College football: Jabrill Peppers shines in Wolverines' historic win over Rutgers
Jabrill Peppers may only play one game in his home state.
So he was determined to make it memorable.
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JOIN THE TEAM.
"This is the most (points) I've ever been a part of," U-M offensive tackle Erik Magnuson said.
The win made the Wolverines bowl eligible as soon as possible and the game was approaching all-time records for the 137-year-old program.
It became the second-largest margin of victory for the program since 1920, following an 85-point edge against Chicago in 1939. According to U-M, it was the largest margin of victory in a Big Ten game for any team.
Saturday's nine rushing touchdowns tied a program record set in that 1939 game.
Considering that Michigan went three-and-out on its first two drives, the Wolverines got a lot done quickly, ending the game with a whopping yardage margin, 600-39, including 481 on the ground.
"We set a goal every week from watching film of a good estimate, what would be a good goal for that game and we set 300 yards because we thought if we ran for 300 yards on them, we'd beat them pretty good," Magnuson said.
Following the early struggles, U-M (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) scored touchdowns on six of the next seven first-half drives, taking a 43-0 lead into halftime.
By game's end, it was just a matter of numbers and eyeing historical marks.
The highlight-filled offensive blitz began with Peppers -- the East Orange native -- kick-starting it with a 63-yard explosive scramble from the Wildcat to set up the first touchdown.
On the next series, Peppers had a memorable play that won't even count.
Catching a punt near midfield, he was surrounded by Rutgers tacklers but created a hole with his acceleration. He spun through one tackle, then ducked under (yes, under) another before cruising into the end zone. It was called back for a block in the back but even in a one-score game, no one in the stadium figured it would matter.
U-M ensured it on the next drive, when Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight (6-for-13, 100 yards in a half) ran forward and laid out a beautiful end zone pass. A diving Jehu Chesson went for it with a full extension, landing with the ball and the 14-0 lead.
"When he scrambled up in the pocket, I was saying 'run, run the ball, be your own checkdown,'" U-M coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Then he turned to cut it loose and I said, 'What is he doing?' (Passing game coordinator) Jedd Fisch said over the headphones, 'He's throwing a touchdown.' 'Oh, ok.' That's really hard to do."
Though they actually had to punt after that, Kenny Allen dropped that on the one yard line.
When Rutgers fumbled in the red zone, U-M had great position. Playing Wildcat quarterback, Peppers easily took the first snap and ran it in seven yards for the 21-0 lead to start the second quarter.
Even as the game began getting silly, the Wolverines found ways to keep it entertaining.
Tailback Chris Evans' 43-yard run set up a Khalid Hill touchdown and then U-M ran a fake extra point.
Holder Garrett Moores simply took the snap, stood up and ran untouched into the end zone for the two-point conversion and a 29-0 lead.
Even at that point, Harbaugh kept the pedal down.
A 45-yard bomb to Amara Darboh, setting up Hill for another short scoring run and the 36-0 score. Evans breaking off a few more double-figure runs -- he led the team with 153 rushing yards on 11 carries -- to set up Peppers for his second walk-in touchdown making it 43-0.
In case anyone didn't realize who was running the show, Peppers reminded them, racing up to the silent cannon -- which only blasts after Rutgers' scores -- and pointing to the crowd in that corner, full of Michigan fans.
To no one's surprise the second half looked the same -- except for Michigan's players as the second-stringers flooded in for the rest of the game.
"Our players were as focused as I've seen them," Harbaugh said. "The twos got in there and they were playing with the same kind of motivation, the same kind of fire, they wanted to show what they can do. A lot of freshmen were playing in this ballgame and playing well. There wasn't any real sign of drop-off and our twos were in there the entire second half except a series on offense and a series on defense."
John O'Korn started at quarterback. Evans was the punt returner and the first running back and they marched for a Hill receiving touchdown, his eighth of the season, to push the lead for 50-0.
Then they pulled the offensive line and marched again with Shane Morris at the helm with Evans ripping a 57-yarder, setting up a Karan Higdon touchdown and the 57-0 score midway through the third quarter.
Lost in the offensive explosion was a defense that produced an all-time great performance, as Rutgers reached 11 total yards through three quarters, the starters holding Rutgers without a first down and the whole defense keeping Rutgers without a third-down conversion in 17 attempts. In the most telling stat of the day, Rutgers punted 16 times for 603 yards.
Put next to U-M's 600 yards of offense, it was stunning.
Even when Rutgers had a moment -- a Morris pass was thrown low, bounced in the air and was returned by the Scarlet Knights for a touchdown -- it was reversed on review.
"Our players were better, not to take anything away from their players -- they've got a lot of good players, a lot of talented players, but we had more of them and one great player, Jabrill Peppers and united everything in this game," Harbaugh said. "I don't know if you saw it but the speed that he had was on a different level, a different plane."
This article was written by Mark Snyder from Detroit Free Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.