It didn’t take long for the Michigan football team to dominate Western Michigan. After a punt on the game’s opening drive, the Wolverines racked up five consecutive touchdowns to put the Broncos well away by halftime.
But you had probably left by then.
It was already a blowout. Western Michigan was already overmatched. And every takeaway from Saturday’s game does come with the caveat of a weak opponent. But the second half did provide a worthwhile look at Michigan’s youth and depth. So here’s what you missed during your nap.
Midway through the third quarter, junior quarterback Shea Patterson threaded the needle for his third touchdown pass of the day — a throw that required touch, zip and just enough loft to hit sophomore receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones in the corner of the endzone. It was a “high level” play according to Jim Harbaugh.
“To change the channel and go to the corner and throw it to Donovan, make that split-second decision and make that accurate of a throw, I mean, you’re really seeing things well,” Harbaugh said.
It was the exclamation point of a solid home debut for Patterson. He didn’t need to do much while the Wolverines’ running game dominated, but Patterson was nonetheless accurate and poised throughout, completing 12-of-17 passes.
He even got involved on the ground, too. Reminiscent of his Ole Miss days, Patterson ran the option to perfection, keeping the ball for 16 yards during his final drive of the afternoon. Running isn’t Patterson’s bread and butter, but it was still a reminder to future opposing defenses to stay honest.
McCaffery, Wilson lead TD drive
Just as he did against Notre Dame, Dylan McCaffery replaced Patterson in the fourth quarter. Saturday’s circumstances were far easier for the redshirt freshman, though.
Up 42-0, McCaffery’s job was simple: handoff to junior Tru Wilson. And Wilson — having recently been announced as the team’s third-string running back — took advantage with 54 yards on six carries.
But McCaffery did get his first career touchdown pass when he hit sophomore Jake McCurry on an out-route for 18-yard score.
Another week, another promising effort from Michigan’s heir apparent.
“Thought Dylan, he’s got a real coolness about him when he’s out there playing. See it on the sideline when I’m calling the plays,” Harbaugh said. “Watching him execute, it was good.”
On the lines
First, both sophomore Aubrey Solomon and senior Lawrence Marshall missed Saturday’s game with undisclosed injuries.
“They’re both out working through something this week,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see when they get back, but we should get them back, sooner rather than later.”
In their absences, junior Carlo Kemp received his first meaningful action at defensive tackle, where he moved this offseason after gaining 15 pounds. Fifth-year senior Bryan Mone and junior Michael Dwumfour also rotated along the interior — a spot that remains unproven and thin, although it didn’t look it against a shaky Broncos offensive line.
Speaking of offensive lines, Michigan’s was indeed improved in both run blocking and pass protection. But the quality of the opposition matters again. Given last week’s struggles at tackle, redshirt freshman James Hudson and true freshman Jaylen Mayfield were notable substitutions at the end of the fourth quarter.
Barring an injury, however, the Wolverines’ starting line will likely be the same next week.
Harbaugh showed faith in starters Jon Runyan, Ben Bredeson, Cesar Ruiz, Michael Onwenu and Juwann Bushell-Beatty despite struggles against the Fighting Irish. It paid off Saturday. Over 300 yards rushing and a mostly clean pocket for Patterson should bring the entire team a needed confidence boost.
“Good to see our young offensive linemen get snaps … Get a lot of guys out there playing,” Harbaugh said. “I think 74 players played in the game, and did things, too, while they were out there. Not just got in the game, but acquitted themselves well. Lot to build on there.”