PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Jim Harbaugh couldn’t stop gushing about Jabrill Peppers following Michigan’s 78-0 win Saturday at Rutgers. He went so far as to call Peppers a Heisman Trophy winner, following Peppers’ two-touchdown, two-tackle, 74-yard rushing day.
Peppers wasn’t the only star in Saturday’s win, which made No. 4 Michigan bowl-eligible.
Michigan (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) outgained Rutgers 600-39, and the Scarlet Knights had just two first downs. Chris Evans led Michigan with 153 yards on 11 carries, and Karan Higdon, Ty Isaac and Peppers each scored two touchdowns for the Wolverines.
Here’s what Harbaugh had to say after Michigan’s most one-sided win this season:
On Jabrill Peppers being back in New Jersey
“We put some plays in for him last week where he was operating as a quarterback, and more this week because he’s just so darn good at it. That was the turning point of the game, his long run. First downs were coming hard, and we’d turned the ball over. It looked like it was going to be one of those nights.
“His speed was dramatically different than anybody else on the field.
“Also, Chris Evans showed early he was going to be tough to bring down.
“But what broke the game open was Jabrill and Chris’ play.
“Chris said something really interesting in practice … not to me but to my dad and Al Glick. ‘It’s a sin to be good when you were sent to be great.’ I thought that was profound. He was dynamite tonight.”
On Rutgers’ two first downs
“We were playing on half the field all night. The guys up front, (Chris) Wormley, (Ryan) Glasgow, Taco Charlton had a great game, their play, Mo Hurst and Mike Onwenu, who was playing both ways, the constant pressure … Ben Gedeon had a momentum, game-changing hit in the backfield. It was constant pressure.
“The team has been tremendous, didn’t allow a third-down conversion defensively tonight. Don Brown is an amazing coach. I know I’ve been saying it a lot and it’s obvious to everyone.”
On Michigan’s depth
“The two weeks you worry the most about are going into the bye week and coming out of it. But our players were as focused as we’ve seen them.
“The twos got in and showed a lot of motivation … there wasn’t any real sign of dropoff when our twos were in there, and they were in there for the entire second half.”
On quarterback Wilton Speight’s touchdown pass to Jehu Chesson, made on the run
“It is (challenging). When he scrambled in the pocket I was saying, ‘Run.’ When he turned and cut it loose, I said, ‘What is he doing?’ Jedd Fisch said over the headphones, ‘He’s throwing a touchdown!’ That’s really hard to do.”
Any worry that Peppers could be overburdened playing in all three phases?
“He’s so good at it but fortunately, most of the time, he wasn’t taking any hits. He was just so much faster, so athletic and so fast, it was really, really impressive. If there’s a better player in the country, I don’t know who it is. To be able to coach a guy like Jabrill Peppers is a real joy. And there’s so much more .
“In my humble opinion, you’re looking at a Heisman Trophy winner and a candidate.”
Has Harbaugh coached a more versatile player than Peppers?
“No … I hate to compare because somebody gets diminished. If there’s a Bible sitting right here, I’d say, ‘No, I have not coached a more versatile player than Jabrill Peppers.’”
On first-year Rutgers coach Chris Ash
“He’s building. You look at his team and he’s doing it the right way. He’s doing it well and his team will be a factor soon.
“Our players were better, and not to take anything away from their players, they have talented players, but we had more of them tonight, and one great player. Jabrill Peppers really got it ignited. The speed that he had was on a different level, a different plane.”
On Michigan’s pass rush
“It was constant pressure. Our front, the spine of our team is that defensive front. Greg Mattison does a great job coaching those guys, and they were fast.
“The pressure, it was tough to deal with.”