Michigan football: Grades and analysis of Wolverines' 31-10 win over Washington
Had Washington retained a top-25 ranking and not lost 13-7 to FCS-level Montana in Week 1, Michigan’s 31-10 victory Saturday over the Huskies probably would have been a little sweeter for coach Jim Harbaugh, who’s never lost to a Pac-12 opponent in Ann Arbor.
However, at this stage of the season, a win is a win for the Wolverines, who rebounded from a so-so first half to complete one of Harbaugh’s better wins since assuming control of the program in 2015.
Leading 10-0 at the half, Michigan relied on its ground game to carry it the rest of the way. Quarterback Cade McNamara wasn’t much of a factor, other than being an adequate game manager. The backfield, though, stole the show and sealed the Wolverines’ second victory of the 2021 season.
All wins carry weight. This one may have jumpstarted the Wolverines, who will face Northern Illinois and Rutgers before traveling for a real test at Wisconsin. It wasn’t all roses for Michigan — but UM got the job done, particularly during critical moments.
It’s time to analyze what happened, so here are grades and highlights from Saturday night.
Cade was OK
QB Cade McNamara was 4-10 for 30 yards in the first half, finishing the evening 7-15 for 44 yards. Statistically, it was his worst performance with the Wolverines; however, his arm wasn’t needed to defeat Washington — it was his leadership and ability to handle the Huskies pressure.
And despite only throwing 15 times, he made the most of some of his tosses.
“I think he did good. That was a real strength for Washington. Their pass defense is outstanding. Their corners are tremendous. Winning the game going throw-for-throw with those guys … we didn’t think was the best formula to win the football game,” Harbaugh said following the game. “But [McNamara] made a big third-down conversion on a go-route to C.J. (Cornelius Johnson) early in the game. Had the back shoulder — you saw how covered it was. But C.J. made a great adjustment on the ball, and that was a big conversion that led to points.”
Now 2-1 as a starter, McNamara has started a little streak; it’s possible that he’s now gained more confidence — even more than after triple-OT vs. Rutgers in 2020 — and will start to have a more commanding presence on the field. Saturday, he was basically just another guy in another spot on the field.
Overall, the stats weren’t there to warrant much higher than an average grade. The stuff that doesn’t show up on the stat sheets, though, should be the focus of the matter.
Running backs Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins proved why there has been so much competition for the No. 1 RB spot in Ann Arbor. Harbaugh has gone on-record saying that there will be a rotation of up to 4 guys in the backfield, but it’s clear that Corum and Haskins are a cut above the rest.
Corum’s 67-yard rushing TD in the first half was just another example of Michigan’s ability to break loose every so often. That ability was shown in 2020 but never materialized into more than just some obscure stats. This season, well … we still have to wait and see what happens.
But so far, the big-play factor does look legitimate.
And so does Corum, who finished with 21 carries for 171 yards and 3 touchdowns: A game-sealing 4-yarder in the fourth quarter, a 7-yarder and the 67-yard score.
Haskins had a 6-yard TD that boosted Michigan to a 24-3 lead in early in the fourth quarter, finishing with 27 carries for 155 yards. From the start, it was evident that Haskins’ physical style was going to wear on Washington, which had yet to face a backfield as talented as the Wolverines’ this season — and it might not see one that good for the rest of the year.
Accounting for 326 of 343 total rushing yards, Corum and Haskins showed the nation that they’re capable of delivering quick jabs and knockout blows. This is a backfield to watch.
Grade: A+++ (that’s a Harbaugh-ism)
Aidan Hutchinson, DE, will get a lot of credit for Saturday’s defensive effort — which he should, he had 2.5 sacks and 4 tackles. However, LB Josh Ross deserves some shine as well, totaling a game-high 11 tackles and 3 QB hurries. Because of Ross, the Huskies weren’t able to establish rhythm on the ground, forcing them to the air out of desperation.
Kris Jenkins had a night on the D-line, coming up with a shared sack (Hutchinson) and 5 tackles (1 solo). For a guy who hasn’t played a lot, a game like Saturday’s will certainly serve as fuel for the remainder of the season.
Michigan’s defense wasn’t flawless against Washington, giving up 343 yards — but it was nearly perfect against the run, giving up just 50 yards (the lowest rushing total of an opponent during the Harbaugh era).
The secondary still needs to buckle down and get tighter. Morris went 20-37 (the same completion-attempt as WMU QB Kaleb Eleby in Week 1) and threw for 297 yards — the most so far against Michigan this season.
Due to crowd noise and Michigan’s menacing presence on the other side, the Huskies had to burn a timeout on the first play of the game, just to regain composure and bearings. If that doesn’t say something, nothing will — with a loud stadium and defense ready to pounce, the Wolverines should be tough to beat in Ann Arbor this season.
McNamara didn’t have the banner outing as some projected, but the defense held tight and the running game was beyond effective. Score a B+ for the overall win as well. Michigan looks to be on to something, and the next 2 weeks will be critical before lacing up against the Badgers.