Empty homecoming for Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers in 26-24 loss to Rutgers


It wasn’t the type of homecoming Jabrill Peppers envisioned when he enrolled at Michigan this fall.

The coveted defensive back, who prepped at Paramus (NJ) Catholic, hoped to show his stuff Saturday night (Oct. 4) as Michigan lost a heartbreaking 26-24 decision to Rutgers at nearby High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway (NJ).

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But Peppers, who’s already been compared to Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, suffered a high ankle sprain in the Wolverines season opener against Appalachian State—and has barely played since.

Backfield misses him

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke could have left Peppers in Ann Arbor, but as a possible morale and good will gesture, brought Peppers to Rutgers with the team.

“Jabrill is from New Jersey,” Hoke said in his post-game press conference.  “So I think he spent a little time with his mother.”

While Peppers no doubt enjoyed the visit home, there’s no question Michigan’s defensive backfield misses Peppers in the lineup.

“When a guy has earned the right to be a starter, anytime he’s not in there, it hurts you,” U-M defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said.“There’s a reason he’s a starter. The thing that he brings is a lot of fire and a lot of physical play.”

Tops in nation

Peppers was rated by scout.com as the nation’s No. 1 defensive back and was expected to become the lock-down corner Michigan has missed for several years.

When he regains his health, you might see Peppers check the opponent’s top receiver, handle punts and kickoffs, and even appear on the offensive side of the ball.

Without him, the secondary has been a huge liability.

In Saturday’s loss, which gave Michigan a 0-2 Big Ten record for the first time since 1967, Rutgers’ senior quarterback Gary Nova completed 23 of 39 passes for 404 yards and three touchdowns.

In Michigan’s other three defeats, Notre Dame’s Everett Golson, Utah’s Travis Wilson and Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner combined for five touchdowns, no interceptions and a 63% completion rate.

The Wolverines showed some mettle, especially after a week where the media and an alarming number of the fan base called for the collective heads of Hoke and athletic director Dave Brandon.

Lack of institutional control?

Oct 4, 2014; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Michigan Wolverines safety Jarrod Wilson (22) hits Rutgers Scarlet Knights wide receiver Leonte Carroo (4) after making a catch during the first half at High Points Solutions Stadium.  Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The brouhaha started when it appeared to some that quarterback Shane Morris was allowed to remain in last week’s Minnesota game after spraining an ankle and later taking a cheap shot to the helmet.

An official diagnosis was never released but Brandon admitted in a statement that Morris suffered a “probable minor concussion.”

Morris made the trip to New Jersey but was held out because of his bad ankle. Gardner returned to the starting lineup and played well enough to win, completing 13 of 22 passes for 178 yards while adding 40 yards rushing.

Powerback Derrick Green seems to get better every week. The north-and-south runner had 74 yards on 12 carries, giving him 488 yards for the season. His sidekick De’Veon Smith has rushed for 290.

The victory was the first ever Big Ten win for Rutgers (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten). Michigan, which hosts Penn State next Saturday, has now lost three in a row (2-4, 0-2).

Michigan victim of “complete the process” rule

Probably one of the most confusing rules in both the NCAA and NFL is the one which causes coaches and fans to pull their hair out.

Michigan was the victim last night, and frankly it might have cost the Wolverines the game.

Down 26-24 with less than five minutes to play, Michigan was driving for the go-ahead score. On third-and-eight from the Rutgers 38, Devin Gardner appeared to complete a pass to Amara Darboh for what might have been another first down. Darboh caught the ball with both feet in bounds, but when he landed on the ground (a step or two after the catch as television replays show), he lost control of the ball.

Both the ruling on the field and the booth review agreed it was incomplete. Matt Wile’s 56-yard field goal attempt on the ensuing play was blocked, and Rutgers fans began their celebration.

This is the same rule which cost the Detroit Lions a game against the Bears a few years back when Detroit’s Calvin Johnson spun the ball after the catch, it’s the same rule that cost Virginia Tech the Sugar Bowl against Michigan and the same rule that cost Michigan a game at Iowa.

The NCAA version of rule follows, and good luck with that.  Basically, if a player catches the ball in the field of play or in the endzone, he better never let go of it. Not even if he trips over three Notre Dame cheerleaders and a leprechaun.

 ‘Common to the game’

ARTICLE 3. a. To catch a ball means that a player:
1. Secures control of a live ball in flight with his hands or arms before
the ball touches the ground, and
2. Touches the ground in bounds with any part of his body, and then
3. Maintains control of the ball long enough to enable him to perform
an act common to the game, i.e., long enough to pitch or hand the ball,
advance it, avoid or ward off an opponent, etc., and
4. Satisfies paragraphs b, c, and d below.
b. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without
contact by an opponent) he must maintain complete and continuous control
of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the
field of play or in the end zone. This is also required for a player attempting
to make a catch at the sideline and going to the ground out of bounds. If
he loses control of the ball which then touches the ground before he regains
control, it is not a catch. If he regains control inbounds prior to the ball
touching the ground it is a catch.
c. If the player loses control of the ball while simultaneously touching the
ground with any part of his body, or if there is doubt that the acts were
simultaneous, it is not a catch. If a player has control of the ball, a slight
movement of the ball, even if it touches the ground, will not be considered
loss of possession; he must lose control of the ball in order for there to be
a loss of possession.
d. If the ball touches the ground after the player secures control and continues
to maintain control, and the elements above are satisfied, it is a catch.

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