TAMPA, Fla. — Brandon Peters could have showed everyone why he deserves to start next season.
But when he had the chance to lead a game-winning drive in a New Year’s Day bowl game against an SEC opponent, he turned the ball over. Twice.
Late in the fourth quarter, he stood alone on the sideline, hands on his hips and kicking the dirt off his cleats. Kicker Quinn Nordin patted him on the shoulder first, and then punter Will Hart walked over as well. Just two minutes remained on the clock, but Michigan’s defense made another stop. Sophomore VIPER Khaleke Hudson came over to Peters, put his arms around him and spoke into his ear.
“It’s the last drive. C’mon. We need you,” Hudson said to Peters. “Just go out there and try your best.”
Peters trotted out, but four plays later threw his second interception of the fourth quarter. South Carolina took a knee, and time winded down.
Michigan lost the Outback Bowl, 26-19, and Peters lost his last chance to impress the coaches, media and fans before the offseason.
Peters finished the day with 186 passing yards. He threw two interceptions and completed just 20 of his 44 passes, more attempts than any Michigan quarterback threw in a game this season.
In light of the recent news about Shea Patterson’s transfer from Ole Miss to Michigan, Peters said earlier this week that the Outback Bowl could be his own “breakout game.” He compared Patterson’s transfer to Michigan to the likes of someone stealing something from your house — and Peters said he wouldn’t let it happen.
The Outback Bowl was Peters’ first audition, though, and it didn’t start out very well.
Peters went 11-for-23 in the first half for just 76 yards. The second half’s first drive seemed more promising — he went four-for-four on a touchdown drive, completing deep passes, slants and fades to multiple receivers.
After the game, Jim Harbaugh said there were “some good” parts from Peters’ performance, but there were also some plays that he knew Peters would “like to have back.”
“He was battling just like the rest of the guys,” Harbaugh said. “There was some error there. A little too much at the wrong time.”
Even if Peters had put on an impressive performance, it wouldn’t have put next year’s quarterback battle to rest, but he would’ve at least provided some positive game film against a decent opponent — albeit not a great team in South Carolina — but a team with a winning record nonetheless.
“It does light a fire under me,” Peters said. “I want to be the best I can possibly be. I’ll just take everything that’s happened this year and learn from it and take it into next year and be better.”
In the next few weeks, Shea Patterson will join the team in Ann Arbor and start his Michigan career. With his move, the next quarterback competition of the Harbaugh era begins. Harbaugh has had one in each of his last three seasons, and 2018 won’t be any different.
Patterson, Peters and freshman Dylan McCaffrey. That’s what the quarterback competition looks like right now. One of them hasn’t played a collegiate snap, one of them struggled on the biggest stage yet and the other one led the SEC conference in passing yards halfway through the season.
Harbaugh said he wasn’t sure how much these bowl game performances impact those quarterback competitions, but if Peters turns out to be the starter next fall, it definitely won’t have to do with the bowl performance in Tampa.