Michigan Wolverines Football: Jim Harbaugh Breaks Down Cade McNamara's Performance, J.J. McCarthy's TD
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Jim Harbaugh Breaks Down Cade McNamara's Performance, J.J. McCarthy's TD

In Michigan's 47-14 season-opening win over Western Michigan, redshirt freshman quarterback Cade McNamara picked up where he left off last season. He completed 9 of his 11 pass attempts for 136 yards and two touchdowns in two and a half quarters before he and several other starters were relieved of their duties.

For head coach Jim Harbaugh, the most impressive aspect of McNamara's performance was the way he commanded the entire offensive unit.

"I thought he did really well," Harbaugh said on the Inside Michigan Football radio show Monday night. "He really managed the game well.

"We had some substitution issues on defense. We had a few on special teams, too — we played a punt return with 10 guys that ended up being a fair catch. There were some alignment issues, but not on offense.

"On offense, it was really dialed in. There are improvements [to be made], but Cade was a huge part of that — making sure that everybody was in the right place, giving reminders and just getting the flow of the team. His demeanor was outstanding and calming."

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Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh has won 50 games at U-M.
Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh has won 50 games at U-M. (USA TODAY Sports Images)

McNamara spread the ball around, going through his progressions, finding the open guy and not fixating on a favorite target. His nine completions went to five different receivers.

Coaches often say that winning is the most important stat for a quarterback. Within the game, moving the chains and engineering touchdown drives help lead to those victories, and those are strong suits for McNamara, who has directed the Michigan offense for 21 possessions dating back to the Rutgers game last season. On those 21 drives, the Wolverines have scored 14 times (11 touchdowns and three field goals).

"He got the ball to a lot of different playmakers," Harbaugh said. "I think you asked me — or somebody did — last week, ‘What does he do best?’ He makes other players better, and that’s job No. 1 for a quarterback. And moving the team, again, drives ending with scores. Cade has a talent for 11-on-11 football, moving the team.

"What can he do better? Carrying out his fakes, handing off, pulling a defender with him and not watching the run — there were some pretty darn good runs in that game."

McNamara's PFF grading of 93.0 led all quarterbacks across college football in Week 1.

"Excited for the way he came out and played in his first ball game of the season," Harbaugh said.

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Midway through the third quarter, the Wolverines inserted freshman J.J. McCarthy at the signal-caller spot, and he was impressive, completing 4 of his 6 passes for 80 yards. Sixty nine of those yards came on a scramble and throw back to the other side of the field to redshirt junior Daylen Baldwin — the Jackson State transfer who was a game-time decision but able to give it a go, per Harbaugh — who took it the distance for a score.

Harbaugh broke the play down, acknowledging that it was potentially dangerous ... but he certainly wasn't disappointed in the result.

"It was 3rd-and-25, him taking a shot down field is okay in that situation," Harbaugh began. "I wasn’t quite sure he knew that; later, he said he did … Hearing him describe the play, he was first going to go to [freshman wideout] A.J. Henning, who was coming across the middle on a dig and felt like the safety was involved. He described the eyes of the corner, and thought he could get it over his head.

"And you applaud him for making that throw. In that situation, that’s a pretty darn good decision, and we never complain about touchdowns. By the way, let me just state, for the record, that we never get mad at that.

"Now, does that make it a good decision? Is hitting on 18 and getting a three for 21, does that make it a good decision [in Blackjack]?"

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