By: Will Burchfield
Brandon Peters took over for John O’Korn midway through the second quarter on Saturday afternoon with Michigan and Rutgers tied at seven.
By halftime the Wolverines were up 21-7; they’d go on to win 35-14. Peters, the redshirt freshman and fan favorite, finished 10-14 for 124 yards and a touchdown.
Did he do enough to earn another start?
Jim Harbaugh deflected the question at first, saying, “We’ll see.”
But he gave in later.
“I feel really good about the way he played and I feel good about him now taking the next step and being the starting quarterback, and getting a great week of now knowing that he’s the starting quarterback in practice. As I sit here now, that’s the way I feel about it,” said Harbaugh.
A large portion of Michigan’s fan base has been clamoring for Peters to play for much of this season, even before starter Wilton Speight went down with a back injury in September. Harbaugh has resisted thrusting the 20-year-old into game action, but he didn’t have much of a choice on Saturday.
O’Korn was 3-6 for 13 yards and an interception through Michigan’s first four drives. He also fumbled two snaps. After the fourth drive, a three-and-out that featured two O’Korn incompletions, Peters began warming up on the sideline.
“Then when we got the ball back,” Peters said, “I was just standing next to Harbaugh and he said, ‘Let’s go, you’re in.’”
Peters promptly led Michigan on two touchdown drives, including a 49-yard march in the team’s two-minute offense with time winding down in the first half.
“I wasn’t that nervous, honestly. It was just a great opportunity to get out there,” said Peters. “I was more confident and excited than nervous.”
Said Harbaugh, “He really acquitted himself well. From the first time he went in there, just feeling the deep zone and feeling the linebackers drop, just taking that extra half second to take a breath and hit the check-down, it was good ball.”
Harbaugh said the plan all week was to get Peters into the game. He informed his players on Monday.
“We had made that decision well before the game,” he said. “It was time for him to play.”
This was based on Peters’ improvement in practice.
“We always look at it as a process. For a good couple weeks now, we felt that he was ready. It’s time for the bird to leave the nest. The kid’s leaving the house and going off on (his) own. It was time,” said Harbaugh.
Even still, Harbaugh said Peters exceeded the coaches’ expectations.
“We all felt good. Nobody was nervous about what was going to happen, we thought he’d do good. But I think he did better than everybody thought, too,” said Harbaugh.
“Every drive he was moving the team. Touchdown drive in the two-minute drill and 75-yard drive to start his first series as a starting quarterback in college. I would think that’d be very good for his confidence, and we’ll look to build on that.”