No-star defense helps Michigan football stay perfect, thanks to second-half rout

Michigan has won eight consecutive games against Rutgers since 2014

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 05: Michael Barrett #23 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates the first of his two interceptions with Mike Morris #90 against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during the third quarter of a game at SHI Stadium on November 5, 2022 in Piscataway, New Jersey. Michigan defeated Rutgers 52-17. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) (Rich Schultz, 2022 Getty Images)

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The Michigan Wolverines flipped the switch in the second half to defeat the Rutgers Scarlett Knights 52-17 to improve to 9-0 on the season. With the victory, Michigan has won eight consecutive games against Rutgers since they joined the Big Ten in 2014.

The Wolverines pitched a 38-0 second-half shutout thanks to some in-game adjustments made by the no-star defense and the coaching staff.

“The players adjusted their chinstraps a little tighter,” said head coach Jim Harbaugh. “Michael Barrett had two big interceptions, including a pick-six which is the best kind.”

Barrett had four total tackles, two tackles for loss, and two crucial interceptions, including a pick-six to blow the game open in the third quarter.

“We all got to work together as a team,” said Barrett. “The coverage has to cover, and pressure has to get there, and when you combine that, then we’re able to thrive off of that. We play together on one accord and just attack the ball.”

Barrett spoke on what was being said in the locker room ahead of the second half about attacking the Scarlett Knights offense.

“We had a conversation about playing our defense,” Barrett said. “They made a couple of plays, and we went into halftime like, ‘They just made a couple of plays that they capitalized on, and we just had to capitalize on those opportunities.’ We just wanted to display our defense.”

Michael Barrett #23 of the Michigan Wolverines scores a touchdown after intercepting a pass against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during the third quarter of a game at SHI Stadium on November 5, 2022 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (2022 Getty Images)

Week 10 saw many teams that are ranked above and near the Wolverines fall, and after last week’s rankings, the men in maize said they wanted to come out Saturday (Nov. 5) night and send a message to the committee.

“We’re just one of those teams,” Barrett said. “It’s really in our hands right now, and we just have to keep winning. That is all that we’re worried about right now. We just have to win out.”

Barrett is the second Michigan player to record two interceptions, and one returned touchdown in a game since Prescott Burgess did it against Notre Dame in 2006.

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 16: Linebacker Prescott Burgess #6 of the Michigan Wolverines lines up on defense against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish September 16, 2006 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Michigan won 47-21. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) (2006 Getty Images)

The Wolverines’ offense was stagnant in the first half, as Rutgers seemed more aggressive. It seemed like they came into the matchup with a specific game plan, but as the old Mike Tyson saying goes, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

(Original Caption) 1/22/1988-Atlantic City, NJ Ferocious faced Mike Tyson lands the knockout punch to the jaw of challenger Larry Holmes during fourth round of the World Heavyweight Championship.

Harbaugh took notice of the aggressiveness and said he was impressed with Rutgers’ effort in the first half. He called the matchup a dead-even game.

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 05: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines before a game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium on November 5, 2022 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) (2022 Rich Schultz)

“I thought he (Gavin Wimsatt) did some really good things early on,” said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. “I think he made some young quarterback mistakes in the second half. Literally in like a minute and 30 second time period. Things that are definitely correctable, but I guess it was an inopportune time, but he’ll get it.”

The Wolverines were in a dogfight early as they trailed 17-14 going into the half. Including Saturday, the Scarlett Knights have lost 36 straight games against ranked opponents, and the halftime lead was their first against a ranked opponent since 2002 against the Miami Hurricanes.

But a three-point deficit transitioned into an 18-point lead as they scored three touchdowns in 1:42 seconds which ultimately turned into four touchdowns in 8:01 seconds to blow the game open.

“We played clean football in the first half,” Schiano said. “Penalties kind of disappeared. There was no turnovers. It was clean football. To beat a team that’s a national championship contender, you have to play clean football for 60 minutes. You have to be a little aggressive, and you have to be able to cash in on those things, and that’s kind of where we were in the first half. But in the second half, the roof caved in their a little bit. It’s hard to go back and catch up.”

Double lightning

Quarterback J.J. McCarthy finished the day by completing 13 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns, including a dime in the back of the end zone to running back Donovan Edwards.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) congratulates running back Donovan Edwards (7) after scoring a touchdown against Rutgers during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 in Piscataway, N.J. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Edwards continues to be the ultimate Swiss Army Knife as he finished the day with 15 carries for 109 rushing yards while also leading the team in receiving yards with 53 on three catches.

Heisman hopeful Blake Corum did what he always does as he, too, finished the game with 109 rushing yards on 20 carries and two rushing touchdowns to lead the nation with 16.

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 05: Trevor Keegan #77 lifts Blake Corum #2 of the Michigan Wolverines during the a game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium on November 5, 2022 in Piscataway, New Jersey. Michigan defeated Rutgers 52-17. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) (2022 Rich Schultz)

The men in maize have improved to 9-0 for the first time since 2016. They looked like one of the best teams in the nation, and after being slighted by the College Football Committee, plus having two of the top four teams lose, the Wolverines will have no choice but to get the respect that they deserve and be ranked amongst the top four in the nation.

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 05: Sean Ryan #5 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights makes a catch in the end zone for a touchdown as DJ Turner #5 of the Michigan Wolverines defends during the second quarter of a game at SHI Stadium on November 5, 2022 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) (2022 Getty Images)

Michigan still has some things to work on as they continue to get better down the stretch of the season. Their downfield efficiency and secondary playmaking ability have been exploited over the past few weeks by Michigan State, Penn State, and now Rutgers.

Players, coaching staff, and the rest of the team will continue to watch film to sure up those leaks ahead of their matchup against the Nebraska Cornhuskers Saturday at The Big House. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.


About the Author:

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.