ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Jim Harbaugh is stumping for another Heisman Trophy candidate, shifting his lobbying efforts from Jabrill Peppers to Wilton Speight.
The steady quarterback finished with a career-high 362 yards after accounting for three touchdowns and setting a school record in the first half, helping No. 2 Michigan build a huge lead before coasting to a 59-3 win over Maryland on Saturday. Harbaugh said Speight is playing so well he should be mentioned as someone who could be voted the nation’s most outstanding college football player.
"It’s time to throw his hat into the ring," Harbaugh said.
Speight helped the Wolverines (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten, No. 3 CFP) scored touchdowns on all five of their drives in the first half.
"You need a great quarterback to succeed the way we are," said Jake Butt, who had five receptions for 76 yards and set a school record for yards receiving (1,521) in a career by a tight end.
Speight, cool in the pocket and crafty with his feet when he had to move, completed 19 of 24 passes and had a 10-yard TD run. He set a first-half team record with 292 yards passing, connecting on 13 of 16 passes before halftime.
"That’s the best half of football I’ve ever seen a Michigan quarterback play," Harbaugh said.
And while Speight said it was "cool," Harbaugh put him in the conversion for the Heisman, he doesn’t want to take away from Peppers’ chance to get invited to the award ceremony for what he does on defense, offense and special teams.
"Jabrill deserves to be there in New York," Speight said.
The Terrapins (5-4, 2-4) had no answer for Speight. On offense, they moved the ball with some success without making a mark where it mattered on the scoreboard.
Maryland’s Adam Greene missed a 29-yard field goal, hitting the right upright, after his team drove to the Michigan 1 only to lose 10 yards on two plays and a penalty in the second quarter. The Terrapins came up 1 yard short of a TD at the end of the first half. They failed to convert a trio of fourth downs.
"It’s disheartening that we didn’t compete," Maryland coach DJ Durkin said "It’s hard for me to say that and to even acknowledge that."
Maryland: Durkin knows a lot about Michigan because he was its defensive coordinator last season, but his knowledge didn’t seem to help the overmatched Terrapins very much on defense.
"Nothing in terms of preparation was affected by coming back," Durkin said. "It was business as usual."
Michigan: The Wolverines found a way to get receiver Jehu Chesson more involved. He matched a season high with five receptions and had a season-high 112 yards receiving, including a 33-yard TD catch that made it 35-0 toward the end of the first half and a 40-yard reception on a double-pass in the first quarter.
Unless top-ranked Alabama loses at No. 15 LSU, the Wolverines will likely stay where they are in The Associated Press College football poll and College Football Playoff rankings.
TAKING HIS TURN
Michigan’s De’Veon Smith had a season-high 114 yards rushing and a career-high three TDs, getting 19 carries while the rest of the Wolverines combined for 20 carries.
Maryland quarterback Perry Hills was knocked out of the game by Chase Winovich, who hit Hills and drove his left shoulder into the turf in the second quarter. Caleb Rowe replaced him and threw an interception on his first pass of the second half. It went directly toward safety Delano Hill, who had another interception later in the game.
Rowe, who was 12 of 23 for 203 yards, helped Maryland throw for 289 yards — the most Michigan has given up this season.
"It felt good to help the team," Rowe said.
Maryland: Playing a second or three straight games against teams currently in the top 10, the Terrapins host No. 6 Ohio State before going to No. 9 Nebraska.
Michigan: The Wolverines go to Iowa for a potential test before closing the regular season at home against Indiana and against the rival Buckeyes on the road.