Last week, I gave a very short and simple answer as how Jabrill Peppers could win the 2016 Heisman. Peppers would have to make big plays in big games and lead the Wolverines on a title run. In East Lansing on Saturday, there just happened to be a big game and Peppers dressed like a gazelle, trick or treating from one end-zone all the way to the other.
For the first time since 2007, the Michigan Wolverines enjoyed their ride home after beating Michigan State 32-23 in the 64th meeting for the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
It was a hostile environment and Michigan State student section was not letting up one bit. On separate occasions of the game they could be heard chanting “F— Jim Harbaugh”.
— Isaiah Hole (@isaiahhole) October 29, 2016
“Yeah, I heard it,” Harbaugh said to Jim Brandstatter during his radio show on Monday. “I thought it was really great and classy. I thought they were saying ‘LOVE JIM HARBAUGH’. And they kept repeating it. ‘LOVE-JIM-HAR-BAUGH!’ That’s great sportsmanship here by the Michigan State Spartans!”
Peppers thrives for this kind of atmosphere.’They say things to me in the crowd, and I feed off that,” Peppers responded about the crowd. “I block it out and, sometimes, I listen to what they’re saying. Sometimes funny stuff, some not-so-funny stuff. But I try to silence that all by the way I play, with my effort.”
It was a perfect stage for Peppers to convince many doubters as to why he should be in New York come December. While diving for the pylon, Peppers would start off the game and put Michigan on the board with a 3-yard rushing TD out of the wildcat formation.
Jabrill Peppers can do all things 💪🏼
The Michigan LB now has 3 rushing TDs this season pic.twitter.com/zwvZrBv2X6
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 29, 2016
“Last week, I tried to get too pretty, do extra stuff rather than just run the ball in,” he said. “I just wanted to leave no doubt. I didn’t really have to dive, but that was the safe thing to do to ensure we put some points on the board.”
By the time that the game was over Peppers was already going down in history.
Jabrill Peppers is the first player in 10 seasons to have a rush attempt, reception, sack, kick return and a punt return in a single game. 👀 pic.twitter.com/MBeIMLDfcR
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 30, 2016
This late into the season, it is well known that Jabrill is always going to be on the field. You just never know where. He played a whopping 9 different positions on Saturday. ESPN recorded that Peppers had 42 plays at linebacker, 12 at cornerback, nine at nickelback, six as the wildcat quarterback, one at safety, one as an H-back, one at receiver, plus serving as kick returner and punt returner. He also was on the field goal block team.
Late in the 4th quarter, MSU quarterback Tyler O’Connor threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Corley with 1 second left in the game to bring the game within reach. In a desperate attempt, MSU went for two-point conversion, unknowingly it would later come as the “nail in the coffin”. As soon as the ball was hiked, O’Connor was greeted and fumbled the ball by tossing a high pitch to not so ready Gerald Holmes. On the second bounce off the turf, Peppers scooped the ball up raced into the endzone as he was in back in his high school track days.
The Spartans weren’t the only ones blown away by Peppers’ sprint. Even Jim Harbaugh was impressed.
“It was satisfying because now there was nothing they can do to beat us with one second left,” he said. “It was kind of moment of release. Whatever happens from here, we’re still in good shape. They kind of ended it last year with something.”
Peppers finished the game on defense with 7 tackles, 2 TFL and 1 Sack on a crucial 4th down. On offense, he had 5 carries for 24 yards with 1 rushing TD and his first reception on the year for a lousy -2 yards. Also adding in a kick and punt return.
As they should, many analyst are finally taking what Jabrill is doing seriously. Some have him finally breaking into their top 5 and others even into their top 2. Because of the depth of Michigan’s running attack, Peppers won’t get the numbers like we all know he could get. However, the fact that opposing coaches have yet to stop him nor effectively decline his impact at his other positions in the game, is what makes him intriguing and honestly scary for the other candidates gunning for the Heisman. Its November and Maryland who happens to have one of the worst rushing defense in the nation is next on the schedule. I think we might be on the verge of witnessing the start of a takeover.