By RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-in-Chief
On a day where Jake Rudock posted a career effort through the air, the focus wasn’t on his arm: his legs were the subject of praise.
Late in the first quarter Saturday against Rutgers, the fifth-year senior quarterback dropped back to pass with Michigan four yards from the end zone. The play quickly folded but he escaped pressure, rolled to his left and dove for the pylon.
Rudock’s gutsy four-yard rushing touchdown wasn’t the nail in the coffin nor was it his first score on the ground this season, but it propelled Michigan’s 49-16 rout of Rutgers. More impressively, it came one week after Rudock was clocked by a Minnesota defender and knocked out of the game.
“Jake’s a tough guy, he’s as tough as a $2 steak,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He continues to show that. That’s a courage play, too. I’ve been in that situation. When he makes that turn up the boundary, you know they’re coming for (you), everyone’s coming for that spot on the pylon, the one-yard line…guarantee he knew it. He stuck his nose in there and gave no quota whatsoever on the entire play. Toughness is respected.”
The touchdown and Harbaugh’s praise of it overshadowed a spectacular game by Rudock, who went 18-for-25 passing for a career-high 337 yards and two touchdowns. He set his career high in single-game passing on 28 fewer pass attempts than last season’s effort with Iowa.
“He was just on fire. He had a great game, making all the appropriate throws, all the right reads…on a windy, blustery day, too,” Harbaugh said.
Rudock had been criticized for his conservative play and style as a game-manager throughout his tenure as Michigan’s quarterback. Saturday, he uncorked a bevy of passes downfield. Seven of his 18 completions were for gains of 20 yards or more.
The Wolverines rebounded nicely after a team-wide struggle against Minnesota last week. Behind Rudock and company, the offense exploded for 487 yards and the defense held Rutgers to 225 yards.
Jake Butt and Jourdan Lewis had games to remember, too. Butt set a new career mark in single-game receiving yards with 102 on four receptions, while Lewis broke Michigan’s single-season pass breakups record with 19.
Chris Wormley continued his breakout season with two massive sacks, while Desmond Morgan totaled a team-high eight tackles.
Once again, Jabrill Peppers was a two-way threat. He totaled six tackles, 11 yards and a rushing touchdown, one that left Harbaugh thoroughly impressed.
(The play was) diagnosed really well by the defense, they were across the line of scrimmage before he caught the ball, and I thought that play was trapped behind the line of scrimmage,” Harbaugh said. “The move he made and the way he weaved himself through there, I knew he was good, but he’s really good.
“I thought there was not another rung to go on the ladder; there is. He found another rung to go even higher. I told him that, ‘Man, you’re really good.'”
De’Veon Smith posted a team-high 73 rushing yards and a touchdown. Drake Johnson added 27 yards and a touchdown.
Michigan improved to 7-2 (4-1 Big Ten) with the win and sits at second place in the Big Ten East. It plays Indiana Nov. 14 at 3:30 p.m. in Bloomington, Ind. The Hoosiers lost to No. 9 Iowa 35-27 Saturday.