Michigan debuted at No. 5 in this year’s College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday night. The Wolverines control their own destiny if they win out in November, including the traditional season finale with No. 2 Ohio State.
But all of that was secondary for the program this week in the wake of what Jim Harbaugh called an assault on two of his players following Michigan’s game against Michigan State.
The team’s focus remained on the wellbeing of defensive backs Ja’Den McBurrows and Gemon Green, who were injured in the incident, ahead of its trip to Rutgers this Saturday at Piscataway, N.J.
Harbaugh said what transpired Saturday night in the Michigan Stadium tunnel was “egregious” and traumatic for the whole program.
“An apology will not get the job done in this instance,” Harbaugh said Monday. “There should be serious consequences for the many individuals who are culpable.”
Green retained an attorney, who said the graduate student suffered a concussion when a Spartans player hit him in the head with a helmet. McBurrows, who was already sidelined with an ACL injury, was the victim in a video posted online that showed several Michigan State players ganging up on him in the tunnel.
The ugly event overshadowed Michigan (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) snapping a two-game losing streak in the rivalry. Blake Corum ran for 177 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries to build upon a Heisman Trophy campaign; he now ranks second in the country with 14 rushing touchdowns and fourth nationally with 1,078 yards.
Ahead of the Wolverines’ first road game since Oct. 8, Harbaugh agreed it will be difficult to put the Michigan State incident behind them and focus on Rutgers.
“Yeah, it’s been a challenge,” Harbaugh said. “It’s been traumatic, but we’re getting (ready) right now. We’ll face the challenge head-on and support our players in every way possible.”
Rutgers (4-4, 1-4) is coming off a 31-0 drubbing at the hands of Minnesota, the Scarlet Knights’ fourth loss in five games. Michigan has won seven straight games in the series after Rutgers beat the Wolverines in 2014, the year Rutgers joined the Big Ten.
But since coach Greg Schiano returned to Rutgers in 2020, the Scarlet Knights have played Michigan close. Michigan won 20-13 last season and 48-42 the year before.
“It’s always been a challenging team to play,” Harbaugh said. “They’re a very physical team. Defense, offense, special teams very well-coached. Same thing you say about a Greg Schiano team every time you go to play them.”
Rutgers was hindered by the surprise season-ending foot injury to true freshman running back Samuel Brown V. Brown had a career game in Rutgers’ Oct. 22 win over Indiana, racking up 101 yards and a go-ahead touchdown. But he injured his foot in the fourth quarter of that game and will undergo surgery.
Without him against Minnesota, the Scarlet Knights managed just 48 rushing yards on 21 carries.
“We didn’t do our best,” Schiano said. “We missed some block combinations. We missed some reads in the run game. When you drop some of those RPOs, they are not quite as scary to the defense anymore. So it all goes together. … It’s never one thing or one person. But it certainly wasn’t effective.”
Schiano also said Rutgers will start Gavin Wimsatt at quarterback again over Noah Vedral and Evan Simon. Wimsatt, a former four-star recruit, has struggled in limited opportunities this season and completed 6 of 17 passes for 68 yards and an interception against Minnesota.
“I think he showed what he’s capable of, and now we have to get consistent of doing that, but that’s not just Gavin,” Schiano said. “As I’ve talked to you guys before in building a program, there’s a lot of steps. The last step is consistency because it’s the hardest step. … That’s consistency and that’s where we are working to get there.”
–Field Level Media