Tampa, Fla. — Michigan redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Peters said during bowl week preparations he hoped to have a breakout game against South Carolina, a Southeastern Conference team for which he had a great deal of respect.
But Peters and the offense struggled mightily in the second half of the Wolverines’ 26-19 loss in the Outback Bowl on Monday at Raymond James Stadium. Michigan had five second-half turnovers, including two interceptions by Peters, the first of his college career.
“I didn’t execute well at all, especially in the second half,” Peters said. “I put a lot of that on me. Not well, that’s for sure. But I’m not going to let it define who I am as a player. Just learn from it. Move forward.”
He said because he’s the leader of the offense, he shouldered the responsibility for its play.
Michigan QB discusses his performance in team's 26-19 loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Angelique S. Chengelis
“I’ve got to be there for my guys help motivate them to get a drive going,” he said. “We didn’t execute very well. Ultimately, it lost us the game.”
With a 9-3 first-half lead, Peters and the Wolverines opened the second half with a well-executed seven-play drive that went 72 yards and opened a 16-3 lead when Ben Mason scored on a 1-yard run. Peters made big throws on a 13-yarder to Nico Collins and 27 to Kekoa Crawford, followed by Karan Higdon’s tough 16-yard run to set up the score.
“It was a great drive,” he said. “We moved the ball down the field. Got down on the one-yard line and scored a touchdown. After that, I don’t know. We just didn’t move the ball.”
Peters had two second-half interceptions and was credited with a fumbled handoff to tight end Sean McKeon.
On third and five at the South Carolina 5-yard line with just more than eight minutes left in the game and Michigan trailing, 23-19, Peters was looking for Donovan People-Jones in the end zone and instead was intercepted by JaMarcus King.
And with just more than a minute left and an opportunity lead a drive that could tie the game, Peters, on fourth-and-1, was looking for Crawford but was intercepted by Steven Montac.
“I just missed inside on one, the last one,” Peters said. “I threw it late to Kekoa. Missed inside on the corner route. The one to Donovan, it was third down. I was just trying to give him a chance. The cornerback made a good play on it.”
Jim Harbaugh discusses some of the mistakes Michigan made in the Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
Late in the third quarter, Peters was curiously handing off to McKeon on third-and-1 and he was credited with the fumble. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh blamed the coaching staff for that mistake saying he had the “wrong personnel” in on that play and he should have called a timeout.
“I did realize it, but Sean, I thought he’d know what to do,” Peters said of the personnel error. “When I snapped the ball, he seemed a little surprised I was handing the ball off. I should have seen that and made sure he knew what he was doing. I just didn’t execute on that play.”
Peters had moved into the starting role late in the same, taking over for John O’Korn — who had replaced injured Wilton Speight four games into the season — in the first quarter against Rutgers. He won that game and the next two and was playing well at Wisconsin when he was knocked unconscious and out of the game. He wasn’t cleared to play the season finale against Ohio State.
It was a game he hoped would give him a boost heading into winter conditioning and spring practice.
“There’s some really good (in how he played), and there’s a few I know he’d like to have back,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “But he was battling just like the rest of the guys. There was some error there. A little too much at the wrong time.”
Peters heads into winter conditioning and then spring practice with ample competition. Dylan McCaffrey, who redshirted this season, will compete, along with early-enrollee freshman Joe Milton, and then there’s the wildcard, Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson. Patterson, the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the 2016 class, is waiting to find out if the NCAA will waive the transfer rule.
Peters plans to continue to grow from this experience and the starts late in the season.
“Just learn from everything this past season and keep working,” Peters said. “That’s the only thing you can do. Don’t listen to the outside noise, don’t let anything define you. Keep your head down and keep moving forward.”
Peters said he didn’t expect to start this season but now with the experience, he had along with the young receivers he’s confident about next fall.
“I think we’re going to be really, really good next year,” he said. “All these games were huge experience building. Just take it into next year and keep learning. I think we’ll be really good.”
The team had hoped to use a victory in the Outback Bowl as a springboard into the 2018 season. In a sense, even a loss does that, albeit in a different manner. Many of the players, including Peters, said this loss gives them added motivation.
"It does light a fire under me,” Peters said. “I want to be the best I can possibly be. Just take everything that’s happened this year and learn from it and just take it into next year and just be better.”