Michigan 35, Maryland 10

Submitted by Ace on November 11th, 2017 at 7:58 PM

[Paul Sherman/MGoBlog]

Jim Harbaugh must be so disappointed.

Once upon a time, when Maryland coach DJ Durkin was Harbaugh's young assistant at Stanford, the two locked horns in one of the most competitive games of one-on-one "basketball" on record.

"It took like an hour and a half, and it ended 4-3 or whatever," recalls former Stanford offensive tackle Ben Muth. "Neither of them would call a foul. Someone did in the first five minutes, the other guy made fun of him, so it was on from there.

"It was like that James Caan 'Rollerball' movie, basically a fight to the death."

Today, Durkin called for not one, but two Sad Field Goals on fourth-and-short situations with his team down 28-0. Henry Darnstadster connected from 20 yards on the second, most depressing attempt with 19 seconds left in the third quarter, ensuring Maryland wouldn't be shut out. James Franklin would be proud.

Given (1) Maryland's white flag, (2) an unfortunate series of hopefully minor injuries, and (3) the desire not to put anything on film for Wisconsin and Ohio State, Michigan went into a shell. The offense went run-run-pass or run-screen-run for most of the fourth quarter, resulting in some quick exits. The Terps put together a couple decent drives, even managing to score a touchdown on one. A certain segment of the fanbase found this quite alarming.

Then Chris Evans jumped over a guy, bulled through two tackles on his way to the end zone on the next play, and kicked the Terrapin corpse.

The game was already over, no matter what Glen Mason said. Michigan jumped all over Maryland from the start, establishing the duo of Karan Higdon and Chris Evans early. The two combined for 44 yards on Michigan's second drive before Henry Poggi, playing in his home state, plunged in from two yards for a 7-0 lead. After Brandon Peters broke the pocket and found Higdon for a 35-yard catch-and-run, Evans covered the remaining 16 yards on four rushes, diving in from a yard out to bring the margin to 14.

The defense held Maryland to 3.0 yards per play in the first half. [Sherman]

The Wolverines broke it wide open four plays later, stuffing Jacquille Veii on an ill-advised fake punt in Maryland territory, then striking on the next snap with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Peters to Zach Gentry. Josh Metellus gave the offense great field position once again with a remarkably casual blocked punt on the following Terrapin drive. After a 16-yard Higdon run to set up first-and-goal, Peters found Sean McKeon wide open on a waggle.

Michigan missed an opportunity to extend the blowout even further before the half. Maryland's best drive of the day got them into a goal-to-go situation, but on third down, fourth-string quarterback Ryan Brand—the latest injury replacement at QB for Maryland—panicked under heavy pressure from Rashan Gary and Josh Uche, throwing a duck that David Long plucked out of the air and ran all the way back to the Maryland 20. The offense went three-and-out; for the third straight game, Quinn Nordin missed a kick, this one from only 31 yards out.

Even so, Michigan held a 212-112 edge in yardage at halftime to go with a 28-0 lead. Peters was averaging ten yards per attempt even though Maryland got away with some very physical coverage early. The backs were plugging along at five yards a pop. The defense was the defense.

Evans' late hurdle and subsequent TD made the final score more fitting. [Sherman]

After stopping Maryland, Michigan went three-and-out on their opening drive of the second half. That'd be the last time this game had a whiff of competitiveness, as Durkin elected to try a 43-yard field goal on fourth-and-two with under eight minutes to play in the third quarter. To cut a four-score game to a four-score game. Some pity points for the home crowd. The kicker missed.

From there, little of actual note occurred. There was a successful Sad Field Goal. The Terps scored a touchdown. Evans responded on the next drive with his leap-and-score sequence. In an unfortunate way to prove why Harbaugh shelved most of the playbook in favor of clock-chewing, multiple Wolverines got dinged up; Higdon exited after the first half with a right ankle injury, Long had to put a brace on his left knee, Lavert Hill suffered a concussion, and Rashan Gary walked off favoring his arm. After the game, Harbaugh said "we'll see" about the status of those four players.

Peters kneeled the game out inside the Maryland ten.

The final stats show a Maryland advantage of 340-305 in total yardage. That's a hollow victory for the Terps in a game that got out of hand early and featured several short fields for Michigan—there were only so many available yards to gain in the first half. Don't be fooled: this was a blowout with nearly a full half of garbage time. Durkin certainly treated it that way.

Next week in Madison, Michigan can start emptying out the playbook.



November 11th, 2017 at 8:02 PM ^

Maryland didn't have a drive over 12 yards til it was 21-0. Then it was 28 after a short touchdown after a long interception. The yardage thing is whatever since it was over by then.

Michigan Arrogance

November 12th, 2017 at 8:56 AM ^

about 12 years ago, I started playing with this metrics called yards and points per posession. but the possessions were always b/t like 11 and 15 and I thought to myself, "Self, not all possessions have the same yards available to them." So I started playing with dividing those by average starting field position or yards avaiable at the start of the possession or something of that nature. I thought it was a good, holistic way (not 10,000 ft, but 1,00ft view IYNWIM?) to judge the offensive perfromance (and defensive performance too).


November 11th, 2017 at 8:07 PM ^

This was a reverse RR game. Yardage looked nice for Maryland, but it wasn't until the game was effectively over that it got that way. I'm sure the coaches will have lots of teachable moments from this game though which will hopefully help.


November 12th, 2017 at 1:59 PM ^

If you're 'holding back the playbook' - at what point of unveiling the playbook involves a WR catching a ball? Face it, this running game is totally and completely neautralized against a team with competent defense. Do you ever wonder why the NFL is quarterback league and not a running back league? Because most battles up front against elite teams end up in a tie. 

Is that take 'negative' enough for you? So yeah, I downvoted him because it was trolling under the politics pretext but underlying take is an inaccurate one - this Michigan team will most likely be 8-4, and will have lost to all three of our divisional rivals. 

*Edit - I meant to reply to MGoBlue24.


November 12th, 2017 at 10:53 PM ^

Nervous Nellies . . . also known as those you who analyze the games as objectively as they can instead of engaging in wild homerism.  Let's be honest, when has this staff EVER "emptied out the playbook" for a big game. Answer:  NEVER.  I've hoped for it 6 times now and it's never happened.  That's 2 OSU games, 3 Sparty, and this year's PSU game.  Nothing.   I love Brian and Ace, but there's no chance we show significant new plays/scheme this weekend.  If somebody can offer anything concrete to support the notion that the offensive staff will really show up on Saturday and that they've been stockpiling great plays only to unload them on Wiscy and/or OSU, please provide it now,  I could use some basis for hope. 

Stringer Bell

November 11th, 2017 at 8:12 PM ^

Hope everyone's ok.  There was a noticeable dropoff in the run game when Higdon went out, we're really gonna need him next week.  Wisconsin's defense is legit, probably the best we'll face all year.


November 11th, 2017 at 9:00 PM ^

I’m struggling to have any confidence in the play calls the coaching staff might be “holding back”. Somebody help me out here. They looked very much like a team trying to convert first downs in the second half, but one unable to do so. I hear a lot of talk about going vanilla, but doesn’t that just describe the offense as a whole this season? I see a very limited offense, and doubt we’ll see anything unusually impressive in the next two weeks.


November 12th, 2017 at 2:03 PM ^

This is the most disappointing aspect of Harbaugh's tenure. I really thought he would cook up 2 or 3 plays a game that would be totally bonkers. Can't you get a GA to do this? This would take what, 5% of the practice time per week? And I watched them practice prior to homecoming - there is a non-trivial part of practice where they rep their 'motions' - replace this preparation (for God's sake, if you don't have your motions down in game 12, something is seriously wrong) with 10-15 minutes of repping the trick plays.

DO SOMETHING CRAZY, FLEA FLICKER, ANYTHING. If you're a talent/experience deficient team, at least go CHAOS MODE.


November 11th, 2017 at 8:12 PM ^

So, on the one hand, it's a road game that Michigan totally dominated in the first half.

On the other, once the second half started Michigan couldn't impose its will, vanilla playbook or not.

Peters shows flashes of why he has the potential to be really good. And that seam pass TD was wonderful.

But he's just not there yet. He has yet to complete a pass requiring a complex defensive read. He missed that bomb to DPJ, a major (if only somewhat accurate) criticism people have of Speight. He bails too early.

I don't think he has what it takes to beat Wisconsin or OSU yet. And I think people who think he's "great" are going to be disappointed. He can make some easy throws, but when we get behind the sticks the throws won't be easy.

Injuries, including the Speight injury, are starting to really take their toll.


November 11th, 2017 at 8:51 PM ^

We're not going to score at will against those guys. They, however, will score points. It is unlikely that Michigan will be able to beat them without completing some difficult passes, backing off the safeties, converting some challenging third downs, scoring a TD or two in the air.

And I don't believe Peters is able to do those things yet. Thus my statement.

The Fan in Fargo

November 11th, 2017 at 9:00 PM ^

The exception to your statements is to jump out big on those teams early. Punch them in the mouth and coast. Can it be done? You damn right. Pound them play after play in the running game and keep their offenses off the field. Just like in the old days. How'd Iowa beat the candy asses last week? Kept pounding them running the ball and picked them apart all over the field passing. Wore down their not so special defense. Peters can do that. Michigan's offense can be better than Iowa's, especially the running game hands down and Michigan's defense is better than Iowa's. 

I Like Burgers

November 11th, 2017 at 8:50 PM ^

That and the "he's not going to be great" comment are ridiculous. This was his second start, its still a young offense, and we still don't really have any WRs to throw to.  With Perry out again, its pretty much DPJ and the TEs now.  Which ain't great.

Which is why I wondered in the comment below whether or not the offense was holding things back so its not on film, or considering that the QB is in his second start, and they didn't have their starting WR and RB in the second half, if that's all there is.

Which is honestly fine.  They've lost their top 2 QBs, WRs, starting RG, Issac, and how maybe Higdon.  Can't imagine they have a bunch of super creative plays saved up.  Seems like they'd be spending most of their practice time getting the replacements up to speed and in rhythm instead of repping a bunch of new stuff to save for later.


November 11th, 2017 at 8:53 PM ^

At no time did I either say or imply that "he's not going to be great." I said that those who think he is great right now are going to be disappointed, specifically in the next two weeks. As I said elsewhere in the post, he shows quite a bit of potential. He could make tremendous leaps even next year. But that's not next week.


November 11th, 2017 at 8:54 PM ^

you made the point yourself. He didn’t say the team can’t beat Wisconsin or OSU, just that Peters won’t be the one digging out a victory. I tend to agree. I think there have been plenty of instances where Michigan “shelves” things during a blowout. I’m not sure tonight was a good example. They tried to move the ball past the sticks a number of times, and often looked really out of sorts. A healthy portion of that is due to Peter’s inexperience.


November 12th, 2017 at 12:17 AM ^

That pass up the seam reminded me of the same type of pass that Speight made to Perry (against Cinci?). His throw down the sideline to DPJ was actually a beautiful throw that DPJ couldn't come down with/drew a PI. He is growing IMHO. 

I see QBs like Lewerke, C. Thorson getting better and I also see Peters that coaches trust. I like my Peters (don't you??). 

Kinda agree may not be enough to win against Wiscy and OSU, but he's a Freshman, he'll get better. I like his throws a heck of a lot better than noodlearm Hornibrook. 


November 12th, 2017 at 12:00 PM ^

he's a Freshman

It irks me when people reference RS freshman as freshman. Being a RS freshman is only referencing his eligibility. He is in fact a sophomore. Calling a RS freshman a freshman misleads one to the fact that although he may not have game experience prior to this year, he has had an entire year practicing, lifting, watching film, getting college coaching, adjusting to college, etc. A RS freshman has an entire year of experience in a college football program, which is entirely different than a guy that just showed up in college 3 months ago.

I Like Burgers

November 11th, 2017 at 8:12 PM ^

Not necessarily a complaint, but I always see the phrase “didn’t want to put anything on film” to explain away poor performances and often wonder how true that is. We heard that a lot last season, especially when it came to the PepCat package, and at the end of the day, it turns out there was nothing else. What we had seen was all there is.

With the offense going into a shell in the second half, I have the same feeling. How much of that was the ol’ don’t put it on film, and how much of it was this is Peters’ second start and that’s just all there is to the offense at this point. Kinda feel like that’s all there is, but we’ll see.


November 11th, 2017 at 9:42 PM ^

I'm sure there are more things the run game can do, counters to what's already on film.  That TE seam to Gentry was something we haven't seen all year.  And frankly, it was pure joy to see it!  I think the second half was all about plain vanilla.  All the shifting around pre-snap we saw in the first half, wasn't there in the second half.  Save for a couple deep routes, nothing from the pass game - not even practice.  The second half was a 'get the win, get out' half of football...


November 11th, 2017 at 10:25 PM ^

JH has so many things "on film" over the last two years that the opposing GAs and analysts will stitch together. JH could readily pull from any if the roughly 400 unique formation/plays from this year - yet he chose 20 extremely ineffective plays. The playcalling was bad and overly conservative Olin the 2nd half, not vanilla.

I Like Burgers

November 11th, 2017 at 11:09 PM ^

What you say is true. A lot of the things they did in the first half, they didn't do in the second.  But if new wrinkles and formations are the only way they can move the ball, that doesn't bode well for the final two games.  Gimmicks only get you so far against good defenses.

Also, there's no reason they couldn't have just run the same stuff from the first half.  Run that seem play again.  Run your shifts and whatnot again.  Keep running and repping it until they stop it.

AA Forever

November 12th, 2017 at 8:12 AM ^

Contrary to what The OP said, this was not a whole half of garbage time.  We had our starters in for almost the whole game because our offense wasn't good enough to really put it out of reach until the final touchdown.  And we ended up with a whole slew of new injuries to key players, including one to Gary, who never should have had to be playing that late in a "blowout".