EAST LANSING, Mich. — Following Michigan’s 32-23 win Saturday at Michigan State, it may have been easy for Amara Darboh to get lost in the shuffle.
There was the thrill of doing something that hadn’t been done since 2012: Beating Michigan State. Many of Michigan’s players simply wanted to leave the field and put their arms around the 4-foot figurine of Paul Bunyan, awarded annually to the winner of this rivalry game.
It was also obvious that Michigan’s defense struggled in the fourth quarter, giving up an uncharacteristic 231 yards in that quarter to a Spartans team that’s floundered through much of the season and that used three quarterbacks Saturday afternoon.
There is no question, however, that the game’s final outcome could not have happened without the Wolverines’ steady receiving corps, and in particular Darboh. The senior receiver led all receivers Saturday in East Lansing with a career-best 165 yards on 8 catches, the standout day among a group which has at least 200 yards in six of eight games this season for No. 2 Michigan (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten).
Darboh has quietly averaged a respectable 83 yards a game.
|Games||Michigan receiving yards||Darboh’s receiving yards|
|vs. Penn State||189||44|
|at Michigan State||244||165|
When asked about containing Darboh, Michigan State defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett basically skirted the topic of Darboh and spoke in general terms of the productivity of Michigan’s offense.
“First of all, it’s not just the individuals; it’s the schemes they run,” Barnett said. “They are well-coached and that allows them to make plays. When their players have the opportunity to make plays, them seem to make them because they know that that’s the position that their coaches put them in.”
Darboh, however, remained modest when asked to assess his play against the Spartans.
“It starts with a week of practice Monday, through Friday, and then I try to go out and practice like it’s a game,” Darboh said. “And (QB) Wilton (Speight) was putting the ball where I needed to be. The line was blocking and the running backs were picking up blitz or whatever, so it was on me to make plays.”
Including one play, in particular, a one-handed 39-yard grab on second-and-8 from the Michigan 6-yard-line.
Amara Darboh is having himself a day.
How about this @umichfootball catch?!
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 29, 2016
“There was that deep ball down the left-hand side where Amara couldn’t really even get his right hand up, because he was getting held,” Speight said. “Still, he was able to pull it in with one arm. And to get from the around the 5-yard line up close to the 50-yard line, that’s a momentum-shifter.
“And it makes my job easier when I’ve got a bigger target.”
Earlier in the week, Speight lamented the fact that he won’t have either Darboh or Jehu Chesson to throw to next season (or Jake Butt, for that matter, as all are in their final year of eligibility at Michigan).
“They’ll be playing on Sundays,” Speight declared.
CBSSports.com projects Darboh as the 12th-best receiver available in April’s 2017 NFL Draft, and projects Chesson as the 17th-best receiver available. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh also said last week that he expects to have a double-digit number of players get drafted this spring.
With 664 receiving yards this season and his career-best output Saturday at Spartan Stadium, Darboh may have strengthened his case for post-college employment.
“His game is at a very high level, some of the highest I’ve seen of a college receiver,” Harbaugh said Saturday. “He’s well-established as a great playmaker and disciplined in every route he runs. He blocks, a great teammate, he does it all and does it at the best he can possibly do. He’s got a lot of God-given talent and a great work ethic. It was a career game for him.”