When the second-ranked Wolverines beat the Rebels 35-7 on Saturday, McCarthy threw two touchdowns to Roman Wilson and one of them was on a 47-yard pass.
Keeler's death in February at the age of 20 was caused by a heart ailment. McCarthy played youth football and at Nazareth Academy High School in suburban Chicago with Keeler.
“This whole week has been super emotional because that's been my guy since day one,” McCarthy said. “That 47-yard touchdown was something that you just can't make up. It was unbelievable.”
That didn’t slow them down.
McCarthy completed his first 13 passes and finished 22 of 25 for 278 yards and two touchdown passes to Wilson, who had four receptions for 89 yards and has five touchdown receptions through two games.
Blake Corum ran for three touchdowns and finished with 80 yards rushing on 15 carries and caught two passes for 23 yards.
The Rebels (1-1) were overmatched as expected, struggling to compete with a national championship contender on either side of the ball.
“Today doesn’t define us, but how we respond will define us,” first-year Rebels coach Barry Odom said. “Ultimately, we are in a sprint with this season on how good we can get. I’m excited about the opportunity to get back to work with our group.
“It’s a sprint with no finish line.”
Doug Brumfield was 10 of 19 for 100 yards and Jayden Maiava completed 5 of 7 passes for 68 yards for the Rebels, who didn't have a player with 25 yards rushing or with 50 yards receiving.
UNLV — like East Carolina last week — avoided a shutout with a late score. Jordan Younge-Humphrey had a 20-yard rushing touchdown with 2:43 left, capping a nine-play, 81-yard drive.
Harbaugh worked on the chain gang at his son's youth football game before the Wolverines played and planned to watch his team on TV from home.
Jay Harbaugh, special teams coordinator and safeties coach, filled his father’s role in the first half. Running backs coach and former Michigan star Mike Hart led the team after halftime.
Hart became the first Black football coach at Michigan.
“It’s a great honor,” Hart said. "I had a chance to play with Tony Dungy. I had a chance to play with Jim Caldwell. My first coaching job was with Ron English.
“I’ve had a lot of great coaches, who are African Americans that I've had a chance to look up to. They let me know that it can happen, that it’s a possibility. Hopefully, we can get more African American coaches in college football. We need more and hopefully I'll be one of those one day. I will be one of those one day.”
McCarthy has completed 87.3% of his passes through two games, matching Justin Fields' completion percentage through two games at Ohio State in 2020. Corey Robinson (92.2% in 2013 at Troy) and Geno Smith (88% in 2012 at West Virginia) are the only two players with a higher completion percentage through two games with at least 55 attempts since 2000 through games Saturday afternoon, according to Sportradar.
Michigan standout defensive backs Will Johnson and Rod Moore missed a second straight game with injuries.
UNLV: Odom was able to show his players what one of college football's best looks like up close. The Rebels can potentially learn from the painful experience to help them compete in the Mountain West Conference.
“Nothing has changed in my mind about our football team at UNLV," said Odom, a former Missouri coach. “I’m excited about where we’re going to go with this.”
Michigan: Corum's recovery is a good sign for him, and the team. The All-America running back had a knee injury late last season against Illinois, played sparingly against Ohio State, missed the last two games and needed surgery. Corum ran for 73 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries in last week's win over East Carolina.
UNLV: Hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Michigan: Hosts Bowling Green on Saturday night.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll