No. 5 Michigan is now 9-0 after beating Rutgers 52-17 in Piscataway, New Jersey on Saturday night. Here are key takeaways from the game.
Credit to Rutgers and Greg Schiano for a solid first half
Things were dicey in this one in the early going. Michigan entered the locker room at halftime trailing in this one 17-14. Nothing’s a given in football, and any time you’re trailing is a cause for concern. Rutgers played with a lot of physicality in the first half, they blocked a Michigan punt and returned it for a touchdown, and they had a few timely passing plays to push the ball down the field. Rutgers might be an average team, but they have a defense that has their moments. Michigan was ultimately the tougher team with better endurance and better players, but Schiano and Rutgers put up a fight for a bit and that’s worth giving a tip of the cap to.
Second-half adjustments and turnover buffs
Michigan has been a second-half team this season for whatever reason. They know how to adjust schematically and stay strong mentally. Michigan stuck to the plan and stuck together, they didn’t sweat the small stuff and outscored Rutgers 38-0 in the second half. Michigan had three interceptions in the third quarter, two by Michael Barrett with one of them being returned for a touchdown. Michigan’s defense swarmed Rutgers’ offense. Rutgers had just 57 yards of total offense in the second half and were just 1-of-7 on third down with one first down. The energy of Michigan’s defense was palpable, notable, and admirable on the second half. Michigan co-defensive coordinators Jesse Minter and Steve Clinkscale have been working great together all year long and Saturday night was another positive occurrence.
Corum and Edwards continue to be an electric duo
Michigan’s running back situation is arguably the best in the country with Heisman candidate Blake Corum and the versatile Donovan Edwards. Corum rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns, Edwards also rushed for 109 and had three receptions for 52 yards and three scores.
Corum has been a bell-cow back for Michigan this season, but it’s clear Edwards should be heavily involved moving forward. Corum and Edwards provide a nice balance to one another, and they can keep each other fresh. Any football fan should be able to appreciate what these backs and Michigan’s offensive line have been able to do this season.
McCarthy’s grit and toughness on full display
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy’s stat line won’t wow you, but he had quite a good game. McCarthy was 13-of-27 for 151 yards and two touchdowns along with a QB sneak TD. However, his stats could have been much better if it wasn’t for near misses/drops by Andrel Anthony, Luke Schoonmaker, Ronnie Bell, and Cornelius Johnson. McCarthy didn’t force much tonight, his touchdown passes to Donovan Edwards and Cornelius Johnson were both stellar (one hard arc, the other was a bullet). Not only did McCarthy make some big plays down the stretch, but he also took an absolute beating in the first half. The officiating crew was reluctant to call roughing the passer or unnecessary roughness on a few plays in this one, and McCarthy noticeably grimaced a couple of times before shaking it off. McCarthy’s 19, he’s still developing into a man, and more muscle will be added to his frame, but he’s showing he can take a licking, get right back up, and focus on the next play. For every play that you can point to and say J.J. has something to work on, there’s another play you can show where his talent shines bright.
Where does Michigan go from here?
Things are going well for the Wolverines in more ways than one. They’re now 9-0 on the season and other big programs in the College Football Playoffs lost this evening including No. 1 Tennessee, No. 4 Clemson, and No. 6 Alabama. It’s good to be a Michigan Wolverine, a team who will be in the top four when the new rankings come out this week. Michigan’s destiny is in their hands, but it’s always good to get some help along the way.