Jabrill Peppers may only play one game in his home state.
So he was determined to make it memorable.
Giving No. 4 Michigan a first-quarter spark, he lifted a slow-starting U-M offense, which woke up quickly enough to thoroughly embarrass Rutgers 78-0, Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium.
The win made them bowl eligible as soon as possible and was approaching all-time records for the 137-year-old program.The nine rushing touchdowns tied a program record set in a 1939 game.
When they reached 70-0 in the fourth quarter, it was the third-largest margin of victory in program history, following a 130-point win in 1904 and an 85-pointer in 1939.
Considering that Michigan went three-and-out on its first two drives, the Wolverines got a lot done quickly, ending the game with a whopping yardage margin, 600-39.
U-M (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) scored touchdowns on six of the next seven first-half drives, taking a 43-0 lead into halftime.
By game’s end, it was just a matter of numbers and eyeing historical marks.
The highlight-filled offensive blitz began with Peppers – the East Orange, N.J. native – kick-starting it with a 63-yard explosive scramble from the Wildcat to set up the first touchdown.
On the next series, Peppers had a memorable play that won’t even count.
Catching a punt near midfield, he was surrounded by Rutgers tacklers but created a hole with his acceleration. He spun through one tackle, then ducked under (yes, under) another before cruising into the end zone. It was called back for a block in the back but even in a one-score game, no one in the stadium figured it would matter.
U-M ensured it on the next drive, when Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight (6-fo-13, 100 yards in a half) ran forward and laid out a beautiful end zone pass. A diving Jehu Chesson went for it with a full extension, landing with the ball and the 14-0 lead.
Though they actually had to punt after that, Kenny Allen dropped that on the one.
That set up a Rutgers red-zone fumble, that Peppers easily ran in from his Wildcat spot for the 21-0 lead.
Even as the game began getting silly, the Wolverines found ways to keep it entertaining.
Tailback Chris Evans’ 43-yard run set up a Khalid Hill touchdown and then U-M ran a fake extra point.
Holder Garrett Moores simply took the snap, stood up and ran untouched into the end zone for 29-0.
Even at that point U-M coach Jim Harbaugh kept the pedal down.
A 45-yard bomb to Amara Darboh, setting up the 36-0 score. Evans breaking off a few more double-figure runs to set up Peppers for his second walk-in touchdown making it 43-0.
In case anyone didn’t realize who was running the show, Peppers reminded them, racing up to the silent cannon – which only blasts after Rutgers’ scores – and pointing to the crowd in that corner, full of Michigan fans.
To no one’s surprise the second half looked the same – except for Michigan’s players.
John O’Korn started at quarterback. Chris Evans was the punt returner and the first running back and they marched for a Khalid Hill receiving touchdown, his eighth to hold the team lead for 50-0.
Then they pulled the offensive line and marched again with Shane Morris at the helm with Evans ripping a 57-yarder, setting up a Karan Higdon touchdown and the 57-0 score midway through the third quarter.
Lost in the offensive explosion was a defense that produced an all-time great performance, as Rutgers reached 11 total yards through three quarters.
Even when Rutgers had a moment – a Morris pass was thrown low, bounced in the air and was returned by the Scarlet Knights for a touchdown – it was reversed on review.
Rutgers punted 16 times in the game.