Wolverines bounce back in dominant fashion

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Aubree Stamper/MJ

After last weekend’s crushing defeat to Wisconsin, Michigan fans all wondered how the Wolverines would recover from such a devastating loss. The team put those concerns to rest on Saturday as they dominated both sides of the ball from start to finish dismantling Rutgers 52-0. 

The Wolverines turned the ball over during their first possession in each of the first three games this season. Saturday’s first drive was quick to end that streak. Quarterback Shea Patterson and the rest of the offense only needed five plays to go 80-yards for a touchdown. Patterson hit wide receiver Nico Collins on a five-yard slant route, who picked up a key block and tip-toed 43-yards down the sideline to go up 7-0. 

Following a Shea Patterson touchdown run, Michigan’s defense got its first and only test at the start of the second quarter. The Scarlet Knights marched deep into Michigan territory after a strong drive from quarterback Artur Sitkowski. But after a first-and-10 at the Michigan 12-yard line, the Wolverines’ defense stiffened up for three plays and set up a fourth and three from the Michigan five-yard line. 

Sitowski dropped back to pass, and with no receivers open, took off running. Sophomore defensive end Aidan Hutchinson laid the boom into Sitkowski, stopping him for no gain and forcing a turnover on downs. 

Shea Patterson scampered in for his second rushing touchdown on second-and-goal at the four-yard line. A 33-yard field goal from Jake Moody put the Wolverines up 24-0 to cap off an imposing first half. 

Rutgers got the ball to start the second half but defensive back Tre Avery fumbled on the kickoff. Michigan’s Tyler Cochran recovered and the Wolverines settled at Rutgers’ 12-yard line. 

Two plays later, sophomore running back Christian Turner dragged defenders into the endzone from seven-yards out, putting Michigan up 31-0. After Patterson’s third and final touchdown run, coach Jim Harbaugh pulled his starting quarterback for the rest of the afternoon. 

With backup quarterback Dylan McCaffrey recovering from a concussion he had suffered against the Badgers, third string quarterback Joe Milton entered in the third quarter up 38-0 and the ball at midfield. 

A couple of big runs from tailback Hassan Haskins put the Wolverines deep into Rutgers’ territory. On fourth-and-goal, offensive coordinator Josh Gattis drew up a masterful bootleg. Milton faked the handoff and ran to the opposite side of the field and into the endzone for his first career-TD, putting the Wolverines up 45-0 with 12 minutes left in the game. 

Milton threw a laser to hit freshman Giles Jackson for a 23-yard touchdown. This put Michigan up 52-0 late in the fourth and, after a few changes of possession, the game became final. 

Key takeaways from the game included offensive improvement and coach Gattis moving from the pressbox to the sideline. Outside of one interception in the second quarter, Patterson had one of the most efficient games in his college career going 17/23 for 276-yards with four total touchdowns (three rushing, one passing). Patterson praised Gattis in post-game comments saying he loved having Gattis on the sideline as it made the offensive communication easier. 

The defense had their best performance of the year, pitching a shutout for the first time since October of 2016, coincidentally against Rutgers 78-0. Defensive end Kwity Paye anchored the charge with six total tackles, 3.5 for loss, and 1.5 sacks. 

Saturday’s success, albeit, was against a perennial bottom-feeder in the Big Ten. However, the on- the-field improvements made Saturday showed flashes of this team’s true potential. Still, the concerns about Michigan’s run game need to be addressed. 

They ran the ball 41 times and had an average of 3.4 yards per carry. The majority of those yards came when the game was well out of hand. The offensive line is going to half to generate more push in the trenches going forward into Big Ten play.

The inside tackle positions have also been an obvious weakness for the undersized defensive line. Incorporating freshman Chris Hinton and Mazi Smith, who are both over 300 pounds, should be an emphasis going forward. 

The Wolverines look to continue their momentum next Saturday against a tough undefeated Iowa team. The game will be in Ann Arbor for Michigan’s annual Homecoming Game and will kickoff at 12:00 p.m.