PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Michigan had to switch quarterbacks, go three overtimes and play roughly 4 1/2 hours to avoid the football program’s worst start in 53 years. It was worth it.
Hassan Haskins dove in from less than a yard out on fourth down in the third overtime and the Wolverines snapped a three-game losing streak by outlasting Rutgers 48-42 on Saturday night.
“This win means a lot,” defensive lineman Chris Hinton said. “It’s the first step to get back on track. We didn’t quit. We just kept swinging.”
The guy who delivered the biggest blows was sophomore quarterback Cade McNamara, who replaced starter Joe Milton late in the second quarter. He threw four touchdown passes and ran for another as Michigan (2-3, 2-3 Big Ten) handed Rutgers (1-4, 1-4) its fourth straight loss.
“Cade was outstanding,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who has been under fire with his team off to its worst start in his now six-year tenure. “Really gritty. Really gritty performance in all ways. His play was inspiring. I can’t say enough great things.”
Michigan missed the 2-point conversion after Haskins’ touchdown, but safety Daxton Hill intercepted Noah Vedral’s desperation heave into the end zone from the 24-yard line to end the game.
It marked the second straight week Rutgers coach Greg Schiano saw his team squander a second-half lead.
“There was a bunch of guys that are hurting really bad,” Schiano said. “Needless to say, a bunch of guys really spilled their guts out there on the field. It just, you know, we’re not there yet. We’re just not quite there yet. And we’ll keep chopping and keep working. We will get there.”
Vedral threw an 11-yard, fourth-down touchdown pass to Aron Cruickshank and then carried two defenders into the end zone on the 2-point conversion run to tie the game at 35 and force the extra sessions.
Both teams missed field goals on the first possession of overtime. Vedral threw a 25-yard yard touchdown pass to tight end Jovani Haskins to put Rutgers ahead 42-35, but McNamara scored on a 2-yard run to tie the game.
McNamara finished 27 of 36 for 260 yards. The sophomore had TD passes of 46 and 9 yards to Cornelius Johnson, 8-yards to Nick Eubanks and a 6-yarder to Mike Sainristil.
“We got our swagger back a little bit, especially on offense,” McNamara said. “To come out with a win, it feels good.”
Vedral was 29-of-43 passing for 378 yards with three touchdowns. Johnny Langan ran for two touchdowns and Val Ambrosio made two field goals, but missed a potential game-winning 45-yarder in the first OT.
Giles Jackson had 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to ignite a big second half that helped Michigan overcame an early 17-0 deficit.
Michigan’s last 1-4 start was in 1967 when it went 4-6 under Bump Elliott.
Michigan: Harbaugh has a new quarterback. While McNamara does not have the mobility of Milton, he has a great arm and makes smart decisions with the ball. The Wolverines can make it two in a row next week at home with a game against winless Penn State (0-5). No Nittany Lions squad has ever lost its first five.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have been competitive in Schiano’s second stint as coach and this was another one. They just have to find a way to get over the hump. This is the second straight week they blew a second-half lead.
Michigan: Hosts Penn State (0-5) on Saturday.
Rutgers: Visits Purdue (2-2) on Saturday.