PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Michigan scored. And scored. And continued to score.
The only thing that ended the barrage was the final horn. When it was all done, Michigan won one of the most lopsided games in Big Ten history — a 78-0 win against an undermanned Rutgers team Saturday night at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Michigan (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) earned its largest margin of victory since 1975 (a 69-0 win against Northwestern), and became bowl eligible going into its bye week.
“It certainly wasn’t the intent to make the score what it was,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Our players were better. Not to take anything away from their players. They’ve got a lot of good players, but we had more of them tonight and one great player (in Jabrill Peppers).”
Peppers had three carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns, and added two tackles and a quarterback hurry.
Here are grades for Michigan following its win at Rutgers:
Offense (4.5 stars)
The offense’s slow start was ultimately nothing of great alarm for Michigan. Instead, it became a springboard. About halfway through the first quarter, Michigan scored its first touchdown on Ty Isaac’s 4-yard run. And the touchdowns continued — 11 for the Wolverines, who finished with 600 yards of offense, including 481 rushing. Chris Evans led Michigan with 153 yards on 11 carries, while the Wolverines had four players with two touchdowns, Peppers, Isaac, Khalid Hill and Karan Higdon.
Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight finished 6-for-13 passing for 100 yards and a touchdown to Jehu Chesson, and was relieved by John O’Korn early in the second half.
Defense (5 stars)
Michigan earned its first shutout of the season, and did it in dynamic fashion, giving up just 39 yards to the Scarlet Knights. At halftime, Rutgers had minus-5 yards rushing and 1 yard of offense. By the time Michigan took a 64-0 lead, Rutgers still had yet to notch a first down, and swapped starting quarterback Chris Laviano for Zach Allen — to no improvement.
Michigan’s pass defense was, in a word, relentless, allowing Laviano and Allen just two completions and five yards passing. Also, Michigan exercised its depth as the game progressed; freshman safety Josh Metellus led the Wolverines with six tackles and a sack, while defensive end Taco Charlton had two sacks and Bryan Mone’s fumble recovery at the end of the first quarter set up Peppers’ first touchdown.
Special teams (4 stars)
Michigan didn’t need its field goal unit against the Scarlet Knights, almost rendering last week’s kicking competition moot, though Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Kenny Allen won back the starting job. Allen, meanwhile, averaged 62.1 yards per kickoff (on nine kicks) while Ryan Tice averaged 63 yards (on three kickoffs).
Peppers had a dynamic game and could have been a factor on special teams, but his lengthy punt return in the first quarter was negated by a penalty against Michigan for blocking in the back.
It may not have counted, but Jabrill Peppers showed off plenty of moves on this punt return ?? pic.twitter.com/jo3MsJQvhe
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 9, 2016
Coaching (5 stars)
Despite the lopsided score, Michigan coaches make sure their players continued to pressure Rutgers, to the point where depth simply wore down the Scarlet Knights. Michigan made a point to get its younger players time on the field, not just a feel-good gesture in a blowout game, but also an attempt to cultivate depth.
Plus, a relentless competitor like Harbaugh wasn’t going to call off the proverbial dogs in a Big Ten game.
Overall (5 stars)
It’s hard to degrade a team that remains consistent with its drubbings. Michigan has averaged 44.4 points in its first five games, and exceeded that pace with 78 against Rutgers. With Michigan State’s tumble and Ohio State not on the schedule until the regular-season finale on Nov. 26, the question now will become this: Who can keep pace with the Wolverines?
Rutgers couldn’t do it against Michigan’s talent and its depth, and after the bye week, Michigan hosts Illinois, which is winless in the Big Ten this season, on Oct. 22 in Ann Arbor.