Five takeaways from The Detroit News' Angelique Chengelis after Michigan's 38-7 win over Maryland on Saturday.
Protecting the ball
This is a big thing in football. Big. And Michigan wasn’t doing this early in the season. Remember when we were talking about the time when the Wolverines had 17 fumbles and lost nine? Well, they’ve gone 11 quarters without a turnover, and this is even bigger. And that has coincided with their near comeback at Penn State followed by dominant victories over Notre Dame and Maryland.
The players and coaches said they were focusing on ball security in practice and that clearly has paid off. Turnover-free football allows for an offense to be consistent and build a rhythm. Heading into their final three games against Michigan State, at Indiana and home against Ohio State, maintaining this streak will be vital.
Two kickers a good idea?
Still wondering if having two kickers in a rotation is still working for Michigan. Jake Moody and Quinn Nordin have shared the field goal and extra point duties this season. When Moody missed a 37-yarder with one second left in the first half at Maryland, it was Michigan's fifth miss in their last six attempts.
Moody is now 6-for-9 on field goals on the season. Nordin made a 38-yard attempt in the fourth quarter, his first make in four tries after two of his misses came from 50-plus yards. The Michigan coaches have said not to overthink the rotation, but perhaps they should be taking a hard look at this plan going forward.
Getting tricky with it
Linebacker Michael Barrett appears to be the go-to guy for Michigan when it attempts trick plays on punts. Michigan was facing a fourth-and-1 when Barrett converted his second fake punt of the season. He ran 14 yards for the first down to the Michigan 41-yard line. On the next play, quarterback Shea Patterson hit Nico Collins on a 51-yard pass and the Wolverines would go on to score that drive.
“We practiced it now for several weeks,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I was waiting for a fourth-and-1, fourth-and-2 on our own side and it was there, so we took advantage of the work we put in. I thought it was a good time to call and it helped us win this game.”
In a double-overtime win over Army, Barrett completed a 7-yard pass to Dax Hill on a fake punt.
Maryland’s only score against Michigan came on a kickoff return in the third quarter.
“They didn’t score on the defense,” safety Josh Metellus said. “That’s big for us.”
Since giving up 487 yards of total offense in the loss at Wisconsin, the Wolverines have held teams to under 300 yards. Maryland had 233 yards, a week after Michigan held Notre Dame to 180 yards. In the six games since the loss at Wisconsin, Penn State managed to gain the most yards, 283 yards in a 28-21 victory. The Wolverines have steadily moved up the national rankings and are seventh in total defense, yielding an average of 266.2 yards a game. They are also 12th in scoring defense, giving up an average of 17.1 points a game.
If Michigan is looking for some breaths of fresh air, the Wolverines certainly have found a few this season: Cam McGrone at linebacker, Dax Hill at safety and freshman Giles Jackson on special teams, who gave them a huge spark to start the game at Maryland. Giles took the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. He even called his shot.
“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.”
Jackson has an effervescent personality and is supremely confident. Devin Gil provided a big block and Jackson took off.
“I wasn’t going to let the kicker tackle me,” said Jackson, who added he would've "been sick" if that happened.