The Michigan football team took care of business.
In a 59-0 rout of UConn (1-3 overall), the fourth-ranked Wolverines (3-0) secured their third win of the season, closing out their non-conference slate on a high note. It was a outcome that was never really in doubt — the Huskies assuming the role they were cast in as Michigan’s third-straight low-caliber opponent.
“We’re always competing with ourselves,” sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy said. “And no matter who we’re playing, or when we’re playing, we’re always just gonna go out there and try to be the best version of ourselves every single week.”
From the opening kickoff, the Wolverines made the gap in talent evident. In just four plays, Michigan went 72 yards and put its first touchdown on the board — a handoff to junior running back Blake Corum, his first of five scores on the day. Michigan’s defensive start was just as commanding, squashing UConn’s first drive for a three-and-out where the Huskies incurred negative yardage.
But like most Jim Harbaugh-coached teams, an evident skill difference means very little in terms of intensity. The Michigan coach and his team didn’t take their foot off the gas, allowing McCarthy to cook under center in his first start as undisputed QB1.
And the McCarthy-led offense was efficient. It notched 231 yards with McCarthy at quarterback in the first half, 172 of which came in the air on an impressive 10-for-13 efficiency, and tallied four touchdowns. The Wolverines were forced to punt just twice in the first two quarters, with two other drives ending in field goal attempts for senior kicker Jake Moody.
Still, McCarthy and the offense wasn’t satisfied with anything less than perfection.
“I feel like the efficiency was definitely there,” McCarthy said. “But we had that one drive, I think it’s the second drive of the game, where we went three and out. That one was on me, so that one kind of haunts me, but you know, I thought we played pretty well in the first half.”
A large part of Michigan’s offensive success can be attributed to its defensive and special teams’ performance, too. The offense had consistently stellar field position, gifted by the other two facets of the game, which allowed it to score quickly and often.
The Wolverines’ defense held the Huskies to a lowly 64 yards in the first half and just 110 on the game. Like an anaconda, Michigan squeezed the life out of the Huskies’ offense, a testament to the difference between the two programs heading into the game.
The Wolverines also recovered a fumble and blocked a punt to flip the field in their favor — not to mention a 61-yard punt return touchdown by junior receiver A.J. Henning — exercising their will on UConn’s floundering squad.
Just before the half, a 38-0 beatdown allowed Michigan to give its starters some rest and give others a chance to see the field. As senior quarterback Cade McNamara assumed position under center, the Big House provided a standing ovation — a sharp contrast to the boos he heard just last week. But McNamara’s day didn’t end on a positive note, as he exited the game with an injury that Harbaugh said is going to sideline him “for a few weeks.”
“Not going to be a season ending thing, I don’t think, but he’ll miss some time,’ Harbaugh affirmed.
At the other end of the break, the already-domineering Wolverines made one final statement before the starters were truly done for the day.
Michigan trotted out its offensive A-team one last time, as if to bury any shred of doubt that the Huskies were a worthy opponent. In an 11-play, 83-yard drive, McCarthy led the Wolverines down the field to punch in yet another touchdown. It was the fifth time Corum found the endzone on the day, tying a program record last reached by running back Hassan Haskins a season ago against Ohio State.
“I feel like we look good, but we haven’t faced any adversity,” Corum said. “I really don’t know how good we’re going to be. I feel it. I feel like we’re gonna be great, but I can’t tell you. But I’ll tell you (this): By the look of things, sky’s the limit for this offense.”
Not much changed as the game entered its formative stages; the backups piled on and UConn continued to struggle. Michigan proved that it can beat bad teams, but not much else.
And with a non-conference schedule like the Wolverines booked this year, there was nothing else to prove in non-conference competition.
“You can only play your schedule,” Corum said. “We treat every game like it’s a championship game. … We’re just playing the schedule. We’re having fun, we’re out there ballin’. It’s been great, but Big Ten is on the way — I’m excited.”