3 takeaways from Michigan's survival at Maryland for program's 1,000th victory
Michigan has no time — none — to celebrate becoming the first college football program to reach 1,000 victories.
The No. 3 Wolverines (11-0, 8-0) survived a major scare from Big Ten East division mate Maryland, which produced a blueprint for Ohio State to follow next Saturday in The Game. Taulia Tagovailoa and Maryland kept battling and battling until the dying minutes before falling at home 31-24.
Michigan acting head coach Sherrone Moore ratcheted down the offense for a second straight week, and Jesse Minter’s defense gave up a season-high point total for the 3rd straight game. The defense also lost the battle at scrimmage several times in short-yardage situations.
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Nonetheless, in the survive-and-advance portion of the season, Michigan got by without suspended coach Jim Harbaugh, who served the middle leg of his B1G-imposed 3-game suspension. The Wolverines improved to 11-1 all-time vs. the Terps, and won their 8th straight in the series since Harbaugh replaced Brady Hoke in 2015.
The battle of unbeatens will go on as scheduled next week, assuming Ohio State takes care of business in a late afternoon start against Minnesota.
Is JJ ready for The Game?
JJ McCarthy was throwing darts in the 2-minute drill to close the first half, marching Michigan toward a TD to completely bury Maryland.
Then, on a rollout to avoid pressure, he made both a poor decision and a poor throw across his body on 1st-and-goal from the 7. A Maryland defender dropped what should have been an easy interception. Given the reprieve, McCarthy essentially made the same mistake again, minus the rollout, and this one didn’t get dropped.
Just that quickly, “he’s fine” turned into “is JJ okay?” Is McCarthy ready for No. 2 Ohio State’s visit to the Big House next Saturday?
Or has acting head coach Sherrone Moore’s run-heavy approach sapped the former 5-star quarterback’s confidence and sharpness. After passing only 8 times for 60 yards (all in the first half) a week ago at Penn State, McCarthy was 7-of-11 for 97 yards against the Terps prior to the 2 ugly throws to close the first half at College Park, Md.
The second half turned out to be a mixed bag. McCarthy zipped a pass to Colston Loveland to convert a 4th-and-3 on the way to a touchdown. But he misfired on a deep shot in the fourth quarter that might have iced the game.
McCarthy’s final numbers: 12-of-23, 141 yards, INT; 2 carries for -7 yards. As a team, Michigan finished with less than 300 yards, with Blake Corum gaining 94 hard-earned rushing yards on 28 carries.
Is Michigan’s defense in trouble?
Minter’s group bowed up when it was needed, shutting out the Terps in the fourth quarter.
A sack by Kenneth Grant — 1 of Michigan’s 5 for 53 yards — pinned Maryland on its 2-yard line, stifling 1 fourth-quarter drive. Pressure led to a grounding penalty and a safety later in the quarter. Mike Sainristil picked off 2 Tagovailoa passes.
But through the middle 2 quarters, Tagovailoa carved up Michigan for 21 points. All 3 drives ended with Maryland plowing backup QB Billy Edwards Jr. into the end zone with the rugby-scrum, tush-push play.
The Wolverines were definitely on their heels for a while, which doesn’t bode well for next week. In RB TreVeyon Henderson and WR Marvin Harrison Jr., the Buckeyes have better weapons than Maryland. And rapidly improving first-year starter Kyle McCord might create as many challenges as Tagovailoa. McCord might also benefit from better protection.
Michigan certainly has things left to prove, on both sides of the ball.
Taulia Tagovailoa fades out
Maryland has 2 more games this season, and its 4th-year starting quarterback probably will play in both of them. Assuming he remains healthy, there’s no reason for him to sit out. The redshirt senior is not a major NFL prospect at this point, so continuing to use the college stage makes sense.
But Saturday was his final home game, and last appearance in a game with national implications.
Like many of his previous outings in the big B1G spotlight — and his career in general — he generated some buzz against the Wolverines but ultimately was overwhelmed.
Maryland’s limitations have more to do with the players around Tagovailoa, but the 5-foot-11 little brother of NFL starter Tua Tagovailoa has too often turned negative plays into disasters with poor ball security. He gave up a strip-sack scoop-and-score to put his team down 14-3, and threw a third-quarter pick just when Maryland was scaring the crap out of Michigan, down just 23-17.
He finished 21of-31 for 247 yards as Maryland scored more points on Michigan than anyone this season. But his lost fumble and 9th and 10th interceptions on the season let Michigan off the hook.
Maryland improved by bringing in coach Mike Locksley in 2019 and Tagovailoa a year later, both from Alabama, but not as much as fans or the administration probably hoped. The Terps (6-5, 3-5) will play in a bowl for a 3rd straight year, and Tagovailoa will finish with more than 11,000 career passing yards.
But coach and player hit a ceiling, never entering the AP Top 25, and a fall-off seems likely in 2024.