Kevin Santo: A glimpse of the future
Michigan fans finally got what they asked for.
For weeks now, they have been calling for the future.
It started with a loss to Michigan State, as the upset eliminated any margin for error and catalyzed visions of grandeur for 2018. The idea of forsaking this season in the name of playing those that would benefit from experience before next year suddenly became appealing.
And after the Wolverines were thrashed in State College, that same plea became deafening.
It was there that the idea finally gained some weight. After all, no two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff. A Big Ten championship was reduced to a hope of a miracle.
Still, Jim Harbaugh said nothing to suggest that Michigan was suddenly looking to the future with no focus on the present season. Last Monday, he said his team needed to respond to the blowout loss. And his press conference made it appear as if John O’Korn was still the Wolverines’ starting quarterback.
So, we knew this day would come eventually.
But on Saturday, it came sooner than many would have expected.
Michigan fans asked to see the future. Harbaugh, in part, granted their wish.
It wasn’t only about Brandon Peters, the man once dubbed as the quarterback of the future, who is suddenly very much the quarterback of the present.
He is still a large part of it, but he was joined by Kareem Walker, Nico Collins, Aubrey Solomon, Michael Dwumfour, Kwity Paye and O’Maury Samuels, too.
Thanks to those seven, Saturday became a quasi time machine.
Peters received his first meaningful college snap in the second quarter. He got plenty after it — completing 10 of his 14 attempts for 124 yards and leading touchdown drives on three consecutive series.
With 23 seconds remaining in the first half, he threw a 20-yard pass to Chris Evans for the first touchdown pass of his career.
As for Walker, the redshirt freshman was given a career-high six carries and rushed for 34 yards.
And in the third quarter, one of those carries ended with Walker laying the ball on the end zone turf as he wheeled away with a finger in the air in celebration. He had just scored the first touchdown of his career as well.
Solomon was given a starting nod for the first time. He turned it into a three-tackle performance, and combined with Paye for a sack.
Samuels burned his redshirt in garbage time, carrying three times for seven yards on Michigan’s final offensive series.
Collins recorded his first catch, a 12-yard reception for a first down that set up junior running back Karan Higdon’s ensuing touchdown rush.
And Dwumfour recorded the first sack of his career.
By the end of it all, the Wolverines dispatched Rutgers, 35-14. Six relatively new faces each played a part in it. The Michigan faithful were gifted with a sense of calm — not only for the present, but just maybe for the future as well.
This is not to say that a crop of newcomers’ mostly minimal role in a win over the Scarlet Knights is cause for celebration. After all, Michigan still sits in fourth in the Big Ten East, and those conference championship hopes still require a whole lot of luck.
It doesn’t call for grand projections to 2018, either.
But for fleeting moments Saturday afternoon, that ‘future’ so many have called for finally showed out on the field. If Peters is an example of anything, it’s that slowly but surely, that may become more consistent, too.
“I thought he was ready,” Harbaugh said of his new starting quarterback. “You base a lot of things on practice, you know, good in practice good in games. Now that’s not always the case, especially with young players. Sometimes they’re not good in games. … It was great to see him be good in games.
“That’s something where (if) players are good in games, that helps their confidence, that builds their confidence. We all felt good, nobody was nervous about what was going to happen. I think he did better than everyone thought, too.”
That he did, only week after a game that ended with Harbaugh telling his team that the “fake love” was gone. He said it was his team’s job to move forward — alone. He said that people would be jumping off the bandwagon.
But those who didn’t, well, they got a nice preview of what could be coming.
Santo can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Kevin_M_Santo.