ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It was time for Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters to play and for the Wolverines' offense to move forward. Peters replaced starter John O'Korn in the game against Rutgers, leading the offense on four scoring drives, and gave a glimpse of what Michigan is hoping can be the future of its offense.
It took seven games for Peters to see meaningful action, but he made the most of the opportunity and showed that he is ready to take the reins.
“You always look at it as a process ... for a couple weeks now we felt that he was ready and it’s time,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Like a bird leaving the nest, kids leaving the house and going off on their own. It was time.”
Harbaugh said it was always the plan, going into that game, to play Peters, but O’Korn left him little choice after throwing an interception and stalling out multiple drives through the first and second quarters. What was supposed to be a game to help get the offense back on track was actually a game that helped get the offense a new start.
O’Korn started his season out on a promising foot when he replaced injured Wilton Speight against Purdue, going 18-for-26 for 270 yards and a touchdown, but he never picked up on his start and stalled from there. The clamoring for Peters grew louder and louder, and when he went in the game in the second quarter, the Michigan crowd let out the loudest cheer of the day, as if to exhale a sigh of relief.
And relief was provided when Peters dropped back and completed a 15-yard pass to tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr. for a first down, eventually completing his first three passes for a total of 37 yards. The drive was capped off by a touchdown run from Karan Higdon to put Michigan up 14-7 and they never looked back from there.
“He did better than everybody thought, too, yeah,” Harbaugh said. “Every drive he was moving the team. Touchdown on the two-minute drill, 80-yard drive, or 75-yard drive to start his first series in football, starting quarterback in college. I would think that would be very good for his confidence and build on it; we look to build on that.”
Peters has been building toward this moment since training camp, when Harbaugh noted a change in Peters’ communication and volume of his voice. Commanding the huddle and being loud was something Harbaugh had preached to Peters that needed to get better, even saying in a radio interview on 97.1 The Ticket that Peters had gone to some professionals on campus to work on his voice.
That aspect improved and his teammates started to take notice of the changes in the former ESPN 300 quarterback.
“From spring ball to now, two completely different quarterbacks,” defensive end Rashan Gary said of Peters. “You see it in practice, he’s talking more, checking down more. It’s crazy to see, not seeing too much in spring ball to now and you’re checking things down, making good passes. It’s unbelievable.”
Peters is going to have to talk a whole lot more as it looks like he’s going to play a whole lot more. It seems likely Peters will be the starter going forward, beginning this week against Minnesota.
The performance was against Rutgers, a defense that ranks 69 in total defense, but Peters seemed to spark the offense, giving it the life it needed. It was only one game, but it gave some hope that this season isn’t over and that -- if Peters can continue to build on his start -- Harbaugh might have found his quarterback of the future.
He hasn’t proven it yet, though, and while there were flashes of what Harbaugh had hoped to see out of his quarterback, there is still work to be done. Harbaugh isn’t 100 percent confident to say that Peters is the starting quarterback outright, but another good performance this weekend and Peters can cement his spot as the first-string quarterback for this season and beyond.
“I just showed what I had today and it’s in the hand of the coaches,” Peters said. “I’d love to be the starting QB, that’s always been my goal since I got here, but it’s in the hand of the coaches. I know they’ll do whatever they feel is right for the team.”