Updated: Apr 29
Phillip Lutz, Guest Writer
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy signals teammates before a snap against Maryland. Photo//Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press
The Big House was rocking Saturday as the University of Michigan football team survived the bite of the Terrapins of Maryland University. The place was electric. You could feel the difference between the beginning of conference play and the less than stellar opponents in the Wolverines first three games. Everyone was ready to see the reigning Big Ten Champions start to defend their crown.
It was Homecoming weekend in Ann Arbor and the place was pumped up as they celebrated the historic anniversaries of their previous championship teams. The alumni band and cheerleaders were all in attendance, making the atmosphere both nostalgic and full of energy.
The No. 4 Wolverines won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. During the opening kick-off, the Maryland returner muffed the ball off his facemask, which was quickly recovered by Matthew Hibner of the Wolverines at the 10-yard line. Seconds later, sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy threw a touchdown to senior tight end Luke Schoonmaker. Grad student Jake Moody chipped in the extra point.
The Terrapins first drive on offense went 40 yards in eight plays, resulting in a 53-yard field goal from Chad Ryland to make the score 7-3. The fans in the stands could not believe Ryland hit the long field goal, which was the first points Michigan allowed in the first quarter all season.
McCarthy and the Wolverines then took over after the kickoff and struggled to connect with passes. It was all good, however, since sophomore running back Blake Corum was making strides in the running game. The drive resulted in a 52-yard field goal from Moody.
Terrapin quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa took the game in his hands and drove the team straight down the field, shattering the Wolverine defense and ending with a 2-yard rushing touchdown from Antwain Littleton II. This gave the Terrapins a tying score with the Wolverines 10-10.
The Wolverines tried to respond behind the speedy legs of Corum, who ran for a combined 48 yards on his three carries. Unfortunately, the drive was halted as freshman running back C.J. Stokes fumbled the ball with the Terps of Maryland recovering. This took all of the air out of the crowd and forced the beleaguered defense to try to make a stop.
Tagovailoa tried valiantly, but could not reach the endzone. The Terps had to settle for another long field goal from Ryland, giving the Terps a 13-10 lead over the shocked Wolverines.
This was the first time all season the Wolverines would have to play from behind. It took an interception from Michigan’s senior defensive back D. J. Turner to reignite the crowd's noise level, giving a little hope to the Wolverines and their 110,000 plus faithful.
Michigan defensive back DJ Turner celebrates intercepting a pass from Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. Photo//Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press
This was to be short lived, however, as the Wolverines passing game continued to struggle and the drive stalled out. Moody attempted a field goal, but it went wide. The game was still out of reach for the Wolverines as they passed the Terps the ball after the rare Moody miss.
The Terps failed to convert for a first down on the ensuing drive and were forced to punt the ball to the Wolverines.
McCarthy's struggles to hit on the long ball continued, and the Wolverines were down to fourth-and-one. They went for it, and everyone in the stadium including the Terps thought it would be a quarterback sneak or a rush up the middle. Everyone was shocked when Corum ran to the outside and took it to the house for a much needed Wolverine touchdown. His 33-yard run gave new life to the Wolverines and a much needed lead of 17-13.
The Terps ran one play before the teams headed to the locker rooms for halftime. The Michigan Marching Band and the alumni bands entertained the shocked Wolverines fans, who were not expecting this close of a contest.
The Wolverines received the kickoff and were able to get a first down behind the legs of Corum, but that was it. Grad student punter Brad Robbins kicked it to the Terps, giving further uncertainty to the Michigan faithful.
Not to worry though, as Tagovailoa and the Terps were unable to make any headway on the Michigan defense and punted it right back minutes later.
The teams traded punts again, and the fourth quarter arrived with the Wolverines still hanging on to their 17-13 lead. McCarthy's passing problems started to subside when he finally hit junior wide receiver Roman Wilson for a 20-yard strike, giving the Wolverines a touchdown and some much needed breathing room.
The Terps, however, would not let the Wolverines have that breathing room for long as they came back and scored on a 4-yard reception touchdown by Tai Felton. They went for the two point conversion and were turned away. Michigan was leading just 24-19 with plenty of time left on the clock.
McCarthy came out firing and hit grad student wide receiver Ronnie Bell for a 49-yard strike, moving the Wolverines down the field. The drive culminated in a Moody field goal from 38 yards out. Michigan 27 Maryland 19.
Tagovailoa then threw an interception to junior defensive back R.J. Moten, giving the Wolverines the ball and new life. This is where Corum took over and ran every down of the drive, culminating in a 47-yard scamper for a Wolverine touchdown.
With the Moody-made extra point, the Wolverines were looking good up 34-19 with 3:31 to go in the game. Maryland did not back down with new quarterback Billy Edwards Jr. coming into the game, using his legs and his arm to march the Terps down the field for a touchdown caught by C.J. Dippre.
The Terps knew their last hope was an onside kick, but it was covered by a Michigan player, allowing the Wolverines to kneel the ball twice and seal the game. Michigan won 34-27.
McCarthy threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns. He also added five yards on the ground on five attempts. His inaccuracy in the deep passing game made this game way closer than it should have been. If he had hit his speedy receivers all five times down the field, the score would have been so much more lopsided.
The real story for this game was the play of Corum and his 243 yards and two touchdowns on an impressive 30 attempts. He was seen after the game with his dazzling smile for all to see. He never gave up and just kept chugging down the field.
Bell added 72 yards on three receptions. Schoonmaker had his best game as a Wolverine with seven receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown.
The Terrapin quarterbacks combined for 262 yards through the air, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
The Wolverines have a lot to clean up this week at practice before they travel to lowa to take on the Big Ten West Champions from a year ago next Saturday at noon. Michigan should keep their spot in the college football rankings, but the Hawkeyes will be out for revenge after their devastation last year in the Big Ten Championship game. If the Terps were any indication, do not count them out or think they are an easy win.
No game in Big Ten conference play is ever easy. Like you all, I will be eagerly watching to see if McCarthy and the Wolverines can win the game.