Big Ten’s worst-kept secret revealed as JJ McCarthy shines in first start for Michigan football

‘He such a great passer and talent that he increases the efficiency of that offense several times over’

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines share a moment before a college football game against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at Michigan Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Aaron J. Thornton, 2022 Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich.Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines worst kept secret in the Big Ten was finally revealed to the public as QB1 J.J. McCarthy put on a show for the ages in his debut as a starter, albeit against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.

The weather may have delayed the game, but it didn’t deny the inevitable, as McCarthy has conquered the leading role for the remainder of the season.

The one-hour lightning delay, which broke a school record for the latest kickoff in Michigan Stadium history, was a precursor to what we were about to see on the field as the Wolverines flashed early and often.

Michigan boat raced Hawaii 56-10 to improve to 2-0 on the season behind stellar play from McCarthy, who went 11 of 12 for 229 yards passing and three touchdowns in just the first half.

McCarthy being under center unlocked the play of his teammates as on offense, the Wolverines racked up 410 yards in the first half, which they hadn’t done since demolishing Massachusetts in 2012.

“This Michigan game was fascinating to me because I think J.J. gives them a little something extra,” said Howard Griffith of the B1G Network. “It’s going to be fun to watch. He makes them dynamic; that’s what he does. Because now you have to become concerned about another player carrying the football, not just throwing the football. So he was out there today, and it looked easy; This felt like the team was playing at a different level when he was at the quarterback position.”

McCarthy’s numbers gifted him the starting job against the University of Connecticut Huskies in week three and eventually the rest of the season, barring injury.

McCarthy spoke to the media after the game about the expectations he set amongst himself, facing adversity with the weather delay, and his teammate’s performance under the brightest of lights.

“It (Weather) was just a little adversity,” McCarthy said. “Whatever happens, happen, and we’re just going to roll with it. We’ve been kind of waiting for something like that to happen all year, so it was just something we were prepared for, and we just naturally took advantage of it.”

McCarthy continued:

“It (Preparation) all goes out to my teammates and my coaches. The scout team all week has done a great job, and it was just an amazing opportunity for them to get in and really show all the hard work that they’ve been putting in. My receivers played outstanding. My offensive line played outstanding. The running backs were great, so it just opened up everything.”

McCarthy said, “This was kind of something that I was expecting of myself. I don’t like to have expectations like that, but just playing Hawaii, just getting it done and handling our business, and now we’re on to week three.”

Jim Harbaugh

Harbaugh is familiar with deciding between two quarterbacks dating back to his San Francisco 49ers days.

During the 2012 season, quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick battled it out like Cade McNamara and McCarthy as each player fought to be the leader of men.

Read: Michigan football fans: JJ McCarthy deserves to start, but Cade McNamara deserves your respect

Smith started nine games that season, averaging 174 passing yards per game and 13 rushing yards per game.

But smith was trampled as the newcomer Kaepernick in 10 starts, averaged 163 passing yards per game, plus an additional 42 yards on the ground, which ultimately was the deal breaker.

Like McCarthy, Harbaugh chose to go with the more athletic Kaepernick, who led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers talks with head coach Jim Harbaugh and Michael Crabtree #15 against the Baltimore Ravens during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Ravens won 34-31. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) (2013 Focus on Sport)

Former Michigan tight end Jake Butt said during the broadcast that when he played as an All-American under Harbaugh, the coach used to preach how players would be known by their talents and efforts and how Harbaugh would not play politics.

“He won the job today,” said Gerry Dinardo of the B1G Network. “He didn’t even run the ball barely at all, and he will do that when the time comes and when they need him. But he’s such a great passer and talent that he increases the efficiency of that offense several times over.”

Now that the decision has been made, how far do you see McCarthy taking the Wolverines?

About the Author:

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.