Notebook: Michigan's Milton shakes off early nerves; Moody 0-for-3 on field-goal tries
Minneapolis — He admitted to some nerves for the first snap of the game, but in the end, with a victory in his first career start at Michigan, and the Little Brown Jug returning to Ann Arbor, quarterback Joe Milton felt good about his performance.
Milton said on a scale of 1-to-10, he’d grade himself a “seven” for his play in Michigan’s 49-24, season-opening victory at Minnesota on Saturday night in prime time.
“Always room for improvement,” Milton said.
He was 15-of-22 for 225 yards and a touchdown and spread the wealth as nine players caught passes. Milton also ran for a score, one of five rushing touchdowns in the game. Hassan Haskins scored two of them.
Milton, 6-foot-5, 243 pounds, looked poised and in control.
“The accuracy of the throws and the touch of the throws was really good,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He was on target all night and played with the poise of a savvy veteran, had a great command of the offense, ran the ball with authority and athleticism and speed and great ball security. He had a great game. It was great to see it.
“It played out a lot the way I thought it would for him. He’s an intense competitor but he’s also got that ability to focus in and the calmness at the same time, both things working together.”
Harbaugh praised Milton’s accuracy, touch and decision-making.
“He was going to the right receiver and did a great job stepping up in the pocket, just did everything really good,” Harbaugh said. “He went in with a great understanding of everything, his job and everyone else’s and executed.”
Milton has long been known for his cannon arm, but against the Gophers he showed the results of working and focusing on developing touch.
“I felt great,” Milton said. “I was comfortable. I didn’t panic. As a first start, I wasn’t scared. I always say to myself, ‘Great God, faith over fear.’ My touch tonight was pretty outstanding. I was pretty impressed with myself. Been working on that a long time.”
In pregame warm-ups, Milton said he was smiling listening to his music.
“So I was fine,” he said.
He returned to the locker room, removed the headphones and that’s when the emotions surfaced.
“I started tearing up because it’s real and it’s time to prove to the world who I am and what I can do,” Milton said. “In the beginning, it was all right, it’s game time. When I got to the locker room, it was, ‘Oh, this is real.’”
Starting sophomore safety Dax Hill left the game and didn’t return, but Harbaugh was vague regarding the reason for his absence.
“Being evaluated, so we’ll see what that is,” Harbaugh said.
Jake Moody was 0-for-3 on field-goal attempts, missing from 38, 48 and 33 yards.
“With Jake, the first field goal, just didn’t feel like he hit it with the authority he usually does and the confidence and it spilled off to the right,” Harbaugh said. “The second missed field goal, thought he hit it good, just went left on him. The last one was the only low snap of the entire game, and (holder) Will (Hart) didn’t quite handle it as good as he could have. The whole mechanic was off from there.”
Kicker Quinn Nordin, who finished last season 10-of-10 on field goal attempts, was at the game but didn’t kick.
“Quinn Nordin has been working through something, got healthy and had a little bit of a setback during the week,” Harbaugh said. “Think he’ll be fine going forward.”
Harbaugh said he anticipates Nordin will be back to competition this week.
Milton on the lack of fans at the game: “It was pretty weird not having fans at the game, not having people yelling at you or booing you. It was pretty weird, but it’s life.”