The Wolverine

October 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 67

24 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2022 BY JOHN BORTON N o one doubted J.J. McCarthy's talent, from the moment he walked onto Michigan's cam- pus. Still, nobody could have predicted the white-hot start to the 2022 season by the savvy sophomore quarter- back. Of his first 16 throws in games, 15 went for completions. The only impediment to a sweet 16-for-16 involved a dropped toss in Michigan's lightning-delayed 56- 10 win over Hawai'i. The figurative lightning continued throughout that game, McCarthy going 11-for-12 in his first start, throwing for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns. His performance — combined with senior quarterback Cade McNamara's comparative struggles in the two games — ensured it wouldn't be McCarthy's last start. "J.J., a near flawless performance — 11- for-12, and one was dropped," head coach Jim Harbaugh said afterward. "I thought he had a great game. He's playing really well. We'll start J.J. next week." Asked if McCarthy attained the No. 1 job going forward, Harbaugh didn't hesi- tate. "Yeah," he said. "By merit, he's earned that. That's by performance, by merit." Just like that, a much-discussed pos- sible takeover down the road became a here-and-now reality. The gifted gun- slinger out of La Grange Park, Ill., man- aged to pry the starting job away from a senior captain who led Michigan to a decisive victory over Ohio State, a Big Ten championship and the Wolverines' first-ever College Football Playoff ap- pearance last year. It's a potential game-changer for the look of Michigan's offense going for- ward. It's also a test of the team's chem- istry and ability to play together when adversity hits. NO DOUBTING MCCARTHY'S ABILITY McCarthy sat out spring football with a sore arm, slowing his advance to the top spot. Once he healed up and began attacking his preparation once again, he came on with a focused ferocity. Several close to Michigan football qui- etly predicted that, at some point, he would ascend to the top spot this year. Few saw it coming this soon, especially given McCarthy's enforced time off and McNamara playing what Harbaugh de- scribed as "his best football." The stretch run of fall camp featured McCarthy turning it up even more, the head coach observed. "He really raised it the last week of training camp," Harbaugh said. "Really hit an inflection point in the last scrim- mage in The Big House. From there, it's been just straight up for him, just two- and-a-half weeks, every single day has been about as good as can be." McCarthy stayed on point in a limited role in Michigan's opener, going 4-for-4 passing and rushing for 50 yards on just 3 carries, including a 20-yard touchdown bolt. His big-play ability in the run game as well as throwing intrigues all onlook- ers, including Harbaugh. "He puts plays on tape where he can run through the defense, run through seams," Harbaugh noted. "As a defense, you have to account for that. You have to make sure somebody knows where he's at. That pulls an extra defender away from the point of attack when he's faking or carrying out a fake." McCarthy then put the full arsenal on display versus the overmatched War- riors. He fired touchdown passes of 42, 13 and 17 yards, picked up 16 more on one scramble, and stayed turnover free for the second straight game. "Outstanding," Harbaugh said. "It was phenomenal — a phenomenal per- formance. I can't remember having one myself like that. You circle back and look and find some things to improve on. That was a great night. Celebrate it, move on with a humble heart and get ready for next week." McNamara readied for the next week with a humbled status. He suffered 2 sacks on protection breakdowns and made an ill-advised throw for an inter- ception coming off the bench against the Warriors. Afterward, Harbaugh made it official. At a position the head coach in- sists is only rented, McCarthy took over NEARLY FLAWLESS J.J. McCarthy's Stunning Start Lifts Him To QB1 In McCarthy's first start as Michigan's quarterback, he went 11-for-12 pass- ing for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns in U-M's 56-10 rout of Hawai'i. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - October 2022