MICHIGAN FOOTBALL 2018-FIVE MISCUES SINK OUTBACK BOWL, 19-26

The Wolverines toted an 8-4 regular season record to Tampa’s Outback Bowl at noon on the 1st day of January 2018, to confront South Carolina’s Gamecocks in Raymond James stadium. It certainly looked like they would fashion a hard-earned victory, but their own miscues allowed the Gamecocks victory. They were well on their way to a late lead, when QB Brandon Peters threw his first career interception in the red zone. It hurt the cause with 5:42 left in third quarter. Last year’s finish to the season was distressing, and here it is again. This time with an 8 and 5 finish.

The Wolverines wanted to usher in 2018 as a new era of Michigan Football with a memorable start. An era replete with impressive individual and team performances. But instead they fashioned a loss.

Shame to see this game as the last Michigan hurrah for notable Seniors like Mo Hurst, Pat Kugler, and others.

The next time you see Mo in a football uniform it will be on Sundays sans the winged helmet. Mo was the 2017 Wolverine’s MVP, and a consensus All-American. He had contemplated not playing in the Outback to avoid injury to maintain his expected status in the upcoming pro draft. The specter of last year’s injury to Jake Butt, which is still hampering Jake’s pro progress, was a serious consideration.

Even before his decision to play for the Blue one last time, Mo Hurst had proved to be a consummate Michigan Man, and that continued. He played another outstanding game for the Wolverine’s New Year’s Day.

There are other past contributors to M football that have decided to take their football elsewhere to exhaust their fifth-year graduate eligibility. Quarterback Wilton Speight contributed much to M Football, and whether here or elsewhere, should be lauded for his effort, ability and determination while wearing the Maize and Blue. His nasty spinal injury was a difficult problem to overcome in time to play again this season. Wilton could have provided some welcome QB experience next year, and competed for the starting QB position.

The QB roster has recently been strengthened with the transfer to Michigan of QB Shea Patterson from the University of Mississippi, a.k.a. Ole Miss. This program has recently been beleaguered by serious NCAA violations. This has enabled some of their players to transfer to other institutions to continue their NCAA football careers. Patterson was a highly ranked recruit, and performed in accordance with that ranking for Ole Miss, until he was injured in the regular season just completed. He has three years to exhaust his Maize and Blue eligibility as things stand.

M QB Alex Malzone will try his fortunes elsewhere, as will Wide Receivers Maurice Ways and Drake Harris. Drake played in 7 games this year, but only snagged nine catches, and battled injuries seemingly continuously during his career. Drake could have been a poster child for injuries. They occurred and recurred for him, and hindered his display of talent, and advancement.

We should, and we do wish all departing Seniors, these good M men, a great future in whatever they choose to do, wherever they choose to do it. 

 

PETERS AND THE OFFENSE HAD A JOURNEYMAN DAY: In opposition of some fan expectations, Brandon Peters did not fashion a leg up on the 2018 starting quarterback job. He did make some nice plays, and also some bad mistakes as the Wolverines lost. He had an ordinary game, throwing for no TDs, and 2 interceptions.

There was a key fumble on an exchange with Sean McKeon as the running back. In after game comments Coach Harbaugh indicated it was a matter of the wrong personnel being on the field.

That Peters had his face mask pulled as he was sacked in the second half, and was poked in the eye, and had to sit some at crunch time, was a real downer, a critical turning point. John O’Korn came in and had no magic, either.

When Peters came back in, he threw a game clinching interception which ruined a late and great M red zone chance. A chance to take the lead.

The four field goals came back to haunt them as the Wolverines produced an anemic 277-yards of total offense.

The starting offensive line consisted of Cole, Onwenu, Kugler, Ruiz and Runyan. , Spaniellis replaced a dinged Kugler at center.

Peters was often hurried. At times the OL produced holes for Higdon, and Evans, The average yards per carry in the first quarter was something like 2.2-yards an attempt. It boggles my mind that a team that practices against a blitz everyday can’t handle the rush consistently, and protect its quarterback. This has to change.

Peters needed to play well to get this win, to earn a leg up on the competition he will face at the QB position next year. His prime competitors at the position of QB consist of Sophomore Dylan McCaffery, who red shirted this season, and incoming and experienced talent from Ole Miss transfer, QB Shea Patterson. They are both hyper talented. It seems likely Patterson will be allowed to play next year, although NCAA permission has not yet been granted. In any case, the QB room will have three good talents in the room during next season’s meetings.

All will be set to operate in prime competitive mode at the QB position, but they will miss a win at the Outback Bowl as their starting point. A win in that fracas would have been pure gold to jump start next season.

There are other QB talents in the wings. Hopefully they will not have to contribute sooner than later.

PLAYCALLING WAS NOT INVENTIVE, AND PREDICTABLE: The other side said afterwards that the route running in the passing game was very predictable, and the offense favored its tendencies. The running game was not inventive. It also fell short, producing only 74-yards. Karan Higdon fell six yards short of 1,000-yards. He had 17 carries for 65-yards. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry. Evans had 9 carries for 24 yards. He averaged 2.7 per carry. He and Evans both ran hard.

HARD HITTING GAME: Apparently there was a verbal war of words between the Wolverines and Gamecocks at pregame get acquainted bowling competition.

No one from either side got bowled over, and cooler heads prevailed, but it was an indication that it was not to not be a ho-hum affair.

On at least one occasion, it was a little too hard hitting on the part of one defensive Gamecock. He was flagged for targeting and thrown out for putting the top of his helmet on M receiver Donovon Peoples-Jones helmet.

The targeting call was reviewed and up held.

Muschamp went nuts, but it looked deliberate to me as did the face mask on Peters. I can’t say that Will Muschamp earned any respect from me in this game. Not that he cares.

THE GAMECOCKS: Their first scoring drive in the third quarter had two plays where our defense was out schemed. The second play resulted in six, and provided the path to their first TD and their victory.

There were some similarities between the teams. The similarities included an 8-4 record for the 2017 regular season, an offense that sometimes sputtered, but this game outplayed the Wolverines. Their defense was a solid defense that was respected more than their offense.

They too had a desire to finish up 9-4. Their defense was solid and their offense suspect. Sound familiar?

A big difference was that their offense, even though suspect, showed up when it counted.

The Gamecocks wanted to sustain the alleged superiority of the SEC over the B1G that the SEC proclaims, and in this case they did prevail. If we ever play them again, they will still be crowing over two wins, not just the hit.

Before the game, they fired their Offensive Coordinator for a very recognizable reason. Like Michigan, their offense had struggled against their better opponents.

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M’s DEFENSE OUTPLAYED ITS OFFENSE, BUT STILL DID NOT HOLD A 20-POINT LEAD IN THE SECOND HALF. If one says that they let 20 unanswered points happen in the last half, it is also fair to state the offense answered the twenty with three. Again the defense played an extraordinary game for most of three quarters. Again, when it counted the opposition found a chink in the armor in the third quarter as exhibited in the Gamecocks first TD drive.

It is fair to say they were often faced with sudden change caused by offensive gaffes, and one special teams error. Inexplicably Donovon Peoples-Jones dropped a punt deep in his own territory and it was recovered by SC. 

HOW THEY SCORED: The game started out as strictly a defensive production for both sides. It got a little interesting for Michigan Fans when Quinn Nordin booted the first of his four FGs at 3:42 of the 1st Quarter.

Ambry Thomas opened proceedings with the recovery of a fumbled Gamecocks punt. The drive stalled and Quinn Nordin hit a 17-yard FG. M was up 3 zip.

Quinn hit a 26-yarder, SC hit one from 44-yards, and Quinn hit a 45-yard field goal to make it 9-3 to end the first half. The FGs were nice but unsettling. When would the TDs begin?

The Wolverines kicked to start the second half, held and produced a great TD drive of 72-yards. Nico Collins used big frame to nab a 13-yard catch, K. Crawford got one for 27-yards, Higdon ran for 10 to the one, and Ben Mason hauled it in for six. This was his second career TD.

It was now 19-3. The Wolverines were in command at the ten-minute mark of the third quarter.

Noah Furbush then intercepted a tipped pass and advanced it 27-yards to the SC 27. Great play by Furbush. The Wolverines had a 1st down at the SC 9-yard line, when Higdon, struggling for yardage, had the ball ripped loose. SC recovered and another golden opportunity was history.

The Wolverines Quinn Nordin then struck again, this time from 48-yards out. Now 22-3 at the 5:42 mark of the third quarter, the Wolverines were still very much in charge.

But not for long, as SC moved 77-yards featuring a 17-yard TD run. Two M penalties were also featured. L. Marshall was offside early in the drive, and Josh Metellus was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. I believe M’s defense got out schemed on this drive. It was now M 19, SC 10.

Things were about to rapidly unravel for the Wolverines. A Peters, McKeon exchange error was offered the football on the ground to the Gamecocks and they covered it. The fumble is credited to Peters. A 27-yard pass made it 19-16 as SC did not convert their two-point attempt. At the end of the third quarter it remained 19-16.

The Wolverines could not move offensively to start the 4th, but the Gamecocks could. SC completed a 55-yard TD pass and it was 19-23. The big play bug bit again at crunch time.

Peters was sacked, poked in the eye, and went to the bench. John O’Korn replaced him. Peters came back in, and the ball moved to the SC five.

Peters then threw the first interception of his career. I thought things could not get worse, but a punt that DPJ was fielding at his 10-yard line bounced off his shoulder pad, and SC recovered it at the M 14. They then hit a 22-yard FG. And it was 19-26.

Donovon Peoples-Jones  muffed a punt which was recovered at the M 14, to compound M’s woes.  It led to the 22-yard SC FG included in the score above.

M had one more chance after a missed SC FG, but Peters threw his second interception, and it was over except for the gloating by SEC mavens.

THIS WAS A TOUGH SEASON: The Wolverines played hard this season but did not do well against better competition. This last loss was particularly tough for them, but it is not the end of their world or ours.
The coaches performed a near miracle with a defense that had one returning starter, and again was one of the best in the country. The coaches could not perform the same miracle for the offense. Running backs look better, play calling, and scheme are not getting necessary results.

They need to get stronger. Some of that may be helped by a new Strength and Conditioning perspective as Kevin Tolbert is leaving and Ben Herbert has been retained. Herbert formerly was with Wisconsin and and Arkansas.

I do not know how to make the Wolverines a well oiled football machine, but I trust the coaches do, and I hope they will be geared up to slug it out next season.

Thank you for slogging through these pages this season, Happy New Year, and Go Blue!

MICHIGAN FOOTBALL 2017: M DOMINATES SCOREBOARD IN 35-10 WIN OVER MARYLAND

The Wolverines traveled to College Park, Maryland Saturday afternoon to confront the Maryland Terrapins in a 3:30 PM football game.

The Wolverines were fresh from a soggy, but very necessary victory over the Golden Gophers in Michigan Stadium in their last outing, while the Terrapins suffered a humiliation by the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 31-24 in their last outing.  The Wolverines are 6-1 against the Terrapins.

MARYLAND’S QBs HAVE BEEN SUFFERING INJURIES THIS SEASON:  The Terrapins have lost three QBs this year, and are now on their fourth with Ryan Beard.  The Wolverines were not in as much of a bind in the quarterback department as Maryland Saturday, but the position has also been a problem this season for M.

As you know, the Wolverines lost their season starter, Wilton Speight, to injury.  His understudy, John O’Korn played himself into a starting position against Purdue, and then out of the starting position two games ago.  He was replaced the game before last by last Saturday’s starter, Brandon Peters.  It appears Peters has cemented that role, as he started against the Terrapins. He has solidified his future somewhat against the Terps.  He was solid, but not spectacular.  His big chances loom in the immediate future.

While he may or may not develop into the last word in college quarterbacks, he has displayed poise and a knack for the position.

His fakes are better than his predecessors, he has decent wheels and escape ability, and can throw accurately on the run.  He appears to have great poise.  The question remains as to whether he is a master at tossing the long ball.  He hit a beautiful thirty-three yard TD. Still, it will take more time to satisfactorily answer that question.

Time and action will tell that story.  It will be only a short time before we get a positive answer.  He had a nice game against the Terps.  He threw for 145-yards passing, threw no interceptions, and tossed two TDs.  He had a calm, workmanlike game, and took his licks without flinching.  It appears he is ready for more, as the Big Ten money games of the regular season are immediate. 

Peters tossed for 145-yards and two TDs, with no interceptions.

All the musical quarterback chairs didn’t belong to the Terrapins, but the depth at the position seemed definitely in the Wolverine’s favor Saturday.  For three quarters of the game the Terp offense was stifled by the Wolverines’ ability to stuff the run, hurry the QB, and prevent completions.

It seemed at the end of the first half the Wolverines defense was going to pitch a shut-out, and they also owned 200-yards of offense, plus a 4-touchdown lead.   It proved out that the Wolverines had scored more than enough points to win, but the third quarter took some of the polish off their win.  The wheels came off the both the Wolverine’s offense and defense for much of the third quarter.  The Terrapins held the ball for 11 minutes of the quarter.

MARYLAND’S THIRD QUARTER SURGE WON BATTLE OF THE STATS: Maryland produced 340-net yards rushing and the Wolverines 305-yards.  The Terrapins passed for 160-yards and 1 TD and the Wolverines passed for 145 and 2 TDs.  The Terps totaled 340-yards, and the Wolverines 305-yards.  This can be a source of pride to the Terps, and a source of wonder and  concern to the Wolverines, but it is still the final score that counts.

THE TERRAPINS HAD NOT PROSPERED AT DEFENSE LATELY, AND THE WOLVERINES HAVE:  One of the Terrapins’ own writers offered that opinion regarding the state of their defense pregame.

The Wolverines, on the other hand were ranked fourth nationally in total pass defense (an unexpected pleasant surprise), and their defense had been hell against the run.  Pass has pro remained a work in progress, and to some extent this was still true Saturday.  In the game against the Terps in the first half, M’s defense held the Terp offensive to 112-yards. 

For three quarters their dominating mode prevailed, but that inexplicable third quarter reared its ugly head to raise the sparse productivity of the Terrapin offensive and defensive efforts for three quarters to 340-yards.  That total surpassed the Wolverines total for the day by 35-yards.

On the scoreboard, the Wolverines were never in real trouble during this game.  Maryland never led.

THERE ARE NO SECRETS FOOTBALL WISE BETWEEN MARYLAND’S HEAD COACH DJ DURKIN AND COACH HARBAUGH:  They know each other well with DJ having acted as M’s defensive coordinator in Jim Harbaugh’s inaugural season.

Durkin is well acquainted with M’s schemes, preferences, and roster, or at least the better part of them.  Both are dedicated competitors, with an iron will to win.

Durkin wanted a signature win, and Harbaugh could only want to avoid a signature loss.  A win over the Terps was mandatory, but a win over the sometimes- struggling Maryland Terps simply could not qualify as a signature win for the Wolverines this season, however necessary it was. 

The Wolverines could have added to the misery of Maryland with a late TD, but Harbaugh called off the dogs, oops, Wolverines, and they settled the game with some good last- minute sports-man ship by taking a knee rather than taking a shot.  DJ and his staff are to be complimented on their good half-time adjustments against the Wolverines.

LEST WE FORGET:  Kaleke Hudson, Michigan’s so-called Viper (hybrid LB and safety), bit his team’s last opponent, the Gophers, to the tune of 8 TFLs.  This went with 15 tackles, 3 sacks, and a forced fumble.

This defensive tour de force earned a unique grade at of 99.9/100 from Pro Football Forum (a.k.a PFF).  He was also on the PFF team of the week.   8 TFS set a new Big Ten record and tied the NCAA record.  He was co-Big Ten defensive player of the week.

The above stats are the latest official rendition of Michigan statistics regarding Hudson’s performance against the Gophers.  Post-game tape review showed some TFLs and tackles credited to others in error.  The stats now stand corrected.  

While it is not surprising that he did not match his heroics of last week, he had a very solid performance against the Terps, and contributed to the victory.  His late interception sealed the win.

His best is yet to come.  It looks like he will be a Viper to remember.

M’S DEFENSE STOOD TALL FOR THREE QUARTERS:  They produced two game changing interceptions, a remarkable goal line stand, and produced an outstanding first half performance.  David Long changed the game with his critical first half interception and 80-yard return, and otherwise contributed. Tyree Kinnel has 6 solo stops and 4 assisted, for a total of 10. Hurst had 5 solos and 4 assisted for a total of 9.  He had the Wolverines’ only sack on the day.  Chase Winovich had 3 TFLs,  and the team had 7 TFLs.  They harried the Terp QB for three quarters, and caused him to hurry and inaccurately throw the ball to M’s Long.

THE OFFENSE PROVIDED 35 POINTS WHICH MEANS THEY HAD A GOOD DAY:  In the air:  Zach Gentry led the receivers and TEs with three snags for 63-yards with a TD long of 33.  Karan Higdon caught 2 for 40-yards, with a long of 35. 

The corps of receivers were quiet for the most part, as the tight ends and backs carried the load.

On the ground:  Chris Evans had an effective day with 13 carries for 80-yards and a TD.  His long was for 17-yards.  He carried the load in the absence of the banged-up Karan Higdon later in the game.  Higdon had 10 carries for 50-yards, with a long of 16.  Kareem Walker had 7 efforts for 23-yards.

HOW THEY SCORED: Only the Wolverines scored in the first quarter.  Peters conducted an impressive 9-play 67-yard, 9-play TD drive on the Wolverines second possession.

The big play was a Peters 21-yard pass to TE Gentry who roared down the sideline to the Terp five.  Henri Poggi finally got the ball across the goal as he bulled it in from the two. M-7, Terps-zip.  This had to be a big moment for Henri.  He hails from Maryland.

A Peters scramble resulted in a vintage Karan Higdon catch of a short pass.  He turned it into something memorable.  Evading tackles he cut to the opposite side of the field and sped for 35-yards. In addition, Maryland earned a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer. Then it was up to Chris Evans who contributed 4 runs to complete the TD drive of 5-plays for 66-yards.  In a nice display of toughness and ability, Chris jumped over, and into the pile at the goal line for the much needed six.  M-13, Terps-zip.

Next the Terps tried a fake punt that turned out non-productive due to recognition by M’s punt return team.  Great field position is often rewarded, and this was no exception.  Peters threw a beautiful pass to a sprinting and open Zach Gentry, who produced the 33-yard TD.  M-21, Terps-zip.

After a review of a stunning Terp reception on a third down long pass, it was confirmed it was not a catch.  This was a controversial call to Durkin and Maryland fans.  This multiplied Durkin’s blood pressure elevation, while it was therapeutic to mine, and other M fans pressure. 

The Wolverines got the ball back, and a little later Josh Metellus blocked a Terp punt.  M’s Devin Gil covered it at the Terp 29.   Karan Higdon, bulled through three tackles, toting the ball 16-yards to the 19-yard marker.  A 3-yard toss to McKeon got six.  Suddenly it was half time with the Wolverines leading 28-zip, and all was well with the Wolverine Nation.

Late in the first half it appeared the Terrapins were about to snap up a late half TD via their best drive of the half, which was an 11-play drive.  David Long put this worry to rest by snagging a Terp pass in the end zone, and running with it 80-yards. 

The Wolverines did not score because the slumping Quinn Nordin missed a 31-yard field goal. A golden opportunity for six had been lost as well as for the three. 

Nordin is into a recent habit of missing FGs he should convert.  This comes at a very inconvenient time for the Wolverines, as they head into their last two, and most critical games of the season.  Nordin drew Harbaugh’s ire, or at least his intense commentary, after this miss.

Maryland received the ball for the second half, and their offense and defense did an about face.  They were moving the chains with a change in scheme offensively, and holding the ball.  But when they got to the M one yard line, and had possessed the ball for nearly 11-minutes in the quarter, the Wolverines held and relinquished only a 20-yard FG.   M-28, Terps-3.  The shut out had vanished, but the win still looked good.

The Terps then got a TD on a 10-yard pass to make it 28-10.

Peters faced a critical third and 12 in Michigan territory and solved the problem by hitting Chris Evans for 20-yards and a first down.  This was the beginning of the end for any Terp hopes of victory, and M’s situation was aided by a pass interference call on the defense on third down.

From the 33-yard line, Chris Evans hurdled a would-be tackler, to get 14-yards.  Next, he broke three tackles and completed a tough 17-yard run for the capper.   The final score was M-35, Terps-10.

Kaleke Hudson’s interception slammed the gate shut.

TAKE AWAY:  Crunch time has arrived.  The Wolverines’ trip to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin next Saturday will be a battle of somewhat similar styles, and will likely be a bruising contest in which the Wolverines will be significant under dogs to the undefeated Badgers. 

The Wolverines will need to put all together for four quarters of their best football on offense, defense, and special teams, in order to trap the undefeated Badgers in their own lair.

Go Blue!

MICHIGAN FOOTBALL 2017: BRANDON PETERS ERA BEGINS WITH 35-14 WIN OVER RUTGERS

The Wolverines returned home to Ann Arbor Saturday afternoon to host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.  Alumni and fans celebrated Homecoming, and the Blast From The Past on a windy, chilly football Saturday.

Before Saturday, the Scarlet Knights were the proud owners of victories in their last two of three games, while the Wolverines had lost two of three.

Beating Purdue and Illinois was quite an accomplishment for a Rutgers team that had been struggling for wins under Head Coach Chris Ash.  They nailed Illinois and then Purdue. Nailing Purdue was an especially good win for them, while the Illinois win was necessary for residency above the bottom of the Big Ten football barrel. 

The Boilermakers produced over 472-yards of offense to Rutgers paltry 217, but two turnovers and red zone woes killed their chances of a win against a lesser team.  On the other side of the ledger, as good as the win over Purdue was, an earlier Rutgers loss to Eastern Michigan seems bad.

The fact that M won 78-0 last year was immaterial.  Wins are never automatic, and everyone in the Big Ten can mount a challenge.  That score was source of pride for the Wolverines last year, but it is a regrouping focal point for the Knights this year.  They even had T-shirts showing the score.  But it was all to no avail for the Scarlet Knights, as an effective Brandon Peters replaced the struggling Jon O’Korn at QB and engineered the win.

PETERS’ TAKEOVER AT QB PROVED PROVEDENTIAL FOR THE WOLVERINES’ FORTUNES ON SATURDAY:  Despite guiding an 80-yard, 13 play drive for an early second quarter TD, the mistake plagued John O’ Korn struggled through the first quarter, and into the second.  He threw an interception and muffed a snap twice.  While the Wolverines covered the fumbles, they obviously destroyed drives, and wasted downs.  Interceptions speak for themselves.  

While John was decent in the Purdue game, he threw game ending interceptions against MSU in the monsoon.

That the offense was ineffective against Penn State was not all O’Korn, who endured seven sacks.  It was a team loss with the defense struggling mightily too.  Still the passing game wasn’t working. and that is supposed to be a QBs forte.

Watching the first quarter, in which the Wolverines were scoreless, it appeared John was regressing against the Knights.

He did lead a scoring drive mentioned above 80-yards in 13 plays and contributed a 15-yard run in the series.  Kahlid Hill finished from the one, and the Wolverines had a 7-zip lead, but M couldn’t protect the lead and needed more.   They did not get more until Brandon Peters took over the offense.

John’s interception, and the two fumbled snaps,  brought Peters into the game.  This was about when everybody expected Peters to be inserted for a few plays or a series. Harbaugh said after the game, that they knew Monday Peters was going to play.

Brandon entered the game in mid second quarter, and the Wolverine’s offense rejuvenated.  They scored on the next three series. With a bevy of short pass completions, the running game began to work better.  The seemingly rough-cut-offense began to smooth out.  Many of the passes were catchable and were caught.  Not all of Peters’ passes were great, as a few were not on target, but he hit receivers regularly, and had no interceptions.   The chains moved. He was 10 of 14 for 124 net yards, a TD, and he pitched a long throw of 20-yards. 

Coach Harbaugh said after the game, with a smile, that a bird has left the nest.

SCARLET KNITGHTS HAD SOME TALENT AND THE SAME BIG TEN RECORD AS THE WOLVERINES BEFORE SATURDAY’S GAME:

The Scarlet Knights had a trio of running backs, the most productive of which is usually Gus Edwards. The Wolverines held him to 34 net yards on Saturday, but he did get a short TD. 

Saturday their most effective runner was Janarion Grant. The returner/receiver/tailback showed his stuff again, as he has in prior years.  He had five carries for 71-net yards, but one of those was a 65-yard streak for a TD. He makes a habit of that kind of play.    

The Rutgers QB, Giviani Resigno hails from Michigan, and is more adept at running then passing.  He started in two prior games before entering Michigan Stadium.

Michigan’s defense held up well against him, and the other Rutgers threats in general.  They were held to 94 net yards rushing on 31 carries. 65-yards of the 94 were the result of Janarion’s long run. They were held to 101-net yards passing, as they completed 8 of 16.  Meanwhile, the Wolverines amassed 334-yards rushing and 137-yards passing.

HARBAUGH HAD BEEN UNDER FIRE FROM SOME DISGRUNTLED FANS AND SOME OF THE NATIONAL MEDIA THAT HELPED BUILD HIM UP: Coach Harbaugh will not wilt under the stain, and he is not in any kind of a hot seat, nor is he leaving in the foreseeable future.

He is not ranting and raving and tossing blame around willy-nilly for the PSU team loss, or other woes. I am sure that he is discreetly assigning some well-deserved blame to both players and coaches, when and where deserved.  The Wolverines did what they always do after a loss under Harbaugh.  They went back to work.  This time though, there seemed to be a lot more work to be done. A great deal of it seemed to have been accomplished for Rutgers Saturday, but not all.

To the disappointment of a growing group of fans, he had not been throwing any mud at the quarterback wall.  He had solidly supported his starting QB, John O’Korn.

Before the game, many fans certainly hoped that Brandon Peters would at least get a few quality snaps or more against the Knights, even if he did not start. 

Surprisingly, he played for much of the second quarter and earned the whole second half. He has surely earned the start next week. 

While there will undoubtedly be some controversy as to why he did not take over sooner, there is no cloud in my mind.  To me, the time was ripe, and the time was right. 

M’s offense had fallen to 10th in the Big Ten in points scored in games this season prior to Rutgers.  They also lagged in most other offensive categories.   It’s was not just O’Korn.  Receivers did not break open, and catchable passes were dropped at critical times. Backs have not blocked well in pass pro at times. 

The nature of the quarterback position is that it is at the center of the offensive storm that occurs when an offense is not playing well.  A play action team prospers when there is both a robust passing game and running game.  It’s hard to have one without the other.

PETERS AND THE OFFENSE DIDN’T WIN IT ALONE: The Michigan defense showed up.  With the exception of about four plays, they were absolutely outstanding.   They had 11 TFLs for thirty-nine yards in losses.  They had 5 sacks.  They allowed Rutgers 11-yards in the first quarter and only 17 fourth quarter yards.  Mo Hurst had M’s first sack on the first snap of the game to set the tone.

LB Devin Bush led the group with 3 solo tackles and 8 assisted tackles for a total of 11.  Mo Hurst had 2 and 6 for a total of 8. Viper Kaleke Hudson had 4 and 1 for 5.

DE Rashan Gary regretted afterwards that he did not flatten as many of the Knights as he would have liked to, but he provided great pressure that drove them into other Wolverine hands.

DE Chase Winovich had three sacks, and one was spectacular. One of his sacks flattened the Rutgers QB, who then was fortunate enough to recover his own fumble.

THE SCORING:  The scoring started in the 2nd quarter as the first quarter was barren.

The Wolverines opened the scoring on a one-yard TD plunge by Kahlid Hill, and the Wolverines were in the lead 7 zip.

This 13-play drive engineered by O’Korn, covered 80-yards with O’Korn contributing a run, and the rest of the running game was working, but after that offensive production lapsed.  

In the second quarter, Rutgers’ Janarion Grant ran in a 65-yard TD for a 7-7 tie.  The run completed a three play 75-yard drive.

After this score, Brandon Peters was taking snaps as the Wolverines quarterback.  The Wolverines pulled ahead with Karan Higdon providing runs of 8 and 12, and then producing a 10-yard TD. Ty Isaac had a good 6-yard run in that drive too.  Before that score, Wheatley had caught a nifty Peters 15-yard pass. M-14, R-7.

Peters than provided a flawless two-minute drill to close the second quarter, and half.  Higdon ran for 3 and 4-yards.  Peters hit Gentry for 12-yards, and Isaac ran for 10-yards. Then it was an Evans catch and scamper for twenty yards-and six. If you blinked you likely missed it. The half ended 21-7.

Early in the third quarter, Higdon was at it again, rushing for 32-yards.  Kareem Walker pushed for 5-yards and the TD. M-28, R-7.  This was a 4-play, 54-yard drive.

Rutgers answered on a 2-yard Gus Edwards TD run.  This ran the score to M-28, R-14.

Karan Higdon produced a 2-play, 51-yard drive for a score with runs of 12, and 49-yards.  The beautiful 49-yard TD capped the scoring, and produced the final score of 35-14.

A TOAST TO THE RUNNING BACKS AND OFFENSIVE LINE:  The backs benefitted from better OL play. 

Karan Higdon was at his best, toting 18 times for 158-net yards, and two TDs with a long of 49-yards.  Ty Isaac had a good game too, carrying 14-times for 109 net yards with a long of 21.  Kareem Walker ran hard 6 times for 34-yards, and his first collegiate TD, with a long of 13.  All this did not happen without the OL blocking better in the running game, and some good running performances.

SOME TAKEAWAY:  The insertion of Peters into the line-up provided an offensive spark that has been missing for some time.  He is not a cure all. He will face challenges as a starter that he has not had to handle yet.  Tougher circumstances, and rougher, tougher, opponents.

Things will get tougher than in this game as the season progresses. Pass rushes, better defenders, higher stakes.  Everything.  His performance Saturday showed poise and talent, and provided a very promising lift for his team.  He throws a nice ball with accuracy.

It should be fun to watch him develop over the rest of the season, if that is in his future, and it now appears that might happen. He will have to continue to compete with the rest of the quarterback roster.  His job has just begun.

Go Blue!