PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Jabrill Peppers might be more than Mr. Everything for Michigan. He could be Mr. Heisman, too.
Peppers ran for a career-high two touchdowns and set up another score with a 63-yard scamper in his return to his native New Jersey and No. 4 Michigan routed Rutgers 78-0 on Saturday night in a game in which the Scarlet Knights were limited to 22 yards total yards and two first downs.
“If there’s a better player in the country I don’t know who it is,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said after the Wolverines (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) matched their best start since 2011 and had their largest margin of victory since an 85-0 victory in 1939 over Chicago University.
Harbaugh then went all in for the junior who has played 12 positions for the Wolverines this season.
“In my humble opinion you’re looking at a Heisman Trophy winner,” Harbaugh said. After a pause and half a smile, he added the word “candidate.”
Peppers had scoring runs of 7 and 4 yards after taking direct snaps, and his career-long run midway through the first quarter paved the way to a 4-yard touchdown run by Ty Isaac for the first score of the game.
“A lot of my friends came out today who hadn’t seen my play in person since high school so I definitely wanted to put my best put foot forward,” said Peppers, who pointed to his mom in the stands after the game and yelled that ‘he loved her.’
It could have been a better day for Peppers. He had a 44-yard punt return for a first-quarter touchdown nullified by an illegal block.
One of his touchdown runs came on a broken play, quarterback Wilson Speight said.
“He wasn’t there so he just took off, Speight said. “As he was running I thought this kid looks like a guy I created in NCAA football on my Xbox.”
Rutgers (2-4, 0-3) has lost three straight, with the last two being embarrassing for new coach Chris Ash. No. 2 Ohio State beat the Scarlet Knights 58-0 last weekend, holding them to 116 yards in total offense.
This was worse, and seeing Peppers come home and put up a highlight reel added to the woe for the crowd of 53,292. Michigan had 600 yards in total offense and held the Scarlet Knights to 0 for 17 on third down
Rutgers senior safety Anthony Cioffi felt numb after the game.
“It just feels like playing a video game,” he said. “Just got spanked.”
Rutgers did not get a first down until Trey Sneed had a 12-yard run with 9:06 left in the fourth quarter.
The 78-0 loss was Rutgers worst since an 82-0 setback against Princeton in 1888.
“We had a tough stretch — three great teams we had, but there’s no excuse for it,” Cioffi said.
Khalid Hill tallied twice from a yard out and caught an 11-yard pass from backup quarterback John O’Korn early in the third quarter. Jehu Chesson had the best catch of the rainy night, diving to catch a 30-yard touchdown pass from Speight in the first quarter.
Karan Higdon added touchdown runs of 15 and 44 yards, Bobby Henderson tallied from 13 and Isaac capped the scoring with a 34-yarder for his second of the game.
Michigan: If Michigan wanted to make a statement to New Jersey recruits of where to play, coach Jim Harbaugh is going to get a ton of players from the Garden State. He has nine already. Peppers also made a statement for the Heisman rushing for a career high 74 yards on three carries and finishing with two tackles and a quarterback pressure.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights are making a run for the worst team in the Power Five. Instead of getting better as the season progresses, the offense has gone downhill since Janarion Grant was hurt against Iowa. This was so bad Michael Cintron punted 16 times.
ALMOST: Rutgers thought it scored on the final play of the third quarter on a 75-yard interception return by Deonte Roberts. A review showed the ball hit the ground and it was overturned.
FISTS: About eight Michigan players raised their fists during the national anthem.
WOWS: Michigan’s nine rushing touchdowns are tied for the most in program history (1939 vs. Chicago). This was the Wolverines second-largest margin of victory since 1920 (78 points) and its third-highest in program history. It is the largest margin of victory in a conference game, replacing a 69-point win against Northwestern in 1975.
POINTS: It was the most points given up by Rutgers since an 80-7 loss to West Virginia in 2001
Michigan: has a bye before playing at home against Illinois on Oct. 22.
Rutgers: The competition level dips as Illinois comes to the birthplace of college football on Oct. 15.