Sour taste of loss to Rutgers lingers at Michigan
Ann Arbor – With a little bit of coaxing, yeah, they suddenly remembered.
That’s because they never forgot.
Michigan lost 26-24 to Rutgers in High Point Solutions Stadium in 2014. It was so monumental a victory, the Scarlet Knights fans stormed the field and tore down the goal post to celebrate their first Big Ten win.
The Wolverines beat up Rutgers 49-16 last season at Michigan Stadium, but as they prepare to travel to New Jersey for their first road game of the season, the 2014 game is buried deep in the memories of the veterans. Sort of.
“I don’t remember much about that game,” offensive guard Kyle Kalis said this week.
What about the Rutgers fans storming the field?
“That did happen. I do remember that,” he said. “That’s not going to happen again.”
The game two years ago will have no impact on this game, except, perhaps, the added motivation to win at Rutgers’ turf and erase that memory.
Senior tight end Jake Butt remembers watching those Rutgers fans.
“Yeah,” he said, flatly. “Vaguely. Yeah.”
A big storyline this week is all of the New Jersey players on Michigan’s roster heading home to play before friends and family.
But this also is the first time the fourth-ranked Wolverines have left Michigan Stadium and played on the road, after five straight home games. Rutgers anticipates a sellout for the night game, but a considerable number of Michigan fans are expected.
“Obviously I would prefer to be here (in Ann Arbor), but I love the challenge of going on the road,” Kalis said. “Something about me loves coming out into a stadium and they’re booing you. I like being the villain. And a lot of guys on the team feel the same way. It lights a fire underneath you. I look forward to that a lot.”
Michigan is 5-0, 2-0 in the Big Ten and has a highly-rated defense – sixth nationally in total defense (247.6 yards per game) and sixth in scoring defense (12.4).
Rutgers is 2-3, 0-2 and coming off a 58-0 loss at Ohio State last week. The Scarlet Knights have struggled defending the run and rank last in the Big Ten and 115th nationally, allowing an average 227.4 yards rushing. Their pass offense is also last in the Big Ten and 123rd nationally, averaging 140.2 yards.
“It’s always fun going into somebody’s house,” Butt said. “Right there you’re kind of backed up against the wall, you’ve got a lot of adversity because you’re going against their home crowd. They’re hyped up, but nothing’s better than silencing 50,000, 60,000, 70,000 people, hearing the stadium quiet after you make big plays.”