ANN ARBOR, Mich. — This may have been too easy for Michigan. Saturday’s 63-3 win over Hawaii brought out the best of Michigan’s strengths in what was otherwise a mismatch.
Michigan exercised its depth at every position, including playing three quarterbacks, and having 11 players make catches. The Wolverines had a sound defensive game despite the absence of All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who missed the game with an unspecified injury, and in-game injuries to two of its defensive linemen.
Here are grades for Michigan’s win over the Mountain West Conference’s Rainbow Warriors:
OFFENSE (5 stars)
Wilton Speight’s first start could have been shaky, because he was intercepted on Michigan’s first offensive play. On Michigan’s next drive, however, the redshirt sophomore guided his team to an 11-play, 98-yard scoring drive.
As Speight went, so did the Wolverines, finishing with a tidy 145 yards on 10 of 13 passing. Jehu Chesson (3 catches for 43 yards) and Amara Darboh (3-42, TD) led the receivers and forced Hawaii’s secondary to scramble. True freshman Chris Evans took the spot vacated by an injured De’Veon Smith (ribs), and led all rushers with 112 yards on eight carries. Evans, Ty Isaac, Karan Higdon and Smith combined for 226 of Michigan’s 306 rushing yards..
DEFENSE (5 stars)
The Wolverines lost defensive tackle Bryan Mone and defensive end Taco Charlton and quickly had to regroup an eight-man unit — the core of this defense — that was reduced to six. However, Chase Winovich, a converted linebacker/tight end, led the line with four tackles (two solo).
Linebackers Mike McCray, Ben Gedeon and Jabrill Peppers teamed to lead Michigan with 16 tackles and four sacks as Michigan held Hawaii to 81 yards rushing. Lewis, Michigan’s All-American cornerback, is expected to return next week against Central Florida. In his place, Delano Hill and Channing Stribling each intercepted Hawaii’s quarterbacks to score touchdowns.
SPECIAL TEAMS (4 stars)
No field goals or punts were necessary for the Wolverines, but special teams were consistent against Hawaii. Kenny Allen averaged 64.7 yards on his kickoffs, while Peppers fielded two punt returns for 28 yards.
Allen also kicked five PATs before he was relieved by Ryan Tice, who kicked four PATs.
COACHING (5 stars)
When Michigan had an ample lead, it could have pumped the brakes on a potential rout. But that’s not how Jim Harbaugh does things. Michigan is coached to have a “take no prisoners” attitude, even against mid-major opponents that aren’t of the same caliber as the Wolverines.
With Central Florida on tap next weekend, continuing that momentum will be key for the Wolverines.
OVERALL (5 stars)
In Michigan’s season opener, Hawaii did not set the same curve that a team like Alabama, Stanford or Notre Dame would have, as far as a true evaluation. But after an offseason of hype, and following up on a 10-3 season, the Wolverines needed to open with a resounding win, regardless of their opponent.
Ample margins of victory will be important early in the season for Michigan (1-0), which hosts Central Florida (1-0) at noon Saturday.
Rachel Lenzi covers Michigan sports for Landof10.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @RLenziAJC