MnB B1G Preview 2013: Michigan vs. Purdue - The Classics

Gregory Shamus

Even though the Michigan-Purdue football game didn't become a regular meeting until the start of the '60s, the two teams have had many close battles, especially in recent years. Let's take a look back on some of the best.

It seems that every year we play Purdue Boilermakers, I have to refresh myself as to the meaning behind their nickname. The name originates in 1891 when the Purdue football team crushed an opponent, leading to local papers referring to them as "boilermakers." Since Purdue is known as an engineering school, the title fit, since students studying engineering in the 1800s had to heat and mold metal, like a true boilermaker. Thus, their nickname was born.

At any rate, the Michigan Wolverines don't play the Boilermakers in the near future, thanks to the new divisions coming in 2014. The teams will be separated and neither will share the field until at least 2016. This isn't surprising given that the Michigan-Purdue matchup has never been a yearly fixture, and the game isn't viewed as a rivalry beyond two Big Ten teams facing off. However, it's interesting that Purdue was the first team currently in the Big Ten that Michigan faced. Michigan defeated Purdue 34-6 in 1890 and the teams would play five more times before the turn of the century. But the teams would only play eight games in the next 60 years. This seems odd to me, since both teams have participated in Big Ten athletics since 1896 when it was still the Western Conference (Note: Michigan was independent from 1907 to 1917 due to a disagreement over rule changes imposed by the Western Conference, notably a five-game schedule and only three-year eligibility for athletes). I can't find anything explaining why the two teams hardly played for six decades, other than scheduling wasn't as formulaic then as it is now.

Regardless, the two teams have played 44 games since 1960, with Michigan going 32-12 (Michigan is 44-14 overall). Even though Michigan leads the overall series, many of the recent games have been close, with over a third of the games since 1960 being decided by single-digit deficits.

November 1st, 2008, Michigan 42 - Purdue 48

I don't think anybody thought Rich Rodriguez would walk onto the field as Michigan's head football coach in 2008 and lead the team to a National Championship that year. But I'd also imagine nobody thought he'd drive the team so far into the ground after the Wolverines finished tied for 2nd in the Big Ten in Lloyd Carr's last year. Michigan went 3-9 in 2008, its first losing season since 1967, when Bump Elliot led the team. And Michigan's 33 year bowl streak, dating back to 1975, ended at the hands of Purdue.

By the time the game rolled around in '08, both teams were already struggling at 2-6 records apiece and both would have to win out just to become bowl eligible. Purdue would end up coming closer, winning two of the last four, while Michigan only won a single game to end the season. It was a disappointing year for both schools, as Purdue had been in bowl games 10 of the previous 11 seasons.

As was the case with most of Rich Rod's defeats, Michigan's offense - 300 total yards - couldn't do enough to make up for a Michigan defense that surrendered 522 total yards of offense. The Wolverines led at halftime, 28-21, due to a punt return by Martavious Odoms, a couple of Steven Threet touchdown passes, and a touchdown on the ground by Brandon Minor. However, the lead would be short-lived, as Purdue scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to go up 35-28. In the fourth, both teams would trade touchdowns until Michigan tied the game at 42 with a little over a minute left. But the defense couldn't hold Purdue back, and the Boilermakers scored the game-winning touchdown with ease in the final seconds. Michigan would block the PAT, but it didn't matter.

Michigan fans would love to forget 2008 ever happened, and the Purdue game was one of the worst moments of that season. The loss gave the Wolverines seven on the season, and at the time, the most in school history. Michigan would lose two more that year, setting the school record at nine losses. As I mentioned, Purdue didn't do much after the Michigan game, but they Boilermakers can always rejoice in the fact that they ensured Michigan had one of its worst seasons in history. I couldn't find a good highlight video, so let's just forget it happened.

October 23rd, 2004, Michigan 16 - Purdue 14

In 2004, both teams entered the game ranked in the top #15 for the second consecutive season. Michigan (#13, 6-1) had lost a close game to Notre Dame earlier in the season, and Purdue (#12, 5-1) started the season undefeated until they lost in the previous week against Wisconsin. Both teams had their eyes set on the Big Ten Championship, with Michigan looking to win in back-to-back seasons and Purdue looking for its ninth title overall.

On top of a conference championship, the Boilermakers wanted revenge for an embarrassing defeat the previous season. Even though the situation was similar, with Michigan #13 and Purdue #10, the Wolverines trounced the Boilermakers 31 to 3. However, 2004 saw a different type of game. Michael Hart would set Michigan's freshman rushing record and the game would be decided by a field goal.

The teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter, and Michigan added a field goal in the second to take a 10-3 lead in the locker room. Purdue would respond near the end of the third with a one-play drive: a 64-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Orton to running back Brandon Jones. Michigan tacked on a field goal to cut Purdue's lead to one heading into the fourth quarter. Both teams didn't do much in the final frame until Michigan's Garret Rivas punched home the game-winning field goal with 2:45 left to play. The field goal was made all the more significant since Rivas had missed one field goal and had another blocked earlier in the game. Purdue put in a final bid to kick their own field goal in the final seconds. But Michigan had different plans, as Ernest Shazor teamed up with Markus Curry to crush Purdue wide-out Dorien Bryant, causing the game-clinching fumble with little over two minutes to play. Check out the highlights here.

While both teams came into the game with high hopes, only Michigan left with them. The Wolverines would finish with a share of the Big Ten title in '04 and go on to lose a heartbreaker against Texas in the Rose Bowl, 38-37. Purdue would end up losing three of their next five games, finish in the middle of the Big Ten, and lose in the Sun Bowl to Arizona State.

October 17th, 1964, Michigan 20 - Purdue 21

Michigan should have won the National Championship in 1964. At the very least, they should have went undefeated. Michigan came into the Purdue game undefeated at 3-0, with victories against #6 Navy and #9 Michigan State. Compared to those schools, Purdue should have been a breeze, especially since the Boilermakers hadn't done anything noteworthy since 1952. However, that didn't matter in 1964 when the two teams met, and Bob Griese led the Boilermakers over the Wolverines in a close game.

In the first half, both teams went back and forth and entered halftime with a 14-14 tie. Purdue would do all the scoring in the third quarter and take a 21-14 into the fourth. On its opening drive in the fourth quarter, Michigan drove to the Purdue's three-yard line, but turned the ball over on a fumble. Michigan would stop Purdue and score on their next drive. Even though it wasn't the end of the game, Bump Elliot decided to go for two instead of kicking the game-tying extra-point. Michigan would fail to convert as well as fail to score on their final two possessions. I wasn't there in 1964 and I don't know Bump Elliot, so I have no idea why he would choose to go for two rather than tie the game. He must have had his reasons. Here's some old black-and-white highlights.

It was Michigan's only loss in 1964. The Wolverines crushed #8 Oregon State in the Rose Bowl and had they been ranked higher going into that game, I say the Associated Press or the Football Writers Association of America gives them the National Championship. The AP awarded it to 10-1 Alabama while the FWAA awarded it to 11-0 Arkansas.

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