By Andy Andersen
Purdue’s Boilermaker’s left the above home, in losing to the determined Wolverines at Michigan Stadium Saturday. The Wolverines drummed out a much needed Big Ten victory, 36-14.
That the Boilers were made to steam out of Ann Arbor with a loss was very important to the well-being of this edition of the Wolverines on the heels of their recent physical beat down in Spartan Stadium. It appears the bye week was very beneficial. A seven and one record at this point in the season, and a chance for more, is as welcome as it was unexpected.
The former Spoilermakers needed a win to secure bowl eligibility. They brought a decent football team to Ann Arbor to attempt the task. The Boilers had won two of the last three against the Wolverines, and last week laid a loss on Illinois. They hit and they have large lines, but were finally overwhelmed. According to Coach Hoke the turning point was a safety very early in the second quarter resulting from a Mike Martin bull rush.
Prior to the game some thought the most recent MSU loss might signal another M fall towards the bottom of the Big Ten barrel. Ans: Obviously no slide yet, since they won convincingly. Most thought a win with a rejuvenated running game was necessary. Ans: M put up 339-yards rushing, with Fitzgerald Toussaint doing most of the damage, lugging twenty times for 175-yards, and two TDs. His long run of 59-yards showcased the elusiveness and speed we had been waiting to see. Michael Shaw carried five time for 56-yars, mostly late in the game. He ran a 37-yard draw for a TD, running hard and without hesitation. This time Denard Robinson’s ground game was needed only 15 times as he gained 63-yards with 1 TD. Almost everyone thought that the first necessary step to any recovery of good Wolverine football fortune was to beat Purdue like they beat their drum. Ans: It was a necessary step but four very tough regular season games remain with no easy wins among them. Two are away and two at home.
There were questions as to whether the Michigan defense could demolish a spread offense. Ans: Did they ever. The Wolverines defense yielded just 89-yards rushing. Purdue ran 56 plays compared to the Wolverines’ 70. There was commentary and concern among some that Michigan was gravitating towards a two quarterback system. Some want Devin to replace Denard, others were condemning the coaches for playing Denard saying that it would hamper Denard’s play. Ans: They are using Devin’s talents situationally to get a good football player, with his own unique set of talents, into the fray. His use now will pay dividends in the future. He is not a threat to replace Denard simply because Denard gives them the best chance to win. Coach Hoke says the use of Devin means the opposition has another threat for which to prepare. Hoke on Denard’s performance: “We did a good job of protecting. Coming off of some of the play-action passes…helped. The hitch screen to (Jeremy) Gallon, that’s not the easiest throw in the world, but he got his feet set and he put it where he had to. He had a couple balls down the field that he threw very well.”
With various injuries, including a bruised back for Denard Robinson, a gimpy Taylor Lewan, and others in need of rest, and with the heavy portion of the schedule pending, a little doubt was in the air again about the team and its leadership after MSU. Ans: The offensive line and other aspects of offense and defense were more than up to the task. Even the special teams contributed. There were no spectacular returns over 33-yards by either side, and the yardage yielded was about balanced. Brandon Gibbons managed two field goals. One was for 31-yards and the other was for 22-yards. It seems he has turned the confidence corner.
Ricky Barnum and Denard were healing but scheduled to play, so how long and effectively could they go? Ans: Denard completed the game apparently unscathed, but Ricky Barnum did not play in the second half. Taylor Lewan played hurt, which drew praise from Coach Hoke.
The defense didn’t escape pregame scrutiny, appearing to have suddenly forgotten how to tackle against the Green Meanies. Ans: Kovacs did not see the field due to a knee problem. The defense effectively managed without him, tackling very well. Thomas Gordon manned the Kovacs position. Desmond Morgan had 4 solo tackles, and 5 assists, to lead the Wolverines in tackles. Thomas Gordon was 4 and 3 for a total of seven. Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, Craig Roh, Jake Ryan, among others, played well on defense too.
It is obvious from Saturday’s game that Hoke’s Wolverines did not buy into any negative palaver as they won Saturday with a good team effort. Coach Hoke: “Our kids really played together. We didn’t do everything perfect, as you know, but we’ll get to that later. I thought our guys came out ready and focused. I like how they finished — besides the touchdown at the end of the first half that we left on the field — in the second half.”
“Our kids really played together. We didn’t do everything perfect, as you know, but we’ll get to that later. I thought our guys came out ready and focused. I like how they finished — besides the touchdown at the end of the first half that we left on the field — in the second half.” Purdue was outgained 535-yards to 311.
Purdue opened and closed the scoring by scoring first and last. They grabbed the opening KO and marched to a TD. But hasn’t most of M’s opposition this year scored early? This was especially frightening because it came via a bubble screen pass effective for 48-yards. This bubble screen burst the bubble of the Wolverines pitching a shut-out. The big play bugaboo came home to roost again.
M immediately answered with a 12-play 70-yard drive, culminating in a Denard two-yard TD up the middle. All EPs were good, and its 7 up at the end of the quarter. The series contained a gain of 14 on a Devin hand off to Denard, with Gallon taking a reverse. Gallon also caught a throwback screen on the drive for 23-yards. The difficult throw was perfectly executed. Gallon was the best receiver on the day with three catches for 79-yards with a long of 42.
Next came the game changing sack by Martin for a safety. M- 9, Boilers 7
Toussaint, Robinson, and Smith all ran for yardage in a 5 play 25-yard drive which ended as Gibbons hit a 37-yard FG. M-12, Boilers 7.
Courtney Avery intercepted and M has possession after review is upheld.
Again the legs of Robinson and Toussaint provide a 5 play, 83-yard drive with the help of a Robinson TD pass to Gallon for 42-yards. Denard could not have tossed it better. Fitz ran for the two-yard TD. M-19, Boilers 7.
Next it’s the legs of Denard, Fitz and Vincent again, but Denard was sacked and the Wolverines settle for a field goal, this time for 22-yards. At the half it is M-22, Purdue 7.
Devin threw an interception to start things off in the second half by tossing a deep thrown interception, trying to hit Gallon.
With about 5 minutes left in the third quarter, Fitzgerald Toussaint made his great, three cut, TD run of 59-yards. M-29, Boilers 7.
The Wolverines finished their scoring to start the fourth quarter as Shaw blazed 37-yards for a TD to complete a 7 play, 86-yard drive. Both Fitz and Denard contributed on the drive. M-36, Boilers 7.
Purdue drove 48-yards on the second team to make it a final of M-36, Boilers 14. Hoke huffed some about this saying that no matter who is in the game they are supposed to do the job.
The Wolverines have clawed out of the quick sand, prevented a slide towards the bottom of the Big Ten and seem firmly established on solid ground subsequent to a tough loss. It was not 2009 again. The Boilers had not won in the Big House since 1966, but managed it painfully in 2009.
The big drum, the gold and silver girls, may have been missing, but the Blast From The Past Alumni Band, as well as several notable teams and individuals were honored.
The honorees included the late Jim Mandich. Jim was a Hall of fame tight end and Captain of the 1969 Wolverines. He is said to have been the first player out of the locker room door before playing Ohio in 1969, driving right through the closed locker room door. His wife Bonnie and his sons Mark and Mike represented him. Jim was a great Wolverine.
The toughest part of the schedule looms, with Iowa’s Hawkeyes up next in Iowa City. After losing to the Gophers, they will be madder than a cat in a bath tub. The Hawkeyes feature a strong running game with an iron man running back. M. Coker had 32-carries against the Gophers, gained 252-yards, and scored twice. It will be another physical test in an unfriendly arena.