By Larry Lage
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Brandon Peters helped Michigan score touchdowns on his first three drives, allowing the Wolverines to pull away and beat Rutgers 35-14 Saturday.
Jim Harbaugh finally benched John O’Korn after another shaky performance. Harbaugh put Peters in and the redshirt freshman took full advantage of his first opportunity to play extensively, completing 10 of 14 passes for 124 yards with a TD.
O’Korn, starting a fourth straight game in place of injured starter Wilton Speight, was 3 of 6 for 13 yards with an interception and recovered two of his own fumbles off snaps.
Michigan (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) broke a fourth-place tie in the East division with the Scarlet Knights (3-5, 2-3) with a desperately needed win after losing two of three and falling out of The Associated Press poll for the first time in two-plus years.
Rutgers, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in attendance, kept its close while O’Korn was in the game.
Janarion Grant ran for a 65-yard score early in the second quarter, pulling the Scarlet Knights into a 7-all tie.
With Peters under center, Karan Higdon’s first of two touchdowns broke a tie late in the second quarter. Peters lofted pass over a linebacker to running back Chris Evans for a 20-yard TD pass with 23 seconds left in the half. He handed it off to freshman Kareem Walker early in the third, giving the Wolverines a 28-7 lead they didn’t have trouble keeping.
Higdon had a 49-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter and finished with 158 yards rushing on 18 carries. Ty Isaac ran for 109 yards on 14 attempts for the Wolverines, whose offense seemed to run much smoother with Peters at quarterback.
Gio Rescigno was 8 of 16 for 101 yards for the Scarlet Knights, who had won two straight Big Ten games for the first time.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights will lament opportunities they missed in the first half. They almost picked off a Peters pass, were inches away from a fourth-down stop, missed an open receiver that might’ve scored and could’ve returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
Michigan: The Peters era has begun. It took a while for Harbaugh to give him a chance, but he was ready for the opportunity and likely will keep his job unless Speight somehow returns after having cracks in his vertebrae.
Rutgers: Hosts Maryland.
Michigan: Plays Minnesota at home.
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