The Michigan football team left no doubt Saturday. After stealing a win in their last game and having one stolen from them in the game before, the Wolverines pounded Rutgers, 49-16, returning to the form they showed earlier in the season.
Michigan was most efficient on offense, in both the running and passing games, but the defense showed bright spots, too. A few mistakes weren’t enough to make Saturday’s game close, as the Wolverines (4-1 Big Ten, 7-2 overall) made the Scarlet Knights’ (1-5, 3-6) first trip to Michigan Stadium a rough one.
The Daily breaks down the good, bad and ugly from Saturday’s game:
Fifth-year senior quarterback Jake Rudock turned in a career day after leaving last week’s game at Minnesota with an injury. Rudock went 18-for-25 for 337 yards and two touchdowns against Rutgers. The Wolverines also took steps toward establishing their deep passing game, completing seven passes of 20 or more yards. Junior tight end Jake Butt caught four passes for 102 yards, more than he had in the previous three games combined and the most by a Michigan player this season.
Junior running back De’Veon Smith got back on track, carrying 15 times for 73 yards and showing no ill effects after limping off against Minnesota last week. And redshirt freshman Jabrill Peppers remained an offensive weapon with an 18-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Michigan’s offense wore down the Scarlet Knights early on by possessing the ball for 19:04 in the first half, and the comfortable lead allowed several reserves to come in. Redshirt freshman quarterback Wilton Speight and redshirt sophomore running backs Wyatt Shallman and Ross Taylor-Douglas each earned touches.
Defensively, junior cornerback Jourdan Lewis broke up two passes to set a school record with 19 on the season. He also returned a kickoff 35 yards, and junior safety Dymonte Thomas ran back a squib kick 28 yards to the Rutgers 40. Senior safety Jarrod Wilson added an interception, and the Wolverines held the Scarlet Knights without an offensive touchdown.
Later in the evening, Michigan received its final good news of the night. Michigan State suffered its first loss of the season at Nebraska, 39-38, falling into a tie for second place with the Wolverines in the Big Ten East. If Michigan and Ohio State both win out until their matchup at Michigan Stadium on Nov. 28, they will play for the division championship in the last game of the regular season.
While the defense’s performance was strong as usual, Michigan still had some lapses that it did not show earlier in the season. In the first-quarter, a 54-yard scamper by Rutgers running back Robert Martin set up the Scarlet Knights’ first field goal. In the second, face-mask and holding penalties put Rutgers in position for another field goal.
Also in the first half, redshirt junior defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow injured his shoulder. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said after the game he was hopeful it was a minor injury.
Otherwise, the defense capitalized against a battered Rutgers offense playing without star wide receiver Leonte Carroo.
There wasn’t much to report in the ugly department, but a couple of special-teams miscues stood out. Rutgers wide receiver Janarion Grant returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown with 10:29 left in the second quarter, trimming Michigan’s lead to 21-10.
Then, near the end of the first half, Grant ran back a punt 67 yards to the Wolverines’ nine-yard line with nine seconds left, setting up a field goal as the half expired.
Of course, neither proved to be significant, but special teams coordinator John Baxter surely will make the two plays a point of emphasis this week.