Michigan: Five things we learned vs. Maryland

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh speaks with quarterback Brandon Peters in the first half.

Here are five takeaways from Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News following Michigan’s 33-10 win at Maryland on Saturday.

Emerging tight ends

Only one Michigan wide receiver – Eddie McDoom – caught a pass against Maryland, and that went for two yards. So while it's absolutely concerning that Michigan's receivers have not made a big impact, the tight ends have surfaced. Redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Peters was 9-of-18 for 145 yards and two touchdowns, both to tight ends. Zach Gentry caught a 33-yarder and Sean McKeon scored on a 3-yard pass.

“All week we knew they liked to play eight in the box,” Peters said after the game. “I think that’s why the tight ends were really having a good game. Playing eight in the box, it opened them up. We saw it all week, so we really schemed around that.”

Gentry led the receivers with 63 yards on three catches while McKeon had 29 yards on two catches.

“Sean McKeon, a heck of a football player, Zach Gentry’s blossoming into a heck of a player,” coach Jim Harbaugh said after the game. “And Ian Bunting playing very good football. Ty Wheatley, good to get him in the game. Nick Eubanks was playing good for us the first four games, hopefully he’ll be back before the end of the season. Think we’re doing a very good job at the tight end position, blocking, catching, no penalties, not turning the ball over, the kind of football we like.”

Kicking issues

Quinn Nordin kicked off the season by becoming the first Michigan kicker to make two field goals of 50 yards or more in a game when he made a 55-yarder and 50-yarder against Florida. He made 4-of-6 in that game, missing his final two, including 52-yard attempt, but then made 10 straight. Nordin has missed a field-goal attempt in each of the last three games and has missed two extra points in the last four games.

After missing a 31-yard attempt right – all three misses have been right – just before the end of the first half at Maryland, he and Harbaugh had a brief exchange on the sideline. “He’s missed a few now in a row and he’s got to make them,” Harbaugh said. “I said to him, ‘I’m giving you one more shot. You’ve got to make the next one.’ And he said, ‘I got this. I will make the next one.’ You call that a heated exchange, then so be it, but it wasn’t. ‘I’m going to stick with you, but you’ve got one more chance.’ He said, ‘I will make it coach, I will make it.’ Hardly a heated exchange.”

David Long? Lavert Hill?

When cornerback David Long returned an interception 80 yards at Maryland, Harbaugh was under the impression, until the post-game news conference, it had been Lavert Hill. That’s the impression Hill, who has two interceptions and seven pass breakups, has made this season.

“Was it David? The long one? Intercepted? I thought it was Lavert the whole time,” Harbaugh said. “Kept them out of the end zone. Made of a heck of a play. Saw the ball come out of the quarterback’s hands, picked up some blocks and returned it darn near all the way. It was a heck of a play by Rashan Gary on that play.”

Long had four tackles in the game. Hill had a concussion in the game and left the field.

Shoring up the ‘D’

Maryland outgained Michigan 228-93 in the second half and avoided the shutout, scoring 10 points. Senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said there is no reason for anyone to panic about the defensive showing in the second half, but the reality is, the Wolverines can’t have that kind of lapse at Wisconsin, because they may not be able to recover. Of course, a 28-0 halftime lead gave Michigan room to breathe, and the Wolverines’ defense came up with some critical stops, but it appeared they lost interest or focus.

“I think they did a great job of using their playmakers and getting them out in space,” Hurst said. “They did a good job of sort of stretching our defense and we were out of our gaps. I feel we hurt ourselves more than they hurt us, but I think it’s stuff we can all correct.”

Hurst said the defense is making fewer mental mistakes but knows there is plenty of room for improvement.

“All those big plays are just from someone getting out of gaps or not doing what they’re supposed to,” Hurst said. “We may have lost a little bit of focus but I thought we finished out well toward the end of the game.”

Bringing along the QB

Redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Peters hasn’t been asked to take on too much in his two starts – nearly three if you consider how much he played against Rutgers – and that’s by design. He said he is feeling more comfortable but knows he missed throws at Maryland he should have made. On the missed throw to Donovan Peoples-Jones, Peters said he needed “to put some more air on it.” So he’s clearly learning on the fly since game action is vastly different than practice. He has been asked to manage the offense, and he has done that.

No, he didn’t throw much in the win against Minnesota, but he added more to his repertoire at Maryland. Time will tell if he is seasoned enough to lead Michigan to a win at Wisconsin’s always-rowdy Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, but it is important to note he has not had a turnover. Before he took over against Rutgers, Michigan had nine fumbles and five interceptions. He also has taken some big hits the last two games and bounced back. Showing that kind of toughness always is meaningful to teammates and coaches.

“We have a lot of momentum right now, we’re building a lot of confidence,” Peters said. “We’re really clicking on offense. We had a little slowdown in the second half (at Maryland), but right now I think we have a good confidence builder in these last three games. Keep it rolling.”