PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — J.J. McCarthy threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and No. 4 Michigan rallied from its first halftime deficit of the season to beat Rutgers 52-17 on Saturday night.
Running back Blake Corum had two short TD runs and linebacker Michael Barrett intercepted two passes in a big third quarter, returning the second one 31 yards for a touchdown as Michigan (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten, No. 5 CFP) matched its best start since 2016.
The Wolverines’ defense played a major role in the comeback, picking off Rutgers freshman quarterback Gavin Wimsatt three times in third quarter while holding the Scarlet Knights (4-5, 1-5) scoreless.
Timmy Ward scored on a 7-yard return of a blocked punt, Jude McAtamney kicked a 32-yard field goal and Wimsatt threw a 3-yard TD pass to Sean Ryan to give the 25-point underdog Scarlet Knights a 17-14 halftime edge.
It didn’t prevent Rutgers from losing its 36th straight game to a ranked opponent, and eighth in a row to Michigan.
The Wolverines wiped out the lead with a 21-point blitz early in the third quarter fueled by Barrett, who had never had an interception at Michigan.
McCarthy hit Donovan Edwards with a go-ahead, 14-yard TD pass with 8:24 left in the quarter. On the second play from scrimmage after that, Barrett stepped in front of Wimsatt’s pass to Ryan and returned it to the 10-yard line. Corum scored from 2 yards out for a 28-17 lead with 6:53 left.
Nine seconds later, Barrett scored on his interception return and the game was all but over.
The finish was delayed a few minutes while medical personnel attended to a member of the chain crew who became ill. He was taken off the field in a wheelchair.
Michigan: The Wolverines finally looked like one of the best teams in the country in the second half. They came in just out of the CFP picture and scuffled early, but losses by Tennessee and Clemson could help them move up in the rankings. Michigan’s path to the playoff is winning a second straight Big Ten title, which likely means going 12-0 with a victory at rival Ohio State.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have to win two of their final three to have any shot at playing in a second consecutive bowl game. After Michigan State, they play No. 16 Penn State and finish at Maryland.
Michigan: Will host Nebraska on Saturday.
Rutgers: Plays at Michigan State on Saturday.