With Purdue’s fan base energized for a top-10 upset to happen for the first time in years, Wilton Speight going down with an early injury started to line those stars up.
However, the only star that shinned that afternoon came from an unexpected source.
And yes, it was Speight’s replacement.
Transfer quarterback John O’Korn played the game of his career, completing 18-of-26 passes for 270 yards, a touchdown and an interception. More importantly, he led his team on three touchdown drives late in the second half to put the game away.
While the defense held Michigan in the game, again, for most of the afternoon, O’Korn was a main reason things went in the Wolverines favor.
O’Korn manages winning football
After O’Korn’s 13-play drive to open the scoring for both teams, capped off with the Zach Gentry 12-yard touchdown reception, the offense shut down for awhile.
A few punts and a couple turnovers led the Michigan offense to making no progress towards winning the game and left the defense on their own.
Purdue couldn't get much going against the constant pressure of the Wolverine front and it gave them a shot to still comeback as the end of the third quarter neared.
O’Korn didn't miss that shot, instead, he sunk it time and time again.
It started with an 11-play, 86-yard touchdown drive that essentially gave Michigan momentum heading to the final quarter.
Gentry and Grant Perry had a couple big receptions early in the drive to keep the ball moving down the field. Then O’Korn had maybe his best pass of the day to that point.
Escaping multiple defenders, O’Korn was able to find Sean McKeon over the middle for a 30-yard pass that the offense needed badly on third down.
After a targeting call against Purdue’s Jacob Thieneman to Michigan’s Nick Eubanks, Chris Evans finally found some running lanes.
The Wolverine tailback rushed for the final 22 yards of the drive, ending in a 10-yard touchdown run to give Michigan the lead back at 14-10.
O’Korn didn't accept that as enough. On Michigan’s following possession, he opened with a 23-yard completion to Perry that moved Michigan across midfield.
He later found McKeon for 23 more yards to move Michigan in the red zone and set up the touchdown with a 25-yard pass to Gentry after a penalty, putting Michigan inside the Purdue 10-yard line. Ty Isaac finished the drive with a 1-yard score, starting to put the game out of reach at 21-10.
O’Korn put his final stamp of the game on Michigan’s next possession, rushing 12 yards for a first down on a 2nd-and-12. It set up Evans to break free for a 49-yard touchdown run to put away the Boilermakers.
The three consecutive touchdown drives showed something that Michigan hasn't done all year on offense — consistency — and it was O’Korn who managed the game in his favor.
Evans and the receivers made plays to move the team down the field, but O’Korn’s play at quarterback opened up the offense in a way that Michigan hasn't this season.
It showed, and moving forward, it won’t be easy for Harbaugh to just hand Speight his job back.
O’Korn now has a case to be “the guy” for the Michigan offense and he did it by beating his ex-coach at Houston Tony Levine.
Levine is now the special teams, co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach with the Boilermakers. He benched O'Korn in his second season with the Cougars, leading him to Michigan.
O'Korn later said he "circled this game on the calander" earlier this season and he wanted to play in it.
The senior got his opportunity and took full advantage, turning this game around for Michigan and possibly earning a starting job.