BY HANNAH GENIG, SPORTS EDITOR
More than just a great 49-16 win over Rutgers, Saturday featured some exciting history making in the Big House.
Superstar Jabrill Peppers is usually responsible for kick returns, but because of some physical situations, the job was handed off to Lewis just earlier this week.
“Jabrill was kinda banged up so he didn’t play as many plays as usual, so they put me back there,” Lewis said. “They knew I had some history with that and they wanted to see what I could do.”
Lewis, Michigan’s junior cornerback, was given his time to shine; his chance to show his coaches, his team and his 110,000 fans in attendance what he was capable of.
And he certainly got everyone’s attention.
“Jourdan’s a special player, so I felt as though we didn’t lose a beat back there,” said Jabrill Peppers.
Entering play Saturday, Lewis was in second place for most pass breakups in a regular season at Michigan, behind Leon Hall (2002) and Marlin Jackson (2006). Lewis, who managed 17 pass breakups so far this season before facing Rutgers, was unaware of his imminent record breaking until standing on the sidelines in the fourth quarter.
“(It) feels good to be named with some of those legends. We have to build on that, not just hang our hats on it. It’s a good feeling right now,” Lewis said.
With two pass breakups and one forced fumble against Rutgers, as well as the fact that the Scarlet Knights only managed 97 total passing yards, it is clear that Lewis is one of the most talented athletes on the roster. Not only does he now hold an award for Michigan on most pass breakups, he’s making quite the impact on the national level as well.
In fact, that has actually been confirmed. Last month, Pro Football Focus compiled a “dream team” of the best and brightest across the country. Lewis was ranked the best cornerback by a landslide.
The awards just keep on coming. Lewis was then named a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik award. This prestigious award is presented to the most outstanding defensive player and the winner will be announced later this month. Considering his statistics so far this season, it would not be too surprising for Lewis to be named.
For Michigan fans everywhere, a defense that includes the intensity and strength of a player like Lewis is something to be excited about. After a few years of minimal return yardage and mediocre defense, it is safe to say the rhythm has finally been restored. Yet, with weapons like Peppers and Lewis in the backfield, that goes without saying.
“I think the difference is that Coach Baxter does an amazing job with special teams and he changed it all around. I appreciate him for giving me a chance back there.” Lewis said.
More than an incredible special teams coaching staff, Lewis attributed much of the defensive team’s success this season to the one and only Jake Rudock.
In an interview Saturday night, Lewis commented on how it feels for the defense to watch Rudock work his magic on offense. “It does a lot, knowing he can manage the game and run the clock down for us. It gives us breathing room to go out there and execute. It does a lot, it’s like he’s on defense with us. “
With just two more games left in this season, it will be interesting to see how much more Lewis will achieve as far as pass breaks, forced fumbles and hopefully a few more chances to return the kick as well.