Ever the perfectionist, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will have plenty of reasons not to be satisfied with the Wolverines’ first-half performance Saturday against Maryland.
- Wilton Speight threw several passes that were not completions, including one that was a sure touchdown to TE Jake Butt.
- RG Kyle Kalis cost the team 15 yards with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
- The defense allowed Maryland to drive the ball inside the 5-yard line on its second possession of the game.
- No receivers were able to get open in the red zone, which forced Speight to have to scramble and risk injury on a play.
- A missed assignment allowed Maryland’s Jesse Aniebonam to blow up a running play for a 4-yard loss.
- WR Drake Harris cost the team 38 yards on a long pass by committing an offensive pass interference penalty.
- RB Chris Evans nearly dropped a screen pass.
- Evans didn’t keep the ball inside the pylon as he went out of bounds, which caused a tough replay decision for the officials and Harbaugh to lose his trusted hat.
This is Jim Harbaugh right after Evans was called out. He scored on the next play. pic.twitter.com/ZPaRum8ODW
— Ryan Connors (@RyanConnors_) November 5, 2016
- The defense nearly allowed D.J. Moore to score a touchdown on the final play of the first half.
So. Close. pic.twitter.com/cdmGCrZ0YX
— Testudo Times (@testudotimes) November 5, 2016
OK, we’re stretching the definition of “reasons to not be satisfied” here. Michigan put together a nearly perfect 30 minutes of football and went to halftime up 35-0.
Five possessions, 34 plays, 402 yards, five touchdowns — it was precise, efficient, creative and devastating.
There was one bit of adversity for the offense, after two penalties and the Aniebonam tackle for loss. The penalties didn’t matter, and the one on Harris was a pretty soft call.
Evans might have bobbled the screen pass, but he turned a 2nd-and-34 into a 56-yard gain. Sure, he didn’t get in the end zone, but Khalid Hill scored on the next play.
The big takeaway continues to be Speight’s improvement. His ability to elude the rush and still find receivers downfield makes this Michigan offense nearly unstoppable.
The offensive line often gives Speight plenty of time to survey the field and for potential targets to make double moves to shake defenders. Even on the plays where the protection breaks down, though, Speight is getting better at either evading pass rushers or using his size to shrug them aside.
Speight set a school record for passing yards in the first half, and he was nearly perfect. He even added a 10-yard touchdown scramble complete with a “Jumpman” pose as he leapt in the air and floated across the goal line.
There were a couple of wobbles by the defense. Maryland’s offense found some success by going fast and getting the ball to the perimeter.
Any time the Wolverines needed to make a stop, they did, and the Terps had very little success in the middle of the field. Maryland collected a lot of empty yards, like the 46 for D.J. Moore on the final play of the half.
The Wolverines had a rivalry game last week, a victory at Michigan State that was very important to this senior-laden team after three straight defeats against the Spartans. They have a big road test at Iowa next week. Michigan has done all it can against the schedule it has played so far, but the two road games have been against teams that are a combined 0-12 in conference play.
This was the perfect “let down, look ahead” game. Michigan’s first half was impeccable, and another resounding statement of the Wolverines’ national title credentials.
Well, almost. Harbaugh will find a few things not to be happy about, besides that hat-toss-inducing call by the officials at the goal line.