Time to panic.
If you want to, that is.
The No. 4 Michigan football team certainly had some cause for concern in Saturday’s 34-27 rout of to scare against Maryland. The game saw a Wolverines footprint for the first time this season. Sophomore quarterback JJ McCarthy of Nazareth (Academy) was not the next parish. I protection showed a lot of holes against the Terrapin offense.
If you want to take these things and run with them, go ahead. But there is another perspective of watching this game that you can take – that of learning and tact.
So let’s learn from offense.
McCarthy won’t always be the unbridled wunderkind that fans want him to be. He showed that he was human by combining mistakes with his seemingly inhuman feats. Notably, McCarthy overthrew open receivers three times on deep routes and threw sophomore Andrell Anthony on the same route. That’s in addition to fumbling twice and making a fumbled interception in the endzone on a handoff intended for fifth-year receiver Ronnie Bell.
“It definitely wasn’t my best performance,” McCarthy said Saturday. “I want to bring back some of the things that happened there.”
Next to him on the podium, junior running back Blake Corum laughed before adding under his breath, “I want to give back, too.”
That’s a bit of a funny comment from a player who just rushed for 243 yards and two touchdowns while easily passing the eye test as the best player in the Big House on Saturday. But it’s also a testament to Wolverine’s optimistic outlook.
They’re touting a potential Heisman-caliber running back alongside a quarterback with high upside and a talented receiver room. And Michigan isn’t even healthy at this point. Sophomore running back Donovan Edwards is likely to return soon, adding an element to both the pass and the run, while the offensive line is still recovering from a partial decision early in the injury-riddled season.
Speaking of which, the offensive line — against better competition — has taken a leap forward in terms of chemistry, pass protection and run blocking.
“(We can) talk about how many yards I put up, but today it went astray because of the power line,” Corum said. “They make my job easier. They allowed me to get to the second level defenders very quickly.”
So there were positives, even if the Wolverines offense fumbled at times. And the only way to know if the good or the bad will rise to the top is to wait and see.
The same goes for the defense.
Michigan’s defense looked suspect all game Saturday, allowing 27 points and nearly 400 yards. Most troubling of all, Wolverine’s passing often looked weak and at times seemed non-existent. That allowed Maryland linebacker Tauliu Tagovailoa to come up in the air, running through his reads with time to spare and sometimes getting up the field to make plays with his feet.
“We pass the quarterback too many times,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “And there (Tagawailoa) turned out to be really slick and good. We had a few shots to get him back, put him on the ground, but he was tough. It is difficult to put him on the ground.”
Additionally, the Wolverines’ defensive backs have been inconsistent. Sometimes they lost a person and refused easy techniques. But as an alternative, they came up with two incredible interceptions at critical moments to turn the tide of the game.
Michigan’s defense was on full display of its volatility, looking thin on some drives and whispering of last year’s competent team on others. That’s either a good thing or a bad thing — a defense rising with potential or marred by inconsistency — depending on how you look at it.
The last thing is that Maryland could be a perfectly competent team, it’s just too early in the college football season to know for sure. Many programs have already lost to teams they “didn’t need to,” and there are only 20 undefeated teams left in the FBS, so Michigan being one of them is a feat not to be taken lightly.
And again, don’t be too quick to judge—the book, the cover, the whole statement, you get the idea. Remember the Wolverines game against Rutgers last year? A lackluster 20-14 season-opening win led to Michigan being written off by pundits and fans alike. It didn’t hold up well.
So, while you’re wondering if the Wolverines can reach the same heights they did a season ago, remember to keep things in perspective.
There are things to criticize and things to worry about. So, if you want to spend the next week – or more – thinking about it, feel free. But consider the alternative: wait, watch the Michigan game next week, learn more about what this team really is, and save yourself the heartbreak in the process.
Or not. You decide.