ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Series after series on Saturday, Michigan reminded its packed home stadium — and the Maryland Terrapins — that it had nation’s top defense. The Wolverines stopped Maryland’s run game, pressured quarterback Kasim Hill and repeatedly forced the Terrapins offense to jog back to the sideline as the special teams unit came on to punt.
The Wolverines’ 42-21 victory kept them undefeated in Big Ten play and, since their only loss was in the opener against now-No. 6 Notre Dame, on the fringes of the College Football Playoff conversation. Maryland, however, added a second decisive loss to its record with more highly ranked opponents left on its schedule.
Through the first three quarters, Maryland’s only score came when Michigan’s formidable defense wasn’t on the field. Ty Johnson ran nearly the length of the field on his 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which gave the Terps (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) an early lead before No. 15 Michigan (5-1, 3-0) powered ahead.
“We didn’t come here to be close,” interim coach Matt Canada said. “We didn’t come here to try. We came here to win.”
The Michigan fans waited out a 70-minute weather delay to the start of the game to see quarterback Shea Patterson shine and help lead the Michigan offense to 465 total yards. Maryland’s defense had no answers and found itself stuck on the field for close to 36 minutes of play.
Maryland’s offensive bright spot came with the Wolverines in control, a 15-play scoring drive capped by Javon Leake’s one-yard touchdown run to make it 27-14 early in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome added a five-yard touchdown run for the Terps with 1:50 left in the game to complete the scoring.
Hill started his day by getting pummeled to the ground. Even though the play resulted in a first down thanks to a roughing-the-passer call, Michigan’s defense had shown how it planned to invade Maryland’s backfield. That drive ended when Michigan sacked Hill on third and 13. Hill’s final pass of the game was intercepted by Brandon Watson and returned 46 yards for a touchdown to give Michigan a 42-14 lead.
Hill completed just 5 of 10 passes for 62 yards on the game and was sacked twice. Hill and Pigrome attempted only five passes between them in the first half, completing two, while the team had 12 carries for 20 yards. Canada said he felt the first half was balanced, and Hill’s sacks obscured some of the other pass attempts. By the end of the game, Maryland’s quarterbacks combined for just seven completions.
“How we’re practicing throwing the football in practice, we’ve got to execute that and get that in the games,” Canada said. “That’s my job. We’ll get that done. In the games we’ve played well, we haven’t had to throw the ball.”
Maryland’s run game, which entered ranked fourth in the Big Ten at 258.5 yards per game, had no such success against the Wolverines. The Terps notched 147 yards on the ground, but 101 of those came in the final quarter.
“Today just wasn’t our day,” said running back Tayon Fleet-Davis, who led his position group with 63 rushing yards. “We kind of hurt ourselves. But we’ll get back at practice and get better. You’ve just got to keep going.”
Hill and the running backs worked behind an offensive line that was at full strength for the first time this year. Maryland returned all five of its starters from last season, but the complete unit hadn’t played together in 2018 due to injuries.
Still, the line couldn’t keep the Wolverines out of the backfield, even though the Michigan defensive line was depleted by injury. (Rashan Gary, the nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2016, was out for the game, and Michael Dwumfour had to be carted off the field during the second quarter.)
Pigrome first entered the game during the second quarter, but Maryland had to punt on that drive, too. He returned late in the fourth quarter to lead the last scoring drive, including keeping the ball on one play for a 42-yard gain, the Terps' longest play from scrimmage of the day. Soon after, he carried the ball into the end zone to cut Michigan’s margin of victory.
Patterson picked apart Maryland’s secondary for a season-high 282 passing yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
“We tried to keep him in the pocket,” Maryland defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. said, “but good quarterbacks make good plays.”
Maryland had a chance for momentum at the end of the first quarter, when, leading 7-3 just after Johnson’s kickoff return, Darnell Savage Jr. intercepted Patterson’s tipped pass to give the offense favorable field position. But after two short runs and an incomplete pass, Maryland had to punt.
In what is becoming a recurring problem for the Terps, Maryland accumulated 107 penalty yards, its third game this season having lost more than 100 yards from penalties. Maryland started the second half with three penalties through four plays.
Two of those penalties, for targeting, resulted in the ejection of linebacker Tre Watson and defensive back Rayshad Lewis. Watson was leading the team with 10 tackles at the time of his ejection.
“Penalties and the miscommunications and those things fall back on me,” Canada said. “We’ve got to find a way to get them fixed in critical times against good teams.”
As the season nears its midpoint, Maryland still has a clear path to bowl eligibility. The Terps, who would need three more wins to go to a bowl, still have Indiana, Illinois and Rutgers remaining on the schedule to go along with games against Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State.