It was a cool October Saturday at the Big House for fans watching the homecoming game versus the Rutgers Scarlet Knights with temperatures sitting around 40 degrees. Through the first 23 minutes of the game, nothing in Michigan was colder than the Wolverine Offense. Fans held memories of last year’s 78-0 victory at Rutgers and held optimism that this game could breathe life back into the unit. The first quarter showed how much things had changed over a year with a 0-0 tie after 15 minutes. Midway through the 2nd quarter, Michigan had managed 119 yards of offense on 26 plays, which included only 13 yards passing. The Wolverines had 2 punts and an interception to go along with a Khalid Hill rushing TD. Rutgers matched the TD with a Janarion Grant 65 yard rushing TD out of the wildcat formation. With the score even at 7-7, starting QB John O’Korn’s stat line read: 3/6, 13 yards, 1 interception, and 2 fumbled snaps. There was no life in the Big House; scattered boos could be heard in response to the offensive ineptitude. The Big House was full of 111,00 plus who stood wanting to cheer but unsure of what to cheer for. Fans grew uneasy knowing that Rutgers was hanging around in a game they did not belong in. It’s hard to imagine how so many people could be so silent. It’s even harder to imagine that same crowd simultaneously erupting during a TV timeout. But that’s what happened on Saturday afternoon with 7:01 left to play in the 2nd quarter when Brandon Peters, the redshirt freshman QB, replaced John O’Korn in the huddle. The Big House cheered, as loud if not louder than the Hill TD earlier in the quarter. And the Wolverine faithful sure let their voices of approval be heard on Peter’s 3rd play of the game, when he threw his first pass to Tyrone Wheatley Jr. for a 15 yard gain. It was a new game from that point, a crowd and a team that shared school colors found new life. Peters completed all 3 of his passes for 37 yards and 3 first downs on his first drive, which culminated in a 10 yard Karan Higdon TD run. The defense responded by forcing a Rutgers punt, and Harbaugh used his timeouts to get Peters and the offense the ball back with 1:49 left before halftime. Peters converted a 3rd and 3 with a 12 yard pass to Zach Gentry and 4 plays later, hit Chris Evans on a back shoulder running back wheel route for a 20 yard TD pass to take a 21-7 lead into the break. Michigan continued to feature its young skill players as the game continued. In their first drive of the second half, the Wolverines went 54 yards in 4 plays capped by a 5 yard rushing TD from sophomore back Kareem Walker. Rutgers responded on the following drive with a TD of their own, but the Wolverines were clearly in control from that point forward. A 49 yard rushing TD from Karan Higdon in the 4th quarter put the game away and Michigan secured a 35-14 win to move to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in conference play while securing bowl eligibility.
Brandon Peters is the new starting QB for the Wolverines. Fans got their first glimpse of Peters during the spring game where he performed well but opened up as the #3 QB on the depth chart. With the crowd, his teammates, and his coaches behind him, Peters looked calm, confident, and in control of the Michigan offense. He completed 10/14 passes for 124 yards and a TD while the Michigan ground game ran for 334 yards on 51 carries with 4 total TDs. Karan Higdon has emerged as the clear lead back with 18 carries for 158 yards and 2 TDs while Ty Isaac, Kareem Walker, and Chris Evans have proven themselves as complementary pieces in a deep running back rotation. While Michigan fans are surely encouraged by the performance of Peters, it is worth noting that John O’Korn performed well in relief for Speight at Purdue before being ineffective in his subsequent starts. Jim Harbaugh is committed to Brandon Peters at QB for the time being and his next game versus Minnesota, a night game at home, will be a much tougher test than Rutgers. But for now, Wolverine fans leave a game confident in the way their team performed for the first time since the season opener versus Florida. The defense has been dominant for most of the season, minus the Penn State game, and Peters will look to bring consistency to the offense in hopes that the Wolverines can become a more complete team in the closing month of the regular season as the youth continues to develop. The QB switch could be a turning point for the Wolverines season and future, or it could be a one week surprise that falls apart. But for now, Brandon Peters has brought Michigan Fans an emotion that is often emphasized within the program but perhaps has been lacking of late: Enthusiasm.