The Wolverines ventured into Piscataway, New Jersey Saturday night to square off with the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers. A raucous Scarlet Knights crowd hoped to replicate the 2014 demolition of Brady Hoke’s Wolverines when they last ventured into High Pointe Solutions Stadium. HPSS is located on the Busch Campus of Rutgers, overlooking the Raritan River to the South.
That ugly 2014 M defensive meltdown ended 21-24, and later helped usher then Michigan Head Football Coach Brady Hoke out as the Wolverine’s head man. That loss was Exhibit A. To say M’s defense played better Saturday is woeful understatement. They held Rutgers to two first downs. And those came late in the game. Only two!!!! Rutgers managed only 39 total yards. How could it have been done better?
Saturday’s game did not resemble 2014 in any of the game’s three phases as the Wolverines dismantled a severely outmanned Scarlet Knight team offensively, defensively, and on special teams.
JABRILL PEPPERS WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE START OF THE THE OFFENSIVE MAYHEM. HE WAS STEADY AND PRODUCTIVE IN THE OTHER SECTORS OF THE GAME.
All the accolades that were earned and will be heaped on Jabrill post Rutgers are highly deserved. Peppers captured an uncertain early first quarter Michigan offense, and turned the game Michigan’s way. He came in as QB after the first couple of fruitless possessions to start the game, He jump started the then soggy (heavy rain) and sputtering offense, and set the foundering offensive Wolverines on the path to a historic victory He played only in the first half, but produced 74-offensive yards and a pair of first half TDs.
Offensively, the Wolverines produced a record 9 rushing TDs and 481-yards rushing. Wilton Speight got going and got two more TDs though the air for a whopping total of 11.
COACHING CHANGES SINCE THE 2014 DEBACLE: Since then, the Head Coaches of both Universities changed. Beleaguered by scandal, prior Rutgers Coach Kyle Flood was replaced by Chris Ash as the Rutgers Coach for this season, and, of course you know Jim Harbaugh replaced Brady Hoke at the close of the 2014 season.
Chris Ash is a struggling but respected football Coach. At Rutgers, he has found the going rough so far. He is 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the BigTen after Saturday.
Harbaugh once tried to hire him as an assistant, and of course, pregame, had high praise for his coaching abilities. That continued after the game.
Ash was recently co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at THE Ohio State University. At Rutgers, he has been stung by Wolverines recruiting forays into the Garden State, which included such high football talent such as Jabrill Peppers, and Rashan Gary. Additionally, there was Harbaugh’s recruiting camp this summer. Not to be out done, Ash held a competing camp of his own this summer, at the same time, headlining the attendance of THE fabulous Ohio State University Coach himself. Furthermore, Coach Harbaugh was a commencement speaker at Paramus Catholic. Rutgers’ fans feel that Harbaugh also pilfered his new Line Backers Coach, Chris Partridge, from Paramus Catholic.
Last Saturday, Meyer repaid Ash’s camp courtesy with a 58-0 whipping of the Scarlet Knights, but I suppose it could have been worse, as the Wolverines proved Saturday.
THIS WAS AN IMPORTANT WIN FOR THE WOLVERINES: A win in this game for the Wolverines was as necessary as any other they will play in their quest to eliminate their dearth of participation in the Big Ten East post season battle. While this is the most important factor, there are enough ancillary recruiting goals at stake to make it important. As stated above, when the Wolverines darken their door, loyal Rutgers fans are understandably distressed. Peppers and Gary are but two of nine or ten examples of high grade football players that have migrated to Wolverine country to both the Wolverine’s and player’s benefit. While the Scarlet Knights have forever earned the right to boast that they beat M in their first Big Ten game against the Wolverines, the New Jersey recruiting pendulum continues to swing the Wolverine’s way. The Wolverines put on quite a show Saturday for the recruits attending the game.
Rutgers new recruiting philosophy under 1st year Coach Ash is “Fence the Garden”. This is a prime reason why the Wolverines are Public Enemy No. 1 to Rutgers fans, and why HPS Stadium is prime time wild when the Wolverines appear. They go so far as to wanting to classify a previously two game series (now three games) as a rivalry. What? Eat your heart out Buckeyes, as the Scarlet Knights try to replace you. While Rutgers is still considered in most quarters a Big Ten East bottom feeder, obviously they had plenty of motivation regarding demolishing the Wolverines.
The Scarlet Knights season was previously marred by that loss from TOSU, and also one from the then sixth ranked Washington Huskies. The Huskies belted them 48-13. Number 2 TOSU hit them 64-0, and the 4th ranked Wolverines nailed them 78-0. This has been a rough season for the Knights.
SOME PREGAME NOTIONS VERSUS REALITY:
Last Saturday, a tough Wisconsin defense held the Wolverines to a pair oRutgers could not emulate those results. f TDs, and sacked Wolverine QB Wilton Speight 4 times. REALITY: Rutgers could not emulate those results. No M QB was sacked.
The most recent addition to the OL, Juwann Bushell-Beatty has size and strength as his strong suit. He is well over 300 lbs. REALITY: JB-B was injured on the second play from scrimmage. He returned later and was charged with a penalty, but mostly held his own. Mason Cole slid over to Left Tackle and Patrick Kugler snapped.
It appeared to me before the game that the Wolverines would try to use this game to hone their ground game. REALITY: Rushing 488-yards and for nine TDs proves the point.
I thought trickeration and the more sophisticated offensive plays would likely stay shelved, and the running backs would get tired. REALITY; While Chris Evans did not score a TD he was the most productive rusher as he amassed 153-yards. He also caught a 15-yard pass.
It was a surprise that De’Vion Smith did not have an extraordinary day, fumbling early, while the rest of the backs excelled. Five different backs scored TDs: Higdon (2), Isaac (2) Kahlid Hill (2) and Bobby Henderson (1). Harbaugh did pull a rabbit out of the hat and ran in a two point conversion. There were too many backs used for them to get to tired.
It was thought that the defense likely would shine, but would it be able to contribute points, turnovers, and interceptions? REALTIY: While it did not directly contribute points, Don Brown’s blitzing system was amazingly effective, smothering the Scarlet Knights all day, and causing a fumble, which Bryan Mone recovered.
It was easy to forecast Jabrill Peppers would post an effective defensive performance outing in front of a home town crowd. REALITY: He certainly did, but on this day all the defense prospered, and Peppers only played one half. His defensive statistics were not spectacular, but his presence and play again stood out, on offense, defense and special teams.
NOTION: Would Peppers offensive opportunities be limited Saturday as the Wolverines focus on running the football? REALITY: As indicated above, he snapped the running game into effectiveness after their slow start. Two dismal series at the start of the game in the rain left fans soggy and disappointed. At first, M QB Wilton Speight seemed a little off balance. RB Smith fumbled the wet ball, and it was lost. There was serious rain for some minutes. The rain seemed to extinguish Speight’s offensive fire, as the offense smoldered. After only a couple of series into the game, M’s offensive prospects seemed moribund.. That is, until Peppers took command and produced a 63-yard dash to the Rutgers 4, which the Wolverines converted to six. Later on the half Peppers scored as the Peppers locomotive hit for six, again via another zone read jaunt. His value to this team can’t be overestimated.
NOTION: Would the flow of the game require a FG opportunity? Who would kick it and would it be made? There had been an active competition among Allen, Tice and Freshman Nordin since last Saturday’s FG debacle. A significant edge in special teams belonged to the Wolverines, as the Scarlet Knights world class returner, Janerion Grant was again absent from the line up due to injury. REALITY: No FG’s fit Harbaugh’s scheme, a running two point conversion was a surprising call at the time it was called. It worked .
WOLVERINES v SCARLET KNIGHTS: The Wolverines received, but wasted their first possessions with one ending in a fumble., Wilton Speight looked somewhat unsettled, but it was Peppers to the rescue as he replaced Wilton as QB, correctly read a zone read, and galloped 63-yards to the 4. Ty Isaac ran it in for 6 to make it 7 zip Wolverines.
Further into the 1st Quarter, Wilton Speight came alive and hit a diving Jehu Chesson for a thirty yard TD and suddenly M was 14 up. This was a perfectly thrown and received pass as Chesson dived into the end zone. It doesn’t get much prettier than that.
Jabrill Peppers created the most spectacular punt return you could ever wish for. It was called back by the usual bugaboo, a block in the back.
Then it was Peppers again, just into the second quarter, as the lead grew to 21. Peppers on another zone read kept, and cut into the end zone for a 7-yard TD. Hopes of a domination of the Knights began to gel, as the defense was tough, and the offense was now hitting on all cylinders.
The defense and Kenny Allen punting were giving great field position to the offense. Three plays and 49-yards Kahlid Hill punched in from the one. To the great surprise of all, Garrett Moores (listed as a QB) ran in the extra point for two. It was 29-zip and a rout was definitely on as the defense was also super.
Kahlid Hill was at it again on the next series, scoring another 1-yard TD after a 6 play 57-yard drive. Now it was 36 zip.
Peppers was back at QB and he ran in another TD on a nifty 4-yard read option and the scoring was finished for the 1st half at 23 zip.
It was a total domination, a butt kicking, and a rout, whatever you want to call it. There was no feeling the Knights would or could come back.
John O’Korn was at the throttle for the start of the second half, and many of the second and third string got some effective playing time.
With around 5 minutes of the second half elapsed, John O’Korn hit Kahlid Hill in the end zone after a six play 35-yard drive. It seemed the score might reach epic proportions, having achieved 50 points so early.
Karan Higdon’s 15-yard run for 7 made it 57, Bobby Henderson’s 13- yard gallop made it 64, Higdon sprinted for 44-yards to make it 71, and Ty Isaac finished the scoring with a 34-yard run for six.to end the M scoring at 78 .
They had held Rutgers scoreless with a loss that had to be hard for them to take, and they made Michigan history. Likely we will have to live a long time as a Michigan Fan to see such a game, such a score again.
Well done Michigan Wolverines! The defense really worked together as a unit, and the running game found its way. After a bit of a shaky start, they maintained an admirable and consistent intensity.
With the bye week looming, the Wolverines will have a long time to get ready for the next obstacle, the Fighting Illini. A game-less week will let some wounds heal, and afford a little more time with the books perhaps.