UM livid to see Rutgers celebrating at half, down 19

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Coach Jim Harbaugh was fuming at halftime, with Michigan leading by 19 points.

That wasn't at all an unusual sight for Wolverines players.

But coming across Rutgers players pseudo-celebrating in the tunnel — as if to say, "We're not down by that much!" — well, that had Michigan players confused and, yes, angry.

"They were just saying things like, 'Oh, it's our time this second half,' 'We the comeback kids,' 'These guys can't really finish games,'" safety Jabrill Peppers said, kind of rolling his eyes at the last remark.

"That's pretty much all I heard."

Both Peppers and fellow safety Jourdan Lewis confirmed that Harbaugh's anger was, in part, due to seeing the reaction of Rutgers players at halftime.

Michigan, with the big lead, then came out throwing in the second half, and really didn't stop throwing or removing starters until really late in the 49-16 victory Saturday at Michigan Stadium.

The Wolverines, interestingly, even went for a two-point conversion up 25 points, eliciting snickers from the press box. Harbaugh, for his part, said he was just following the chart.

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"It wasn't any mentality," he said.

Peppers flashed a big grin when asked if Harbaugh wanted to send a message by going for two, but said, "I have no idea. I can't answer that one."

Michigan made the conversion, which kept a four-possession game a four-possession game.

Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said the call didn't bother him.

"That's a question for him," Flood said of Harbaugh. "I don't make those decisions for that team. They do.

"I don't get offended by other teams' play calls."

Rutgers beat Michigan, 26-24, in New Jersey in 2014, with Scarlet Knights fans celebrating by storming the field after a win over a Wolverines team that had just fallen to 2-3.

That loss was on the Michigan players' minds this week of practice, fueling plenty of motivation, especially for Peppers, the New Jersey native who knows several players from Rutgers.

Then, to see what went down at halftime with Rutgers players, well, Michigan wasn't about to ease things up.

"They were excited. They were down, what, 19, and Coach didn't like that they were celebrating," Lewis said. "(He said), 'Put the foot on the gas, finish these guys off.'"

Those were his exact words?

"I don't want to use those words out there," Lewis said, with a laugh.