The first offensive play was a disaster.
Wilton Speight’s first pass as the starting quarterback for Michigan was intercepted by Hawai’i’s Damien Packer. After a long quarterback competition that, really, still hasn’t been decided, it was the worst possible beginning for Speight.
But things got better after that. In fact, the Wolverines performance after that first throw was nearly perfect. It was the type of game Michigan fans had been anticipating since last season ended.
All of the hype, the expectations, the new standard that has rejuvenated the program, Michigan looks prepared to meet. A 63-3 win over Hawai’i is a pretty good indication of that.
This is why Jim Harbaugh was lassoed back to Ann Arbor. The winged helmet and “Block M” had strayed from its football-heavy roots under Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke. Michigan wasn’t carrying its weight in the national conversation and had become a middling team in the B1G.
What a difference two years can make.
Speight bounced back after the interception. He completed 10 of his final 12 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Freshman running back Chris Evans had a big afternoon, carrying the ball for 112 yards and two scores on eight carries. Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh each had three catches.
The offense gained more than 500 yards. it converted on all seven of its third down attempts. The lone turnover that started the game was the only noticeable mistake.
Michigan’s defense may have been even better.
It forced two turnovers in the contest, both interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. The Wolverines held the Warriors under 250 yards of total offense and stopped Hawai’i on nine of its 10 third down attempts.
The only points Hawai’i scored came on a 55-yard field goal by Rigoberto Sanchez in the fourth quarter.
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For the first game of the season, Michigan was about as close to perfect as you can come.
And the Wolverines are only going to get better.
The quarterback dilemma will fall by the wayside after Speight’s impressive performance in his first career start. The receivers and offensive line will become more familiar with the guy under center, resulting in a more dangerous attack.
Playmakers like Darboh and Chesson are going to get their footing. Evans showed that he can be a reliable ball carrier, giving the Wolverines another weapon in the backfield with De’Veon Smith and Ty Isaac.
Just like it was last season, Michigan’s defense is stingy.
It’s hard to remember when the Wolverines were this talented on both sides of the football last. You could look back to the 2006 team that finished the year 11-2 and was ranked no. 2 in the country at one point. But the team 10 years later looks even better than that group.
Michigan answered the call on Saturday afternoon. With extraordinary expectations, the Wolverines performed at a high level with minimal errors. Even against a cellar dweller like Hawai’i, Michigan looked impressive.
All the offseason shenanigans, all the controversy surrounding Harbaugh, that’s not going to be what the media is talking about when it mentions Michigan football. Harbaugh has brought pride back to the winged helmet and it showed on Saturday.
Many have surrendered to the fact that Michigan has one of its best teams in several seasons. But after a significant downfall, that isn’t saying too much. After last year’s 10-win season, we all knew the Wolverines were going to be good.
But did they show that they are national championship good in their season opener?
That can be answered with one word. Yes.