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How a big hit pissed off J.J. McCarthy and set a different trajectory vs. Rutgers

McCarthy showed his toughness last Saturday.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan’s offensive line has done a good job of protecting Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy this season, but last Saturday against Rutgers McCarthy was hit hard more than a few times.

“We gotta protect him better,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said on the Inside Michigan Football Radio Show. “Didn’t like some of those hits, one of them was a blatant personal foul. Took a few other hits in the game, as an offensive lineman you wanna keep the quarterback clean.”

There was one play that McCarthy was asked about specifically at the end of the first half. McCarthy was going out of bounds and got popped pretty good. Instead of giving in to the pain, McCarthy fed off it.

“It did hurt, but it lets you know that you’re alive,” McCarthy said on Tuesday. “I love that part of the game. As I was going down the sideline, I thought he was going to run out of bounds with Dono (Donovan Edwards). I looked upfield a little bit and turned my head back and he was right there. That was the hit that kind of pissed me off that game and kind of set a whole different trajectory for the rest of that game.”

Michigan would go on to outscore Rutgers 38-0 in the second half and win the game 52-17. McCarthy’s two passing touchdowns came after the big hits. For Harbaugh, he loves what he saw from McCarthy on the road in a hostile environment after taking some punishment. Harbaugh said nothing seems to fluster McCarthy or “gets his train of thinking off what he’s supposed to be doing.”

“He really showed his toughness as well, gave him an opportunity to show what a tough competitor he is. Didn’t phase him, actually just kinda made him a little madder, that much more motivation. Nothing ever seems to rattle him, which is a great sign.”

This is McCarthy’s first season as Michigan’s starting quarterback, and every week has been a learning experience for him in one way or another. McCarthy feels those hard hits can help him down the line.

“They did a great job of trying to rattle me, but it was an amazing opportunity to get that experience throughout a game,” McCarthy said. “So when it comes down the line when it really matters, I can go revert back to OK, how did I respond here, and let’s move forward.”

Forward McCarthy and No. 3 Michigan march, with their next task being Nebraska on Saturday afternoon at Michigan Stadium.