PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Last year, after Michigan football lost at Michigan State, the mantra was “somebody has to pay.”
A year later, Michigan beat Michigan State, but emerged with largely the same mantra.
Though the early events at SHI Stadium featured what looked like a team still finding its bearings — especially with so many starters out — eventually, that is how the Wolverines handled Rutgers.
They had to pay. For someone else’s mistake.
With the shocking attack that took place in the Lloyd Carr Tunnel at Michigan Stadium last week, the maize and blue had to find a way to turn the page from MSU and to the opponent at hand. For the Wolverine defense, while that was easier said than done. One of the two players assailed, Gemon Green, made the trip and dreseds — though he did not play.
Starting edge rusher Mike Morris had 1.5 sacks to move into second place in the Big Ten with seven, behind Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig. After the game Saturday, he said after the team found out what happened after Michigan State, moving on was a difficult proposition in the aftermath.
“I would just say we all know the events that happened last week and we took the high road, let everybody handle what happened,” Morris said. “And all we had to do was go out there and play football. That’s what we did. We played it for Gemon, played for Ja’Den McBurrows, and we had everyone’s back in that moment, on this field.”
Though he didn’t play, having Green there and dressed showed the defense a sign of resiliency — something it surely needed after going into halftime with a three-point deficit.
From there, Michigan allowed one first down the rest of the game, shutting down the Scarlet Knights. Green’s replacement, freshman corner Will Johnson, had one of the three second-half interceptions.
Morris says once the emotions died down and the team focused, seeing Green there was an inspiration for the defense.
“It meant the world,” Morris said. “Just watching that video, we felt like we let somebody down. But then we took it to the field, played our brand of football the whole second half. And we made everybody feel it.”