Michigan football: Dangerous speed, tons of points and efficiency are early hallmarks for Wolverines
Entering Saturday, UConn coach Jim Mora said that Michigan “had no holes” … guessing it’s hard to identify issues when they’re so hard to see.
The No. 4-ranked Wolverines (3-0) aren’t perfect by any means, but they’re clearly quicker and more athletic than they’ve ever been under coach Jim Harbaugh. Right now, their fleet feet have masked any glaring concerns through the first 3 weeks of play.
The only things people see are speed and points.
Saturday’s 59-0 dismantling of the Huskies (1-3) in Ann Arbor was just the most recent example of the Wolverines’ ability to run the field, particularly on the offensive side. It was 38-0 at the half, but it might as well have been 56-0 — the score didn’t matter. Michigan ended it early and basically toyed with the Huskies during the rest of the afternoon.
Pitch-and-catch options Roman Wilson and AJ Henning are basically the shiny rims on Harbaugh’s new ride. Once they catch one in the flat/perimeter, their speed takes over and leaves defenders questioning their existence and purpose in life. Wilson and Henning are fast, and they’ll continue being blurs on the field for the rest of the season.
The Wolverines’ 3-0 start has been historical in a couple of ways: It’s the first time during the Harbaugh era that UM has scored 50-plus points in 3 straight games, and it’s the first time during the past 20 years (and possibly ever) scoring consecutive 50-plus during any stretch. Prior to Saturday’s public flogging of UConn, Michigan averaged 53.5 points per game, easily and almost effortlessly rolling Colorado State and Hawaii before dumping the Huskies.
The pace has been crazy.
In 2016, the Wolverines opened by eclipsing 60 and 50 points during their first 2 games — but this year looks like they could be something even more dangerous.
Could the Wolverines end up posting 50-plus for the fourth time in a row? They open the Big Ten schedule next week vs. Maryland, a team they beat 59-18 in 2021. Historically, Harbaugh’s Wolverines have easily put up 35+ vs. the Terps. Back in 2016, UM hopped over the turtles with a 59-3 victory.
A healthy day on the scoreboard is certainly in Michigan’s future next weekend vs. Maryland. Saturday could be another installment of what has been some of the highest-octane Wolverines offense ever put on a football field.
Harbaugh’s co-offensive coordinators team of Matt Weiss (QBs) and Sherrone Moore (OL) is yielding huge results, and Jesse Minter’s defense has helped manufacture points, too.
By scoring 3 rushing TDs within the first 19 minutes of game play, running back Blake Corum put the game to bed early in the first half, tucking it in tightly and kissing it goodnight. Michigan’s first 3 TD drives were quick and effective, scoring in 2:01, 4:02 and 56 seconds (turnover-aided). And honestly, the Wolverines didn’t even appear to be in top gear. Then there was more Corum, as he added a career-high 4th TD before the break — a 1-yard score that capped a 3-play, 60-yard drive that need just 1:22 to complete.
He had 5 TDs vs. UConn, the most in a game in a long, long … well, wait. Hassan Haskins accomplished that feat just months ago vs. Ohio State. But anyway, 5 TDs are the most in program history, and Corum scored on nearly half of his 12 carries for 71 yards.
So yes, Michigan looks like it can put up some points.
Defense has wheels
The defense looks fast. Throughout Saturday’s blasting of UConn, Wolverines corners Gemon Green and DJ Turner were crashing in on the ball with swift strikes. They each had opportunities for INTs during the first 20 minutes of game play, with Green dropping a definitely-should-have-been INT in the first quarter. Linebacker Junior Colson caught a popped-out ball during a play that resulted in pass-interference on Turner. Regardless of the outcome, Colson was in a good spot to make something happen and was one of many examples of speed/power throughout the Wolverines’ defense.
Despite not coming up with any sacks, Michigan DLs Mazi Smith and Kris Jenkins dominated the trenches vs. the overmatched Huskies O-line. Smith has been called a “freak” by high-profile draft analysts and should be among the top interior linemen in the nation this season.
AJ Henning’s speed and elusiveness led to a 61-yard punt return TD, breaking 3 initial tackles — upon reception of punt — and breaking away from contact and dodging another 2 would-be tacklers en route to the end zone. Michigan went up 31-0 at that point and the return took roughly 8 or 9 seconds (estimating).
Points per second might be an advanced stat that Michigan should consider tracking this season.
Michigan has had a run of scoring touchdowns on 10 of 12 drives with JJ McCarthy leading the offense this season. Such a ratio makes it easy to forecast a lot of points scored Saturday vs. Maryland, not to mention for the rest of the season. Of course, the question of sustainability will need to be answered — it’s not likely that Michigan will throw 50 on the board every weekend, or that McCarthy will go stretches of leading the Wolverines to touchdowns 75+ percent of the time. The competition level will ramp up eventually.