ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) – Jim Harbaugh refused to show mercy as No. 16 Michigan was routing Rutgers. And he’s not sorry.
Jake Rudock threw for two touchdowns and a career-high 337 yards and ran for a score and an eyebrow-raising, 2-point conversion to lead the Wolverines in a 49-16 win over the Scarlet Knights on Saturday.
Why did Harbaugh go for 2 with a 25-point lead in the third quarter?
“That’s what the chart says to do, so we went with that,” he said. “Playing the percentages.”
Even up 30 points late in the third quarter, Harbaugh was choosing to throw deep.
“He’s the ultimate competitor,” said Michigan tight end Jake Butt, who had four receptions for a career-high 102 yards. “That’s pretty clear at this point.”
The Wolverines (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten, No. 17 CFP) were able to coast to an easy victory after wild finishes in their last two games. They beat Minnesota last week on a goal line stand and botched a punt to lose to Michigan State on the final play the previous game.
Harbaugh had a lot to be encouraged about, but he was livid about a penalty that negated a 51-yard pass to Butt late in the first half. Michigan was called for unsportsmanlike conduct because of an “intent to deceive,” after Butt was uncovered near the sideline far from the formation.
“I’m pretty offended by that,” Harbaugh said.
Rutgers coach Kyle Flood thought it was the right call.
“I didn’t think it was legal and the officials did a good job officiating the play,” he said.
Flood, though, was not very forthcoming about his reaction to Harbaugh’s decision to go for 2 while ahead 41-16.
“I don’t get offended by other people’s play calls,” Flood said. “I’m focused on our team.”
His team is reeling.
The Scarlet Knights (3-6, 1-5) have lost three straight by a combined score of 146-33 to Michigan, Wisconsin and top-ranked Ohio State.
Rutgers has to close the regular season with three straight wins to be eligible for a fifth consecutive bowl and to perhaps help Flood keep his job.
After missing a field goal on the opening drive, Michigan scored TDs on five straight possessions and led 35-16 at halftime.
Harbaugh still wasn’t happy and he let his players know it in the locker room.
“He was livid,” Jabrill Peppers said.
De’Veon Smith, the sixth Wolverine to score, ran for a 4-yard TD early in the third quarter and Rudock sprinted into the end zone on a 2-point conversion to put Michigan up 43-16.
Rudock completed 18 of 25 passes and surpassed the 200-yard mark for the first time since his Michigan debut in the season-opening loss at Utah. The graduate transfer from Iowa had 300-plus yards passing for the fourth time in his career.
“He was on fire,” Harbaugh said. “He had a great game, making all the appropriate throws, all the right reads, all day long on a windy, blustery day.”
Rudock threw a 13-yard pass to Jehu Chesson and an 8-yard pass to Amara Darboh for TDs in the first half. Rudock, Jabrill Peppers, Drake Johnson and Smith ran for scores.
Peppers took a lateral that appeared to be defended well, but zigged and zagged around defenders before using a burst of speed to score on an 18-yard score.
“I thought that play was trapped behind the line of scrimmage,” Harbaugh said, adding that he told Peppers he was “really good,” on Saturday.
Jourdan Lewis broke up two passes for the Wolverines, giving him 19 this year to break a single-season record shared by Marlin Jackson and Leon Hall.
“It feels pretty good knowing all the legends they’ve had around here,” Lewis said.
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