For four quarters, the No. 4 Michigan football team ran through Rutgers with ease, and it showed in the final score: 78-0. It was an old-fashioned beatdown — not a Bo Schembechler-style one, but more like a Fielding Yost point-a-minute display.
The Daily breaks down the good, the bad and the ugly from Michigan’s first road win of the season.
Of the 11 touchdowns scored on Saturday, nine came on the ground. Freshman running back Chris Evans led the group with 153 yards, though he failed to get into the end zone himself. Sophomore Karan Higdon, redshirt junior Ty Isaac and redshirt sophomore Jabrill Peppers collected two touchdowns each. Senior De’Veon Smith had a quiet day with just 11 of Michigan’s 481 rushing yards, but his younger teammates more than made up for it.
On top of his two touchdowns, Peppers returned a punt 43 yards while dodging and ducking under Rutgers defenders, but it was called back on an illegal blocking penalty. He played many roles Saturday, lining up at wildcat quarterback, linebacker and special teams. After the game, Harbaugh gave Peppers the highest praise by calling him a future Heisman Trophy winner.
Aside from the prolific offense, the Wolverines shut out the Scarlet Knights. Michigan held Rutgers to just 39 yards and two first downs, most of which came in the end of the fourth quarter when the first string had subbed out of the game. The Wolverines slammed the Scarlet Knights with 13 tackles for loss, and senior defensive end Taco Charlton may have been the most impressive player on defense after returning from an ankle injury just two weeks ago, sacking both Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano and his backup, Zach Allen.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight had a quiet passing day, going 6-for-13 for 100 yards, but he once again proved his ability to throw the deep ball in the first quarter. On a play where he stepped up in the pocket and may have been better off running the ball, Speight instead opted to heave it to the end zone. Fifth-year senior wide receiver Jehu Chesson laid out and caught it for a 30-yard touchdown.
Michigan didn’t slow down when its backups came into the game, either. Both redshirt junior backup quarterbacks, John O’Korn and Shane Morris, led the team on touchdown drives in the second half. The offense continued to have no issues running the ball, and the second-string defense, as mentioned above, allowed just two first downs.
Things got out of hand quickly in Piscataway, but the Wolverines actually started the game surprisingly slow. Michigan went three-and-out on its first two drives and had its third cut short when Smith had the ball knocked out of his hand. Luckily for the Wolverines, Rutgers was unable to advance the ball after the fumble recovery, and the floodgates opened soon after that.
New Jersey native Juwann Bushell-Beatty started at left tackle in front of family and friends for the first time in his career Saturday after sophomore Grant Newsome left last week’s game with a season-ending injury. Unfortunately for Bushell-Beatty, he was hit hard on just the second play of the game. With help from the trainers, he was able to get up on his own power. He returned to the game not long after, but was definitely banged up.
The offensive line as a whole might have been the only thing that showed any weakness Saturday, and that was more due to injury than anything else. Junior Mason Cole and fifth-year senior Ben Braden played a few snaps at left tackle, and freshman Ben Bredeson saw the field at left guard while redshirt junior Patrick Kugler spent some time at center. Michigan is still working on finding the perfect formation, but for now, the rotation will do.
Rutgers’ most heartbreaking moment of the game may have come on the last play of the third quarter. Morris threw a ball that bounced off of the ground and into the hands of linebacker Deonte Roberts, who ran it down the left sideline for what would have been a 65-yard pick-six. Before the play was called back, the Scarlet Knights shot off their cannon and what was left of the student section erupted in cheers. Unfortunately for them, the play was overturned and Rutgers would remain scoreless for the rest of the game.