against Notre Dame, the Wolverines did have a few highlight-reel plays — a 51-yard catch by Nico Collins, a 39-yard run by Tru Wilson and a 29-yard reception by Sean McKeon.
Most of all, the offense avoided any big mistakes. Michigan didn’t turn the ball over for a second straight game, and did not fumble once for the first time all season. Both senior quarterback Shea Patterson and redshirt sophomore quarterback Dylan McCaffrey — who relieved Patterson late in the third quarter — avoided a sack.
“I think collectively, as a group, we’re playing at our highest level,” Patterson said. “ … As a group right now, we’re kind of hitting our stride.”
It was a similar sentiment to the one Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh offered up after a 10-3 win over Iowa. But this time, the statement was fully believable.
Don Brown’s unit offered more of the same, as the defense pitched a shutout (Maryland’s lone touchdown came on special teams) and finished with eight tackles for loss, four sacks and an interception.
Special teams also had three plus plays. Freshman wide receiver Giles Jackson returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, Mike Barrett ran his second successful fake punt of the season and Devin Gil partially blocked a punt in the second quarter.
With any blowout like this, any bad is necessarily nitpicky. But there were still several little things that the Wolverines should continue to work on going forward.
While the defensive numbers look stellar, that unit struggled on two straight drives spanning the first and second quarters. Ultimately, they were bailed out both times — first, when senior safety Josh Metellus intercepted a pass at Michigan’s nine-yard line and then when the Terrapins drove to the Wolverines’ 11 before a tackle for loss, sack and missed field goal.
But against better teams like the Buckeyes, Michigan can’t sit around and wait for the opponent to shoot itself in the foot. Especially so early in the game, a top team would be well-equipped to take advantage of such miscues.
The offense also had a few drives that stalled, going three-and-out twice — and it would’ve been three times if not for the aforementioned fake punt — in drives that coincided with the defensive lapses early in the game. Had the Wolverines not been up 14-0 at the time, those miscues could’ve caused a lot more trouble.
Special teams giveth, special teams taketh away.
After a nice chunk pass to McKeon put Michigan on Maryland’s 19-yard line with six seconds left in the first half, sophomore Jake Moody trotted out to attempt the field goal. He missed for the third time in the past five games. Redshirt junior Quinn Nordin, who was held out of the last two games with an undisclosed injury, handled kicking duties for the rest of the game.
While Moody’s miss opened a window to relitigate the results of the offseason kicking competition — in which Harbaugh determined the two kickers would split time — Nordin’s kick on Saturday was his first made field goal of the season in four attempts.
In another special-teams miscue, the Wolverines allowed Terrapins returner Javon Leake to take a kickoff for a touchdown of his own in the third quarter.
But when your only ugly moments come on a few special teams mishaps, that means your performance was pretty damn solid. Michigan didn’t light the world on fire Saturday, but it didn’t really need to. Once the Wolverines took the lead on the opening kickoff, it felt like Maryland never really had a chance.