COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Michigan’s milestone day nearly turned into a nightmare, and when the Wolverines finally secured the program’s 1,000th victory, players posed with signs commemorating the accomplishment.
Suspended coach Jim Harbaugh was absent, of course.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that when we head back to this airport, he’s going to be there waiting for us,” defensive back Mike Sainristil said. “We’ll probably take 10, 15 minutes to take another picture.”
Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore, who has assumed head coaching duties the past two games in Harbaugh’s place, had a different idea.
“We need to edit coach in there,” Moore said. “There’s enough technology in the world today that we can get that done.”
Blake Corum scored twice in the first half, Sainristil intercepted two passes, and No. 2 Michigan became the first college football program to win 1,000 games, beating Maryland 31-24 on Saturday.
The Wolverines (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) remained unbeaten in their final tune-up before next weekend’s showdown against No. 3 Ohio State, but it wasn’t easy. Maryland (6-5, 3-5) rallied from a 23-3 second-quarter deficit and had the ball down five on multiple occasions in the fourth quarter.
The last of those chances came after Tommy Doman’s punt pinned the Terrapins at their own 1-yard line with 4:10 to play. Taulia Tagovailoa threw incomplete under pressure in the end zone, the ball falling well short of where receiver Tai Felton was. Officials conferred and called intentional grounding for a safety that made it 31-24 and gave the Wolverines the ball back.
“I don’t know if the ball was too short or what happened. I feel like there was a receiver in the vicinity,” Tagovailoa said. “Playing at Maryland, they don’t give us those calls like that. We knew that going into the game and you just can’t make mistakes like that backed up.”
Corum converted a fourth-and-short run, and after a measurement and a review Michigan could exhale at last.
Not for long, of course, with Ohio State coming up.
“We all know what time it is,” linebacker Michael Barrett said. “Once this game was over, we knew where our attention was going to go.”
For the second straight week and fifth time this season, the Wolverines won without Harbaugh on the sideline. The head coach was serving the second game of his suspension for the sign-stealing scheme that has put an even bigger spotlight on the Michigan program over the past few weeks. The Wolverines also fired linebackers coach Chris Partridge on Friday.
Moore has guided the Wolverines to victories over Penn State and Maryland these past two weeks, and he’s set to replace Harbaugh at the helm next weekend as well. Harbaugh also served a school-imposed, three-game suspension to start the season for an NCAA recruiting infractions case.
Michigan had a defensive touchdown and two safeties against Maryland, but the Wolverines allowed more points than they had in a game all season. Michigan’s defense did stiffen when it needed to. A sack by Kenneth Grant in the fourth quarter forced the Terps into a third-and-18 situation that led to Sainristil’s second interception of the day.
Not only was this a nervous victory, but the Wolverines now have some health concerns before next week. Roman Wilson, the team’s leading receiver, exited after a jarring first-quarter hit by Maryland defensive back Dante Trader.
“The trainers ruled him out at that time, which was the responsible thing I think for us to do as a medical staff,” Moore said. “They’re always on top of that stuff, especially when it comes to anything that could be with the head. He was fine … talking and everything. Everything was good. He was on the sideline afterwards.”
Offensive lineman Myles Hinton went down in the second half with a knee injury, but Moore said there was no structural damage. Barrett was also shaken up but returned. He had his left shoulder wrapped after the game.
There was also an anxious moment for the Wolverines early in the third quarter when Mason Graham was called for roughing the passer. The play was reviewed for targeting, which would have kept Graham out for the first half of the Ohio State game, but officials ultimately ruled he wasn’t guilty of it.
Michigan led 23-3 before Maryland scored touchdowns on both sides of halftime. Backup quarterback Billy Edwards Jr., who plays occasionally in short-yardage situations, scored on a pair of fourth-down sneaks.
In between, the Wolverines were inside the Maryland 10 late in the first half when J.J. McCarthy was intercepted at the goal line by Jaishawn Barham.
Sainristil’s interception near midfield set up a 13-yard scoring run by Semaj Morgan that put Michigan up 29-17, but another touchdown run by Edwards brought the lead down to five at the end of the third.
Corum’s 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was his 20th rushing TD of the season, tying a Michigan record.
Michigan: The school began playing football with a victory over Racine in 1879. The Wolverines have had prettier wins than this one, but they escaped. Last season, Michigan beat Illinois by just two points the week before the Ohio State game but was able to defeat the Buckeyes too.
Maryland: It’s been a disappointing season for the Terps thanks to losses against Illinois and Northwestern, but Maryland gave Michigan a battle before falling to 0-34 against ranked Big Ten teams since joining the league.
“The football gods laugh at us and drop the ball in at the 1-inch line for us to go have to win the game,” coach Michael Locksley said. “That’s where we have to learn to be able to execute critical situations.”
PLAY OF THE GAME?
With the outcome still in doubt, Doman’s punt hit the ground inches from the goal line but didn’t bounce into the end zone.
“That was one of the best plays of the year in terms of special teams,” said Boivin, whose blocked punt was another big contribution.
Michigan: The Wolverines face Ohio State next Saturday.
Maryland: The Terps wrap up the regular season at Rutgers on Saturday.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football