Never in doubt: Speight, Michigan destroy Maryland
Ann Arbor — There is no time to waste, and the time to celebrate is shrinking.
That’s the approach Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and his players are taking as the second-ranked Wolverines — No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings — face their final three games.
After gaining 660 yards and not punting en route to dismantling Maryland, 59-3, on Saturday at Michigan Stadium, the Wolverines are nearing their goals and know that November is when great teams are made. Michigan travels to Iowa on Saturday for a night game before returning home to face Indiana and then traveling to Ohio State for the regular-season finale.
“It’s championship week and we take that to heart,” Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight said after throwing for a career-record 362 yards and accounting for three touchdowns, including one rushing. “We know it’s really win or go home at this point. All this means nothing if we’re 9-1 this time next week.”
Harbaugh said the players continue to practice hard each week to “be good.”
“We talked about it after the game — we’ll enjoy it for an amount of time but the amount of time needs to get shorter and shorter and quicker moving on to the next game,” he said.
About a month after declaring three-way player Jabrill Peppers the Heisman Trophy winner, he, in a bit of an off-hand way, suggested Speight should be in the Heisman mix.
Speight set a first-half passing record of 292 yards before 110,626 at Michigan Stadium on Saturday.
And it turned into the first-year starter's biggest yardage game of the season. He was 19-of-24 for 362 yards and two touchdowns — to Amara Darboh, who scored on a 34-yard reception, and Jehu Chesson, who scored on a 33-yard catch — and he also scored on a run. His previous best was 312 passing yards against Central Florida earlier this season.
Backup quarterback John O’Korn took over in the fourth quarter and directed an eight-play, 83-yard drive late in the game that culminated with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Kekoa Crawford, the game’s final score.
Tailback De’Veon Smith scored three rushing touchdowns for the Wolverines. He gained 114 yards on 19 carries.
Jake Butt had 76 yards on five catches and became Michigan’s career leader in receiving yards by a tight end, passing Jim Mandich. Butt entered the game with 1,445 career yards and now has 1,521.
Since struggling earlier in the season, Kenny Allen has rebounded the last three games and has not missed on his last six field-goal attempts. He added a 29-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Defensively, the Wolverines had 13 tackles for loss and three sacks, and Delano Hill had two interceptions. The Terps were 0-for-3 on fourth down and averaged 2.1 yards a carry on 38 rushing attempts but did have 289 passing yards on several big-chunk plays.
Speight said former Michigan quarterback Brian Griese spoke to the team last week. Griese led the Wolverines to an unbeaten season and national title in 1997. He told the team they have accomplished plenty already, but they must maintain and not drift.
“This is where we expected to be, this is where we wanted to be, and we’re here, so it’s rewarding," Speight said. “To get to 8-0 at that point (before Maryland) was huge. Eight big-time wins, some on the road so we’ve just to figure how to keep it going.”
Michigan took a commanding 35-0 lead into halftime. Linebacker Mike McCray ran down Maryland receiver D.J. Moore after a 47-yard gain and tackled him at the Michigan 1-yard line with no time left to preserve the first-half shutout.
Fullback Khalid Hill got his ninth rushing touchdown of the season on a 1-yard run in the second quarter. Freshman Chris Evans had gone 56 yards on a pass from Speight on the previous play and appeared to score.
“I’m bewildered by Chris Evans’ non touchdown,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t understand it. He seemed to be clearly inside the pylon. What does it have to take? Do you have to kick the pylon? Do you have to touch the pylon with the ball? Ball breaks the plane of the goal line it’s a touchdown. The goal line extends to out of bounds from everything I’ve ever been told, and the explanation was, well he did not get a foot inbounds into the end zone.
“To me it’s breaking the plane. That’s what I’ve been taught. A lot of times running backs jump over the pile and the ball breaks the plane and it’s called a touchdown. I don’t know. It offends my football sensibility in all ways that wasn’t a touchdown. He made such a great play. He made such a valiant effort, a circus catch and a tremendous run in the open field through traffic and into the end zone for the apparent score and he doesn’t get rewarded. I think that would offend the football gods.”
The Terps had a couple scoring opportunities, including Moore’s big gain to end the half. They reached the Michigan 1-yard line early in the second quarter, and then they went backwards. Linebacker Ben Gedeon knocked Kenneth Goins for a three-yard loss, then the Terps were penalized for a false start and quarterback Perry Hills was sacked by Ryan Glasgow for a two-yard loss. Adam Greene’s 29-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright.
Hills, who had shoulder issues earlier this season and missed playing time, was knocked out of the game with about nine minutes left in the first half. Caleb Rowe took over for the Terps.
Michigan’s top-rated defense has been trouble for opposing offenses, particularly quarterbacks. Only the starters from Wisconsin, Penn State and Illinois were able to finish their games against the Wolverines.
“You’re never trying to get someone hurt,” said Michigan defensive lineman Chase Winovich, who had a sack against Maryland. “But it’s notable that I think we’re up to eight quarterbacks who haven’t finished a game. It’s a violent game. Nobody’s safe in this game.”