No. 22 Michigan smothers Maryland in Big Ten opener
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Desmond Morgan fits perfectly in the middle of a Michigan defense that is fulfilling its quest to be aggressive and ornery.
Morgan had nine tackles and an interception, part of a dominating defensive performance by the 22nd-ranked Wolverines in a 28-0 rout of Maryland on Saturday.
In winning its first Big Ten opener under coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan (4-1, 1-0) picked off three passes and limited Maryland to 105 yards. It was the second straight shutout for the Wolverines, who have allowed a total of 14 points in their last four games.
"There’s definitely an attitude," said Morgan, a senior inside linebacker. "There’s a D that we want to be, and that D is kind of nasty and mean and known for stopping the run and making big plays."
The Wolverines checked all the boxes on that list in notching a second consecutive shutout for the first time since 2000.
Morgan intercepted a pass in the first quarter and was a major reason why the Terrapins (2-3, 0-1) finished with 29 yards rushing after averaging 196 over their first four games.
"Des Morgan, every time you looked up he was flying around, playing physical," Harbaugh said.
Michigan led 6-0 at halftime before pulling away with two third-quarter touchdowns. After Jake Rudock connected with Drake Johnson for a 31-yard score, wide receiver Jehu Chesson took an inside handoff and sprinted down the left sideline for a 66-yard TD.
That made it 21-0, a deficit way too formidable for Maryland to overcome.
Caleb Rowe went 8 for 27 for 47 yards and three interceptions before being replaced by Oklahoma State transfer Daxx Garman, who also struggled. Since taking over for Perry Hills late in the Terrapins’ second game of the season, Rowe has thrown 12 interceptions.
"We just can’t turn the ball over the way we did," coach Randy Edsall lamented.
Rowe insisted the opposition had a lot to do with it.
"First off, Michigan is a very good football team and they have a great defense," the junior quarterback said. "They really didn’t do anything we didn’t practice. It’s just a matter of execution."
Entering in relief of Rowe for the second straight week, Darman completed two of nine passes for 29 yards, including 22 on his first pass of the day.
Edsall didn’t formally hand the job to Darman, but said, "We’ll be making a change. What direction we go in, we’ll wait to see what happens there."
After losing 45-6 to West Virginia last week and coming up empty against Michigan, the Terrapins travel to No. 1 Ohio State next weekend.
"It’s a tremendous opportunity for us," Edsall said. "They are why you come here. You look forward to that challenge."
The Wolverines played without leading rusher De’Veon Smith, who hurt his right foot last week in a win over Brigham Young. Michigan managed only 43 yards rushing in the first half, 20 on a fourth-down scamper by Rudock, but padded the total significantly in the fourth quarter when passing no longer was a necessity.
A 1-yard run by Johnson with 6:53 left capped a 24-yard scoring drive consisting of four straight carries.
Johnson finished with 72 yards on 14 attempts. Rudock went 16 for 32 for 180 yards before taking a seat.
But the story of the game was Michigan’s defense, which allowed only seven first downs and limited Maryland to a 1-for-18 performance on third down.
"Anytime we can get the ball back to our offense, we know they’ll do something with it," Morgan said. "That’s the goal for us: either get a turnover or a three-and-out and see what they’ll do."
The game was originally scheduled to be played at 8 p.m. but was moved up to noon for fear of bad weather created by Hurricane Joaquin. Although a stiff wind and an intermittent drizzle made it uncomfortable for the fans, it did not appear to affect play on the field.
Michigan got only one first down and totaled just 41 yards during a scoreless first quarter that featured four turnovers. The Wolverines lost two fumbles and Rowe was picked off twice while completing half his 14 passes.
Although Michigan finished with three turnovers, Morgan & Co. made sure it didn’t matter.
"Every time we made a mistake, the defense did not allow Maryland to capitalize on it," Harbaugh said. "That was just a heck of a job by our defense."