Michigan dominant on D, passes first Big Ten test vs. Maryland

Michigan continued to make its case as the nation’s most-improved team, using a dominant third quarter to roll past Maryland 28-0 Saturday at Byrd Stadium.

The No. 22 Wolverines (4-1) won for a fourth straight week with another smothering defensive performance to earn the first Big Ten win -- and the first win on the road -- for coach Jim Harbaugh.

Michigan has surrendered 14 points in four games since a 24-17 loss to Utah in Week 1 that looks increasingly more understandable as the Utes remain unbeaten and climb the rankings. The Wolverines have pitched consecutive shutouts for the first time since 2000 and look more each week like contenders in the Big Ten East.

Harbaugh’s team traveled to Maryland without top running back De'Veon Smith, who suffered a lower-leg injury last week, and cornerback Channing Stribling. The Wolverines started slowly, losing a pair of fumbles in the first half and failing to reach the end zone despite interceptions of Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe by Desmond Morgan and Jeremy Clark.

A pair of Kenny Allen field goals put the Wolverines on top before everything clicked after halftime.

Drake Johnson and Jehu Chesson scored touchdowns in the third quarter. The Terps benched Rowe for Daxx Garman, who fared no better than the starter.

Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock finished with 180 passing yards on 16-of-30 attempts for Michigan.

In potential bad news for the Wolverines, defensive end Mario Ojemudia left in the second half with a right-leg injury and went to the locker room on crutches.

What the win means for Michigan: The Wolverines are accustomed to strong starts. This season is the fifth time since 2009 that Michigan has started with four or five wins in its first five games. Three of the previous four seasons ended for the Wolverines with seven wins or fewer. This season looks different, though, as the Harbaugh system takes hold. The blowout Saturday provided more evidence of a quick turnaround. ESPN’s FPI favors Michigan in its next seven games, including next week against No. 16 Northwestern and Oct. 17 against second-ranked Michigan State. Both are unbeaten and visit the Big House. Should be fun.

What the loss means for Maryland: The season is unraveling for the 2-3 Terps, who have scored six points in their past two games and can’t find a quarterback. Rowe was intercepted three times Saturday, bringing his season total to 12, including seven in the past two games. Garman, the former Arizona and Oklahoma State quarterback, didn’t look much better. Linebackers Jefferson Ashiru and Brett Zanotto left with ankle injuries in the first half. Oh, and a trip next week looms against No. 1 Ohio State.

How the game was won: The Wolverines simply took over at halftime. Still leading 6-0, Michigan got an interception of Rowe from Jourdan Lewis. Rudock then hit Johnson, who took over for fumble-prone Ty Isaac, for a 31-yard touchdown. Rudock connected with Khalid Hill for a two-point conversion to make it 14-0. And essentially, that was it. Chesson scored on a 66-yard run from Rudock on the next possession.

Stat of the game: Take your pick of the Wolverines’ defensive numbers -- 105 total yards allowed, 29 rushing yards allowed on 26 carries, three interceptions. In a second-half sequence, the Wolverines sacked Garman three times in four plays, including a violent flipping of the quarterback by defensive tackle Willie Henry. Michigan’s national rankings (second nationally in total defense, third in yards per play, fifth in total QBR, ninth in defensive efficiency) all figure to improve as it heads toward the clash with Northwestern.