ANN ARBOR, Mich. – On a near-perfect afternoon in Ann Arbor, J.J. McCarthy and his Michigan teammates were almost as flawless as the No. 2 Wolverines had little trouble in cruising past East Carolina 30-3 on Sept. 2 in the season opener for both teams.
Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter served as the acting head coach and was credited with the victory in the absence of Jim Harbaugh, who spent the first of a three-game suspension handed down as a self-imposed penalty by the school while the NCAA is investigating the football program.
The announced attendance of 109,480 spectators marked the 309th consecutive at Michigan Stadium of more than 100,000 fans. It was also the 16th straight win at home for Michigan, the best stretch since winning 16 straight games at (2002-05) and 21 games (1997-2000) under former coach Lloyd Carr.
McCarthy was masterful in directing the Wolverine offense. He completed 26 of his 30 pass attempts and finished the afternoon with three scoring strikes. His .867 completion percentage on the day is the second-best in program history.
Former Michigan standout Elvis Grbac holds the record of .909 after completing 20-of-22 passes against Notre Dame in 1991.
McCarthy has been impressive in his 14 games as a starter at Michigan. He has now led the Wolverines to 61 scores in 68 trips into the red zone, including 51 touchdowns during that span. Michigan scores (59 TDs, 26 field goals) on 59 percent of the drives that are finished with McCarthy at the helm.
Wide receiver Roman Wilson was on the receiving end of all three of McCarthy’s scoring aerials and marking the first time a Michigan receiver has caught three touchdowns in a single game since 2019.
McCarthy and Wilson teamed up for the first time on a 14-yard scoring toss in the first quarter and James Turner connected on the conversion kick to give the Wolverines the early 7-0 lead with 5:43 to go in the period.
If that set the tone of the day, the second period signaled the beginning of the end for ECU and whatever fancies the Pirates may have had of an upset.
Michigan tacked on 16 points in the second quarter to push its lead to 23-0 at the intermission.
All-American running back Blake Corum pushed in from two yards out as Michigan extended its lead to 14-0 following Turner’s PAT just seven seconds into second period. McCarthy found Wilson for a second time a short time later on a 10-yard scoring toss, but Michigan botched the conversion attempt as the lead ballooned to 20-0 with 5:32 remaining before halftime.
Turner redeemed himself for missing the PAT earlier in the second period when he booted a 50-yard field goal on the final play of the half as the Wolverines went into the locker room with a 23-0 advantage on the Pirates. The 50-yard kick matched a career-best for Turner, who played at Louisville (2019-22) before transferring to Michigan as a graduate student in time to play this season. He was a two-time all-conference while playing for the Cardinals.
The duo of McCarthy and Wilson teamed up for the third time in the game on a pass from 15 yards out and Turner kicked the extra point for Michigan’s final points on the afternoon.
East Carolina managed to avoid the shut when the Pirates called timeout on third down with just four seconds left in the game. Andrew Conrad was successful on a 33-yard field goal on the final play of the game.
Michigan held a commanding advantage in total offense as the Wolverines piled up 280 yards through the air and adding 122 yards rushing in the game to account for their 402 yards on the afternoon. ECU, meanwhile, managed to put up 235 yards of total offense, 119 of which came in the final quarter, including 56 on the final drive of the game against Michigan’s reserves.
Corum finished the day with 77 yards rushing on 10 carries and the one touchdown for the Wolverines. He averaged 7.3 yard per carry and had a long run of 37 yards to open the second quarter. Corum has scored at least one touchdown in nine of his last 10 games at Michigan. Teammate Donovan Edwards added 37 yards on 12 carries on the afternoon and also caught four passes out of the backfield for an additional 33 yards.
Wilson finished with six catches for 78 yards. His three TD receptions were the most at Michigan since Nico Collins’ three receiving scores against Indiana during the 2019 season.
while tight end Cornelius Johnson added 71 yards on five catches for the Wolverines. Colston Loveland also caught four passes for a career-best 57 yards for the victors.
ECU quarterback Mason Garcia completed 11-of-18 passes for 80 yards and threw one interception. He also led his team in rushing with 36 yards on eight carries. Five other Pirates carried the ball a total of 18 times for just 67 yards against the Michigan defense.
Backup QB Alex Flinn threw for 52 yards after completing six of his 11 pass attempts as the Pirates could muster only 132 yards through the air on the day.
Michigan linebackers Ernest Hausmann and Junior Colson led the Wolverines. Hausmann led the way with six total tackles, while Colson added five tackles, including two tackles for loss in the game. Mike Sainristil’s interception of a Garcia pass in the second quarter set up the drive that resulted in McCarthy hooking up with Wilson a short time later for the first points of the season for the Wolverines.
Julius Wood and Michael Edwards paced the Pirates with nine and eight total tackles, respectively.
Michigan returns to action Sept. 9 at home against UNLV (3:30 p.m/CBS). East Carolina, meanwhile, is scheduled to entertain Marshall on Sept. 9 (4 p.m./ESPNU).
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.