Giles Jackson's 97-yard opening return serves as catalyst in Wolverines' lopsided win

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

College Park, Md. — Michigan freshman receiver Giles Jackson said it worked in practice all week and carried that confidence into the Maryland game on Saturday.

And beyond that, he simply felt like he was due.

Giles took the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to give Michigan a quick 7-0 lead at Maryland Stadium. The 14th-ranked Wolverines took off from there for a 38-7 victory over the Terps and improve to 7-2 overall, 4-2 Big Ten.

“We needed a big play to start the game off,” Jackson said. “I told them, ‘As soon as he kicks, I’m taking it.’ And that’s exactly what we did and it had a good momentum to it and we kept going.”

Michigan's Giles Jackson returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown during the first half.

Jehu Chesson was the last Michigan player to return an opening kickoff for a touchdown and went 96 yards against Northwestern in 2015. Ambry Thomas scored on a 99-yard kickoff return at Notre Dame last season

“His confidence is really high right now and he just hit it,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said of Jackson. “That’s a great way to start a game. Talk about starting fast, You can’t start any faster than return the opening kickoff for a touchdown.  It was really well blocked. It was good to see one hit.”

Linebacker Devin Gil sprung Jackson with a huge block.

“I was going to take it outside at first and then I saw Devin Gil, he made that huge block, and I saw him hit the dude, I cut back inside and I tried to outrun them to the end zone,” Jackson said.

When did he know he would score?

“As soon as he made that block,” Jackson said. “I wasn’t going to let the kicker tackle me.”

Jackson was asked how embarrassing that would be.

“I would have been sick,” he said, laughing.

Michigan receiver Nico Collins said they all enjoyed watching Jackson sprint for the end zone.

“Giles is dangerous with the ball in his hands,” Collins said. “Been waiting all year, he finally got it. Before then, he took it back, we were all just pointing, ‘He about to take it to the crib.’ He took it. The energy on that, it was great. Our main goal was to come out here with energy and juice, and Giles did that.”

Jackson said his reception on the sideline was “crazy” with high fives and congratulations. It was an important moment on the road. Any visiting team wants to get out to a quick lead to sap the energy of the home stadium.

“It clicks everybody going together, because we didn’t want to start slow,” Jackson said. “We needed to start fast on the gas and just keep going and that’s what we did.”

Jackson scored a receiving touchdown on a 23-yard pass from Joe Milton against Rutgers. This, though, was more special.

“I was supposed to run a bender, I ran the wrong route, I read the coverage wrong,” Jackson said of his offensive touchdown. “That was my first one and I was excited for that one, but this one just felt great.”

Twitter: @chengelis