- A moment of brilliance by freshman RB Isaih Pacheco is all Rutgers had going for it Saturday, as Michigan took care of business to stay on track for a playoff spot.
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Highpoint.com Stadium emptied out fairly quickly by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. Rutgers fans were tired of experiencing déjà vu, leaving the remaining Michigan fans to brave the bitter cold.
Michigan pummeled Rutgers 42–7, evoking bad memories of two years ago, the last time Jim Harbaugh brought his team to New Jersey.
That time UM posted a score of 78–0 (it was 43–0 at halftime). This final score wasn’t quite as embarrassing, but Michigan continues to roll through its conference schedule in hopes of ultimately winning the Big Ten and making it through to the College Football Playoff.
Michigan, ranked No. 4 in the latest playoff ranking, did get off to an inexcusably slow start though, failing to score its first touchdown until there were 45 seconds left in the first quarter. Rutgers responded immediately on its next possession when freshman running back Isaih Pacheco took off on an 80-yard touchdown run to tie the game 7–7. It was the longest carry by any Rutgers player since the program joined the conference in 2014, and it just so happened to come against the nation’s No. 1 defense. It was the longest play Michigan had given up all season. Go figure.
“We’ve been through worse,” Wolverines defensive lineman Rashan Gary said.
But that was the only brief threat the Scarlet Knights posed. One big play and then the Wolverines took control. Michigan gained 453 total yards and held Rutgers to nearly half that (252). Michigan was 4 of 5 in the red zone, while Rutgers didn’t make it inside the 20 once. UM also limited its opponent to 4 of 12 on third down and 4.8 yards per play.
Though not quite as dominating, these stats were similar to two years ago. In that game, Michigan racked up 600 yards of total offense, while holding the Scarlet Knights to 39. Michigan also tied a school record that day with nine rushing touchdowns and held Rutgers to two first downs. Jim Harbaugh even went for two on a fake extra point when the score was already 27–0.
Earlier this week, Rutgers coach Chris Ash was asked if Michigan was out of line for running up the score back then.
“You know, our job is to stop somebody and that’s what we’ve got to do,” Ash told reporters. “You guys can go back and reflect and look at what’s happened in the past, the last time they were here. It is what it is. You know, nobody did anything out of line. It’s our job to play better, and that’s what we need to do this Saturday.”
Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson completed 18 of 27 passes for 260 yards with three touchdowns and no turnovers. Chris Evans led Michigan with 75 yards rushing while Karan Higdon added two touchdowns on the ground and topped 1,000 yards for the year.
Rutgers freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski struggled, going 9 of 18 for 40 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Pacheco led the way for the Scarlet Knights, who only have one win this season, with 142 rushing yards and the lone touchdown.
What’s left for Michigan is this: a home game against Indiana next Saturday before facing rival Ohio State over Thanksgiving weekend for a spot in the Big Ten title game. Keep winning, and the Wolverines remain on the right track toward the playoff.
"Do we have a chance?” Harbaugh repeated when asked about the odds of a special finish to this season in Ann Arbor in his postgame press conference. “Sure. A good one."