'It was time': New QB Brandon Peters sparks UM in win
Ann Arbor — Early in the week, when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was asked about the possibility of backup quarterback Brandon Peters getting some playing time against Rutgers, he said he didn’t have a crystal ball.
Sounds like he had that crystal ball after all.
Harbaugh said the coaching staff had decided last Monday that Peters would play early in the game Saturday against the Scarlet Knights. It became clear in the second quarter a change was needed, and the redshirt freshman, entered the game, taking over for starter John O’Korn and immediately gave Michigan a spark.
He led the Wolverines to a 35-14 victory before 111,213 at Michigan Stadium.
Michigan now is bowl eligible at 6-2, 3-2 Big Ten, while Rutgers’ two-game winning streak was snapped and is 3-5, 2-3.
Peters was 10-of-14 for 124 yards and a touchdown. There were 13 passes to 10 different receivers and Peters was responsible for nine of those throws.
Harbaugh was asked if Peters is the starter going forward. Michigan plays Minnesota under the lights on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
“I feel really good about the way he played,” Harbaugh said. “Feel good about him taking the next step and being the starting quarterback and getting a great week, now knowing he’s the starting quarterback in practice. As I sit here now that’s the way I feel about it.”
The Wolverines had two 100-yard rushers for the first time since the 78-0 rout at Rutgers last year. Karan Higdon had 158 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns, including a 49-yard score. Ty Isaac, who was taken to the locker room late in the game because of an unspecified injury, had 109 yards on 14 carries. Kareem Walker and Khalid Hill each had a rushing touchdown.
The Wolverines outgained Rutgers, 471-195, including 334 rushing yards, the most rushing yards for the Wolverines since their 481 against the Scarlet Knights last season.
“They ran the ball down our throats,” Rutgers defensive end Darnell Davis told reporters after the game. “If you don’t top the (run) game, you can’t win the game. Period. Forget all the passing.”
Midway through the second quarter, as Michigan’s offense was sputtering the game tied, 7-7, after Michigan gained one yard and went three-and-out, Peters started warming up on the sideline, throwing and then practicing some snaps from center Patrick Kugler.
Peters entered the game O’Korn with 7:01 left in the first half and led Michigan to back-to-back touchdown drives giving the Wolverines a 21-7 lead at halftime.
Higdon scored on a 10-yard run to cap an eight-yard 77-yard drive that saw Peters complete his first pass of the game. He rolled right and found tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr. for 15 yards. He went 3-for-3 in the drive, including connecting with freshman Nico Collins for his first college reception, a 12-yarder.
The Wolverines built a 21-7 lead when Peters completed a 20-yard pass to running back Chris Evans. It was Peters’ first college touchdown pass and the first passing touchdown for Michigan in 15 quarters, since the second quarter at Purdue.
“Throwing a touchdown pass is always great,” Peters said “It felt good. It was a great play call and worked out good. I saw man coverage, one-on-one with Chris. I gave him a chance on the play. He made a great catch, a great play on the ball. All my teammates were excited, I was excited. It was a great feeling. I felt confidence in my teammates. They showed a lot of confidence in me. Ultimately that came back to me. I felt a lot of confidence.”
Michigan outscored the Scarlet Knights 14-7 in the second half as Kareem Walker got his first collegiate score, a five-yard touchdown after Higdon’s 32-yard run to the Rutgers’ 5-yard line.
Rutgers has been a mostly run-oriented team and finished with 195 yards of offense, including 94 rushing yards. Michigan’s defense forced six three-and-outs and had 11 tackles for loss.
On the Scarlet Knights’ opening series of the game, quarterback Giovanni Rescigino was sacked for an eight-yard loss by Maurice Hurst.
That set the tone early for the defense, which did have some letdowns as Janarion Grant scored on a 65-yard run in the second quarter. Gus Edwards ran two yards for a score in the third quarter capping the Scarlet Knights’ best drive of the day that went 75 yards in 11 plays.
The Wolverines had five sacks. Linebacker Devin Bush led the team with 11 tackles, including two for loss and Hurst was next with eight tackles.
“It was tough to get anything going consistently,” Rutgers coach Chris Ash told reporters. “We knew it would be.”
And things got tough on O’Korn, who struggled early in the game, twice fumbling — and recovering — the snap and had an interception. The first series mirrored how the offense has looked in recent weeks. Michigan moved the ball effectively with the run, then a negative-yardage throw to Eddie McDoom and then a penalty and suddenly the Wolverines were in third and long and the drive stalled.
Michigan’s next drive ended with an O’Korn interception.
O’Korn did lead the team on a long, 80-yard, 13-play scoring drive that included a fourth-down conversion. Isaac’s 21-yard run took the Wolverines to the half-yard line and Khalid Hill got his second touchdown of the season giving Michigan the 7-0 lead.
Harbaugh said he told the team in a team meeting last Monday that Peters would play against Rutgers. But when he did get in was dictated by O’Korn’s play.
“It was time, Harbaugh said. “It was time for him to play.”
Minnesota at Michigan
Kickoff: 7:30 Saturday, Nov. 4, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
Records: Minnesota 4-3, 1-3 Big Ten; Michigan 6-2, 3-2