It wasn’t easy, but the Michigan Wolverines were able to stay unbeaten on Saturday with a 31-24 win over Maryland to improve their record to 11-0 and become the first major college football program to win 1,000 games.
It was the Wolverines’ second straight win without head coach Jim Harbaugh as he continues to serve a suspension stemming from the sign-stealing scandal. It was their fifth win of the season without him (after winning the first three games of the season while he served a different suspension).
This ended up being a really strange game for Michigan as it jumped out to an early big lead, then watched as Maryland made a furious comeback in the second half and was able to narrow the gap down to 29-24 in the fourth quarter.
But an intentional grounding call on Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa in the end zone late in the fourth quarter resulted in Michigan’s second safety of the day to help put the game away.
It capped off a day where the Wolverines scored points on offense, defense (fumble return and safety) and special teams (blocked punt safety). During one two-minute stretch in the first quarter, Michigan scored three times (offensive touchdown, defensive touchdown and the blocked punt) to stake itself out to its early lead.
The Wolverines now have to get ready for the biggest game of their regular-season schedule when they play longtime rival Ohio State in a game that could decide a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Michigan will need a significantly better performance in that game than what it showed this week. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy struggled to get into any sort of a rhythm, and the running game was not quite as dominant as it has been at other times this season. That sort of performance might work against a six-win Maryland team. It will not work against Ohio State.