Michigan football reversed a first-half scare in a loss at Rutgers

Michigan football reversed a first-half scare in a loss at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, NJ — If you needed a reminder of just how good this Michigan football team is, Saturday night should be enough.

The short-handed Wolverines, reeling from last weekend’s distracting tunnel scrimmage that left two players injured, flipped a switch and turned a first-half scare into a 52-17 rout of Rutgers.

And it all happened in the span of less than six minutes early in the third quarter, when Michigan turned a three-point halftime deficit into an 18-point lead.

From there, Jim Harbaugh’s team shut the door. She scored three touchdowns in just a few commercial breaks, aided by three interceptions and short fields. Senior linebacker Michael Barrett had two interceptions, including one that he returned 31 yards for a touchdown.

Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines entered Saturday with one of the best defenses in the country, a unit ranked in the top 5 nationally in nearly every statistical category. And despite trailing at halftime, Rutgers didn’t exactly fill the stat sheet.

Brad Robbins’ blocked punt and subsequent punt return gave the scruffy Scarlet Knights their first touchdown of the game, while a long, hard drive put Rutgers up 17-14 at halftime.

More: Michigan is missing four starters, DB Gemon Green in uniform at Rutgers

Red zone issues have been the talk of Michigan on the field all week, and its coaches have promised that improvement is coming. The offense responded by scoring touchdowns on six of seven drives inside the Rutgers 20-yard line, though several were hairs.

It took Michigan six plays inside the red zone to score its first touchdown, including three plays from the 2-yard line and five more plays from the 7-yard line to punt it the second time.

Still, the 9-0 Wolverines got the job done — converting when they had the ball with favorable field position, quieting the naysayers for now.

Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy completed 13 of 27 passing for 151 yards, throwing for two touchdowns. Running back Blake Corum rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, his sixth straight game with more than 100 yards on the ground.

Donovan Edwards matched Corum’s haul, amassing 109 rushing yards on 15 carries and three catches for 52 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown during Michigan’s third-quarter scoring drive.

The Wolverines were lacking in several areas Saturday, a game played in front of a lively crowd of 51,117 at SHI Stadium, particularly on offense. Starting tackles Trente Jones and Ryan Hayes did not travel with the team to New Jersey, nor did receiver Roman Wilson, whose absence opened the door for more opportunities elsewhere.

Ronnie Bell added two catches for 43 yards, while freshman Tyler Morris had a key 7-yard catch to convert the first down.

Rutgers made the most of its big plays in the first half, with redshirt sophomore running back Gavin Wimsatt (14-29, 166 yards) making field goals of 37 and 48 yards, respectively. But the magic disappeared in the second half, when Michigan completely overwhelmed Wimsatt and the still-running offense. He was sacked three times (defensive end Mike Morris led the way with 1 1/2 sacks), while freshman cornerback Will Johnson threw the first interception of his varsity career.

The Scarlet Knights were held to just 57 yards in the second half as Michigan shut out its third straight second half opponent.

Kicker Jake Moody missed a pair of 50-yard field goals in the first half that contributed to Michigan’s halftime deficit, but added a 29-yarder in the second half to snap a 38-unanswered scoring streak.

Michigan hosts Nebraska next Saturday, Nov. 12, in Ann Arbor, the first of three remaining regular season games.

Read more about Michigan football:

Behind the scenes as the UM equipment staff keeps the football team humming

Jim Harbaugh had an epiphany after the tunnel attack. How will Michigan respond?

For Michigan RB Blake Corum, patience is paying off

Freshman CB takes on bigger role in Michigan football

UM studies the causes and solutions for fighting in the red zone

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