After Michigan lost two of its first three games in October, first a rain-soaked slog against Michigan State and then a nationally televised 42–13 beatdown at the hands of Penn State, the Wolverines looked to be through scaring Top 25 opponents for the year. The offense was rudderless under the direction of quarterbacks Wilton Speight (now out with fractured vertebrae) and John O’Korn, who had combined for four touchdowns and six interceptions in the first seven games, and even defensive coordinator Don Brown’s vaunted unit had shown some cracks in the foundation.
Tied at seven with Rutgers early in the second quarter Saturday, coach Jim Harbaugh made another change under center, turning to redshirt freshman Brandon Peters after the O’Korn-led offense responded to a Scarlet Knights touchdown with a three-play, one-yard drive. In leading Michigan to a 35–14 win from there, Peters put the doom-and-gloom forecast for the offense on temporary hiatus and ensured that the Wolverines won’t be a total walkover in November.
Peters, whom 247Sports ranked the No. 6 quarterback in the Class of 2016, entered the game to cheers so loud the Michigan sideline had to wave to quiet down its own fans and promptly conducted an eight-play, 77-yard touchdown drive on which he completed all three of his passes for first downs. The Wolverines found the end zone on their next two drives, too, grabbing a 21-point lead early in the third quarter that took the air out of Rutgers’s upset bid.
Peters finished 10 of 14 for 124 yards and one touchdown pass, a 20-yard touch lob to Chris Evans just before halftime. Four of his first five drives ended in points, and the one that didn’t stalled in the red zone and set up a rare missed field goal for kicker Quinn Nordin. After the game, Harbaugh spoke as if Peters would move forward as the Wolverines’ starter.
Sure, it was only Rutgers, who lost last year’s meeting 78–0 (although the Scarlet Knights have made incremental progress this year, entering Saturday on the program’s first-ever winning streak in Big Ten play). And sure, Michigan still focused largely on the running game, as Karan Higdon and Ty Isaac each topped 100 yards on the ground. But no one was expecting an Air Raid in Ann Arbor—just capable-enough quarterback play to take some shred of confidence into the final two games of the season at Wisconsin and against Ohio State in The Big House. If Peters can provide that, the Wolverines may warm to the spoiler role their season appears to have been reduced to with a month to go.