Rapid Reaction: JJ McCarthy thrives in his first start for Michigan. Is the QB battle over now?
JJ McCarthy proved himself worth the wait, though exactly what an impressive starting debut against one of the worst teams in college football means remains up for debate.
In Michigan’s 16th game since the 5-star quarterback recruit joined the program, McCarthy connected on 11 of his first 12 throws against overmatched Hawaii as the Wolverines rolled to a 56-10 victory under the lights at The Big House.
His big day started a bit late because of a weather delay, but once it began, the 6-3, 196-pound sophomore came out firing. He racked up 229 passing yards and 3 TDs before halftime as the Wolverines raced to a 42-0 lead. He only ran the ball once, gaining 16 yards — which dropped his season per-carry average to 16.5. Yes, it is silly season, at least in Michigan.
Cade McNamara, the incumbent starter entering this season, played briefly in the first half and part of the second, going 4-of-6 for 26 yards. It didn’t help his cause that he threw a pick and was sacked twice.
As in last week’s season-opener, a third QB saw action for UM. Only this time, it was redshirt freshman Davis Warren rather than Alan Bowman. Warren’s first pass as a Wolverine went 56 yards to Max Bredeson. Warren was 2-for-4 for 65 yards before UM went run-heavy and deep into its bench to close the game.
With the win, No. 4 Michigan improves to 2-0 heading into another glorified scrimmage next week against Connecticut.
Does Jim Harbaugh now have enough data to name a winner in his in-season quarterback competition? Or will it continue to play out through another lopsided victory in Week 3? If nothing else, the quirky 8th-year head coach has inserted some intrigue into the easiest nonconference schedule in the Big Ten, if not the whole country.
McNamara didn’t post a great opening score in his Week 1 start, and might not get another shot. But given the schedule, Harbaugh’s decision-making window remains open. UM opens Big Ten play Sept. 24 vs. Maryland, and doesn’t face a road game or a truly stout defense until Oct. 1 at Iowa.
Still, it looks like McCarthy has the job.
Beyond the QB drama …
In another game Michigan could have won without ever throwing a pass, the defense and the running game again dominated.
In the first half, UM held the Rainbow Warriors to 47 yards and 2 first downs. Meanwhile, the Wolverines posted 410 yards, including 170 on the ground. Blake Corum led the way with 9 carries for 88 yards and score.
By the end, UM had more than 260 rushing yards on better than 8 yards per carry.
Fun with numbers
- Michigan improved to 4-0 vs. Hawaii, outscoring the Warriors 119-13 in the past 2 meetings in Ann Arbor.
- UM covered/didn’t cover what was reportedly its largest point spread ever. It entered the game favored by 51.5 points.
- The Wolverines have won 10 straight regular-season non-conference games since losing to Notre Dame to open the 2018 season. They are 19-2 in regular-season non-conference play under Harbaugh.
Up next: Connecticut
The Wolverines will enter a game as a Top 10 team for the 12th straight time next Saturday, when they’ll devour a third straight home cupcake. For the 2nd consecutive week, the Wolverines will take on a preseason Bottom 10 team, so maybe Jim Harbaugh wants to give Warren or Bowman a start while he’s at it.
Connecticut (1-2 after its 48-14 loss to Syracuse on Saturday) — 1 of 7 FBS independents — has had 5 wins since 2018, the most recent one a week ago over Central Connecticut State. First-year coach Jim Mora, the former NFL and UCLA head coach, lost his No. 1 quarterback — 2021 Penn State washout Ta’Quan Roberson — a couple plays into the Huskies’ Aug. 27 season-opener.
This will be the third meeting of the programs, and UM should prevail by considerably more than it did in 2010 (30-10) and 2013 (24-21).