Michigan 35, Rutgers 14 Comment Count

Ace October 28th, 2017 at 3:57 PM

The first of many touchdowns, one hopes. [Patrick Barron]

Welcome to the future.

After four drives for each team, Michigan found itself deadlocked at seven with lowly Rutgers in front of a listless homecoming crowd. Embattled quarterback John O'Korn had completed 3/6 passes for 13 yards with an interception and two dropped snaps. On what turned out to be his final snap of the afternoon, he passed up multiple open receivers to roll out of a clean pocket and throw in the direction of a very well-covered Donovan Peoples-Jones.

When the defense booted Rutgers off the field with 7:01 to play in the first half, ballyhooed redshirt freshman Brandon Peters entered in O'Korn's stead.

"They just told me to get warmed up," said Peters. "When we got the ball I was just standing there next to Harbaugh and he said let's go, you're in."

The crowd instantly came to life. So did the offense. Two Karan Higdon runs picked up 20 yards to open the drive, then Peters got going, connecting on passes to Ty Wheatley Jr., Henry Poggi, and Nico Collins for first downs before Higdon capped the drive with a ten-yard touchdown.

"I wasn't that nervous," said Peters. "Honestly it was a great opportunity to get out there. I was more excited and confident than nervous."

Peters didn't seem nervous. When Michigan got the ball at midfield with 1:49 to go in the half, he marched the team right into the red zone. He had a freshman moment, nearly throwing an interception on a slant to Grant Perry, but that didn't rattle him one bit. On the very next snap, he tossed a near-perfect* lob to Chris Evans on a wheel route for a 20-yard score. With one change in personnel, Michigan went being in a dogfight at home against Rutgers to blowing them out.

"I saw man coverage, one-on-one with Chris," said Peters. "I wanted to give him a chance to make a play and he made a great play on the ball."

The wheel route remains undefeated. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Michigan had already made needed improvements elsewhere, and the insertion of Peters served to accentuate them. The offensive line had been opening holes in the running game, which featured a diverse array of powers, counters, outside zones, and crack sweeps. With opposition safeties finally forced to respect the pass, the backs found ample room to run. Higdon (158 yards on 18 carries) and Ty Isaac (109 on 14) both cracked the century mark; Michigan averaged 6.5 yards per carry.

The pass protection also looked vastly improved. O'Korn and Peters both consistently operated out of clean pockets; Peters did a better job of standing in and delivering. Michigan didn't take a sack.

Most importantly, Peters continued dealing. He finished 10/14 for 124 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers. He didn't lock on to a favorite target; ten different receivers caught passes for the Wolverines today. While Peters's stat line may not blow anyone away, he made it obvious he's the best option to run this team right now. His coach agreed.

"He really aquitted himself well," said Jim Harbaugh. "Moved the football team. Played very, very well. He did a lot. From the first time he went in there, just feeling the deep zone, feeling the linebackers drop, taking that extra half second to take a breath, take a checkdown. it was good ball. It was good."

Harbaugh probably didn't need to declare Peters the starter for next week's game against Minnesota, but he did so anyway.

Mo Hurst spearheaded another dominant defensive performance. [Campredon]

The defense needed no such fixing. Outside of a long Janarion Grant touchdown out of the wildcat and one drive in which Rutgers QB Giovanni Rescigno uncharacteristically connected on a couple NFL-level throws, they effectively held the Scarlet Knights to nothing. Rescigno dropped back to pass 21 times; he threw for 101 and took five sacks. Rutgers's pair of running backs combined for a mere 45 yards on 18 carries. Rutgers simply couldn't block Maurice Hurst, Rashan Gary, and Chase Winovich, and freshman DT Aubrey Solomon didn't look out of place on that line while getting the most extended playing time of his young career.

Higdon opened the fourth quarter with a 49-yard touchdown jaunt on a perfectly blocked power play to put Michigan up 35-14. A game that had already flown by didn't take long to wrap up from there. Rutgers wanted to get home. Michigan, one would like to think, was champing at the bit to get the Peters Era underway in earnest when he gets his first career start under the lights against Minnesota.

"It was time," said Harbaugh.

*Nitpickers will note it was a little short. Most Michigan fans, however, saw the skies part and heard angels sing.



October 28th, 2017 at 7:44 PM ^

think I'm that close to the program though and have that much influence.  All I said was he is better than JOK which I've said for weeks now and he is better than him.  JOK was in for two drives, threw an int and had two dropped snaps.  Even if Peters has a bad game next week against minny he is still the better starter and qb of the future.


October 28th, 2017 at 10:11 PM ^

I think it was likely Harbaugh's plan to wait until after the PSU game, intentionally, before playing Peters.

I mean, the atmosphere there, for your first ever game as a starter as a rs. freshman? QB psychology is everything, and that would have been a recipe for PTSD.

Additionally, I wouldn't be surprised if Harbaugh essentially laid down certain with O'Korn (or whomever the QB is) as having a certain "prove it" period, with a performance quota and expectations, or at least a floor-level of performance.

Constantly swapping QBs is terrible for consistency, WR-rhythm, playcalling, O-line communication, etc.

Holding Peters out until Rutger's--and, even still not "starting" him--is actually an adept move, for instilling confidence and putting training wheels on your future-of-the-program Quarterback, with a very manageable scenario against a team that's named Rutgers as opposed to one named Penn State.



October 28th, 2017 at 7:50 PM ^

I’m guessing what Harbaugh saw in O’Korn was previous experience. I also don’t think Harbaugh had any interest in Peters starting his career behind an o-line providing such poor pass protection. As we saw with Wilt before he got hurt, any QB we put out there was going to be running for his life. As the o-line improved in recent weeks and O’Korn’s performance didn’t follow the same upward trajectory, the door was opened for Peters. We can look back and wonder what might have been, but a lot of aspects of our offense had to get better to make today possible. I, for one, can’t wait to watch the Amazon Prime show in January to see how this played out behind the scenes.


October 28th, 2017 at 4:52 PM ^

O'Korn's problem was unforced errors so this is a "man against himself" storyline here.  Defenses can just kind of stand there and watched him roll nat-1s like he's a character in "Prometheus".

Just stopping the bleeding there is a win.  Now the opposing defense might actually become relevant again instead of watching the offense trip on its own shoelaces.


October 28th, 2017 at 4:39 PM ^

But that's where the Purdue game comes into play. Had JOK not lit it up after WS3 went down maybe Peters plays vs MSU. But after that performance vs Purdue and a bye week before State, hard to fault Harbaugh. And you could say, well he should have put him into the game vs State. True, but that damn monsoon. It really was the perfect storm. No pun intended. 


October 29th, 2017 at 1:28 AM ^

I really don't get why people assume that Peters was ready to handle the offense in week 5 because he was in week 8.
In the post game interview he stated that communication with the line and the offense as a whole, is where he improved the most since spring ball. There are young guys all over this offense that were inconsistent and had not gotten on the same page yet. Putting in a young QB who was not fully confident in communicating what needed to be communicated is not a key to success.


October 28th, 2017 at 6:25 PM ^

I agree.

A guy claiming inside info suggested a couple of weeks ago that, among other things, Pep was beginning to spend more time with Peters, grooming him for an opportunity to play after PSU. The info suggested that Peters had been discouraged during camp and a bit disconnected, but had perked up in recent weeks as it became clear he'd have an opportunity to play.

That info fits the facts really well. And, perhaps, Brandon's laid-back demeanor will do him well when he gets into pressure situations. He needs to get more of the playbook absorbed, though.


October 28th, 2017 at 4:48 PM ^

Everyone has been talking like Peters is some delicate flower as if he will crumble the moment he faces a little pressure and be ruined if he goes into a game and it goes poorly. Good players crave adversity and challenges. They bounce backfrom failure. The only reason to not put the guy in is if you think he is worse than the starter.


October 28th, 2017 at 4:06 PM ^

Victory felt good for the first time since Florida
I was cringing when I came on here, hoping that I wouldn't see Muppets. Glad that a decent win against Rutgers at home doesn't warrant the Muppets in Ace's mind, either.


October 28th, 2017 at 4:08 PM ^

Good write up!

2 bad passes and it looked like he realized it immediately.  Missed McKeon and prolly shouldn't have thrown that slant right before the half that was almost picked. 

Young man has wisdom beyond his years. 


October 28th, 2017 at 4:09 PM ^

Where is this insider who said Peters was a recruiting mistake ? He comes in here and touts how he’s in the “ know “ he said we wouldn’t like Peters playing or how he said it be careful what you wish for ...

G. Gulo of the Dale

October 28th, 2017 at 8:54 PM ^

I'll give you a hint:  his name was C. Balas.  No wait, that's too obvious.  Chris B.  Yes, Chris B.

(There was a post on Balas' comment a week or two ago that garnered much response.  I want to say that Maizen posted it.  But, I could be wrong, and, well, I think you know why I might assume that he posted it.)