Rutgers and Michigan have met every year since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten in 2014, having never played each other before then. Although it has been extremely lopsided, these two teams have had some pretty memorable moments. Lets breakdown this short but eventful series.
Rutgers first game in the Big Ten was a heartbreaking loss to Penn State where Gary Nova threw five interceptions. It was a horrible performance that many feared would define his senior season. Nova proved all the doubters wrong against Michigan with the performance of his career. In front of a sold out crowd of 53,327, he threw for a career best 404 passing yards and 3 touchdown passes. With Rutgers holding a narrow 26-24 lead, Michigan decided to go for a 56 yard field goal with just a few seconds left in the game. Kemoko Turay leaped into the air and blocked the kick to lift Rutgers to their first ever Big Ten win. Michigan’s season was already beginning to spiral and this loss continued their downward plunge and the demise of Brady Hoke.
Rutgers season was in a total free fall as they traveled to the Big House to take on first year coach Jim Harbaugh and the No. 16 team in the country. This game was never close and one of the worst parts about it was the play of New Jersey native Jabrill Peppers. He took a swing pass for a 19 yard touchdown which had him slicing through the Rutgers defense with ease. The lone bright spot of this 49-16 loss was a Janarion Grant 98 yard touchdown return that made things relatively interesting for a small amount of time.
This is the game between these two schools that is probably remembered the most. On a rainy night, Michigan, who was 4th in the country and competing for a spot in the playoff, dominated from start to finish. Jabrill Peppers was all over the field and found the end zone twice. He also had an amazing punt return where he broke multiple tackles that was called back for holding. Rutgers was an utter disaster. Chris Laviano and Zach Allen combined for a total of 5 passing yards. The team rushed for 34 yards and did not pick up a first down until the 4th quarter. Michigan ran for 481 yards and went on to win 78-0. The only bright spot of this game was Anthony Cioffi chasing down Peppers from behind at the five yard line on a 60 yard run. The game was one of the early warning signs that Chris Ash was not the right guy for this job.
This game was the most competitive one in the Chris Ash era. Janarion Grant once again broke for a long one at the Big House with a 65 yard touchdown run to tie the score at 7-7. Then, Michigan ripped off three straight touchdowns before Gus Edwards punched it in at the goal line to make it 28-14. The game was close for a half which was significant progress from the previous year. Michigan finished up the game with another score to make the final 35-14.
Michigan showed up to Piscataway in early November with eyes on the playoff. Rutgers was having an absolutely abysmal year with only one win to show for. Michigan scored at will the entire game but there was a lone bright spot for Rutgers. Down 7-0, Isaih Pacheco ripped off an 80 yard touchdown run right down the teeth of the elite Michigan defense. That was the only excitement as Michigan rolled to a 42-7 victory.
This game was the final straw for Chris Ash. With the season already off to a rough start, Rutgers got absolutely manhandled once again in the Big House. Michigan dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage the entire game. Rutgers was shutout by a Big Ten opponent for the second time that year and it was only September. After the 52-0 loss, Rutgers boarded a plane and returned home with Chris Ash as their coach. By the next morning he was let go as Pat Hobbs had seen enough.
Last season started late due to COVID-19 and was one that brought many surprises. Nobody saw Rutgers competing the way they did and not many people predicted Michigan to struggle as much as they did. Rutgers came out on fire with an almost immediate 17-0 lead. The defense was all over the struggling Joe Milton which forced Harbaugh to make a quarterback change. Cade McNamara was the spark they needed as Michigan came roaring back. Eventually, Michigan had a 35-27 lead with 4 minutes left and it looked like Rutgers had given it all they had. Noah Vedral drove them all the way down the field. It was 4th and 9 from the Michigan 11, a scrambling Vedral threw a perfect pass to Cruickshank for a touchdown. Vedral punched in the 2 point conversion and Rutgers had tied it up. Overtime was a back and forth clash that included a missed 45 yard field goal attempt that would have won Rutgers the game. In the end, Michigan outlasted Rutgers in three overtimes 48-42. This marathon game was a rollercoaster that not many saw coming. After so many blowouts, Rutgers finally played Michigan to the very end. Lets hope that trend can continue in 2021.