Just like its last two games, the Michigan football team had fans leaving long before the game was over against Nebraska on Saturday.
That’s because it was 39-0, and the Cornhuskers had 17 total yards in the first 30 minutes.
It only got uglier in the second frame. But if you were at the game, you probably left during the band show and missed that part, opting instead for a fulfilling postgame nap.
So for your information, The Daily breaks down what happened after you left Saturday’s game at halftime.
DPJ punt return touchdown
This was probably the most exciting play of the entire game. Sophomore wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones has had his fair share of struggles in the punt-return game.
But on Saturday, Peoples-Jones took his second career punt return to the house.
Peoples-Jones caught it on his own 40, sprinted to his right, looped around the punt team, cut back to the left, busted a final defender with a spin move and front-flipped into the end zone for a 60-yard score.
“Donovan had a great — has been blocking extremely well,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “Showed up on the punt return, there was some great blocks there. Yeah, just, I thought physically our team played well today.”
The play was fairly meaningless, as the game was already out of hand. But it did exhibit the continued development of Peoples-Jones, who has showed his ability in the receiving game, but had yet to break it out in the return game this season.
McCaffrey continues to impress
One of the more unsung storylines of this season has been the steadiness of redshirt freshman quarterback Dylan McCaffrey in the backup quarterback role.
He first came in against Notre Dame and was surprisingly steady while starter Shea Patterson recovered from cramping issues. Then, against Western Michigan, McCaffrey threw his first career touchdown on his only pass of the game.
On Saturday, McCaffrey continued his steadiness.
His first play, he went 75 yards to the house on a read option play, but it was called back because of a holding penalty. No matter, as McCaffrey still finished the game 3-for-8 for 86 yards, 56 of which came on a touchdown to freshman receiver Ronnie Bell.
“Dylan continues to improve every time he gets in,” Harbaugh said. “That’s a position like all the positions in football, but especially quarterback, it takes playing and having time on task and being out there. And it — he’s getting that. It doesn’t — it’s never too big for him. I really like that about Dylan. So, all good there.”
Aidan Hutchinson solid in relief
Late in the first half, junior defensive end Rashan Gary seemed to hurt his shoulder. After that, freshman defensive end Aidan Hutchinson came in to replace him. And though Hutchinson went down with an injury for a short time, too, he finished solidly with three tackles, including one for a loss.
His most impressive stretch came in the early fourth quarter. First, the Cornhuskers handed it off to running back Devine Ozigbo, and Hutchinson squeezed through the line and forced Ozigbo to bounce outside, where Hutchinson and junior VIPER Khaleke Hudson wrestled him down.
The play immediately after, Nebraska backup quarterback Andrew Bunch kept the ball on a zone read and ran towards the left. Hutchinson once again shed his block and fired into the backfield, stuffing Bunch for a four-yard loss.
Hutchinson also helped force a safety in the first half, when he pressured Cornhuskers quarterback Adrian Martinez as he tried to throw a screen pass. Martinez threw the pass into Hutchinson’s outstretched arm, and it bounced back toward Martinez, who caught it and tried to throw another forward pass from the end zone, which is illegal and was called a safety.
With Gary in front of him, the freshman will likely need to wait before receiving any starting time, but he has earned the trust of his coaches to play in some important snaps.
“Great experience for Aidan Hutchinson, as much as he’s been playing, and he’s in the two-deep now, doing a good job,” Harbaugh said. “I thought our defensive line really, the pass rush was really good today. And the discipline in the rush lanes was evident today.”