Rutgers is getting better. Don’t get me wrong – Rutgers isn’t close to being a good team. But they lost to Wisconsin by a score of 31-17, they lost to Northwestern 18-15, and they put up a better fight than most expected against Michigan, even though it ended up a 42-7 blowout. They couldn’t handle Michigan’s defensive front, so they were limited to throwing screens and trying to throw the ball, but they have some capable running backs. And Artur Sitkowski is a former 4-star quarterback, so he’s about the best talent they’re going to get at that position.
Hit the jump for the rest of the recap.
Rutgers seemed to steal Maryland’s game plan. I felt like Rutgers knew they couldn’t deal with Michigan, so they were trying to mitigate trouble by throwing screens and getting rid of the ball quickly. A couple seasons ago, Maryland tried to run the ball with their solid crew of running backs, and they tried to throw a bunch of screens. One problem with that game plan is that Rutgers doesn’t have anyone at receiver who approximates the likes of D.J. Moore. Running back Raheem Blackshear gave his coaching staff an earful after one poorly designed play, but there are bound to be some stinkers when you’re so limited in what you can call against an elite defense. It seemed like Indiana was the really terrible team in the Big Ten for a long time, but that mantle has been stolen by the Scarlet Knights.
Shea Patterson is remarkably consistent. If you remove the outliers of Patterson’s 56% completion rate against MSU and the 77.8% against SMU, he has been between 62.5% and 70.6% this whole season. Whenever I look at the stat line after each game, it’s pretty much a guarantee that he’s completing 2/3 of his passes. In this one he was right at 66.7% (18/27) for 260 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.
Shea Patterson didn’t run the ball. Literally, he had zero rushing attempts. It’s the first time this season. And it’s the first time in his career. I don’t know if it was just a coincidence or if it was a directive from Jim Harbaugh, but yeah, Patterson doesn’t need to be running the ball against Rutgers right now. Maybe that shows the giant gap between Dylan McCaffrey and Brandon Peters/Joe Milton, too, because Harbaugh let Patterson run the ball when McCaffrey was the backup, but now it doesn’t look like he wants Patterson to take any kind of hits.
What’s up with the backup QB situation? In pregame warmups, Joe Milton was taking #2 snaps. During the game, Peters was the second QB to enter; he handed off the ball once (a 61-yard TD run by Chris Evans) and disappeared. Then Milton came in and ran the ball 3 times for -9 yards (including a sack). Milton looks like an overwhelmed freshman right now. I don’t know what was going on in pregame, but I think Peters has to be the #2 guy right now.
It was nice to see Chris Evans run really far. If I’m being honest, when Evans broke away for his 61-yard touchdown run, I was just hoping after 10 yards that Evans didn’t pull his hamstring in the cold weather. At that point in the game, I didn’t care if he got caught from behind – I just didn’t want to see him come up lame. Mission: accomplished.
I predicted a 45-7 victory. I wish Jim Harbaugh had attempted a field goal on the first series instead of going for it on 4th-and-1. Not only did Michigan fail to gain that 1 yard, but that extra 3 points might have made my prediction accurate. It was a very windy day and Quinn Nordin had a pretty good chance of missing a field goal from there, but I still don’t like Harbaugh messing up my near-perfect prediction!
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