Michigan has seen and heard this narrative before — the opposing team talks smack before the game and then gets dominated on the field. The Wolverines went into the squelching heat on Saturday and took care of business against Purdue.
Let's take a look at how each position unit performed against a Purdue team that many thought would put up a fight against Michigan and keep it close, or actually pull out the upset.
Defensive line: A
Coach Don Brown deserves more and more credit with each game the DLine performs the way they have this season. This group shut out Purdue following a field goal with 6:08 left in the second quarter. Senior Chase Winovich led the team with three sacks and six total tackles. Winovich also played every snap on defense, according to Don Brown in an interview this past Monday. His performance also earned him the Walter Camp and Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors. Mike McCray and Maurice Hurst also had great games combining for 11 tackles, and nine players had at least two tackles.
While the score at halftime was 10-7 in favor of Purdue, the second half was dominated by this defense; which allowed just 15 yards of offense. Considering Purdue put up 477 yards total (272 passing/205 rushing) against Missouri a week prior, this was quite an accomplishment. Against Michigan, Purdue could only muster 189 yards total (159 passing/30 rushing).
Sophomore Devin Bush had one sack and matched Chase Winovich with six total tackles, moving his season total to a team high of 33. His explosiveness and dominant play was shown on a few plays against this Purdue defense.
Here’s what Bush had to say to WXYZ’s Brad Galli about the play where a Purdue player tried to block him. “That didn't happen, he didn't block me. First, it's two things. I had to get him back because he chopped me. So I was mad about that. Then, he was doing a screen, I was like, ‘You can’t catch the ball if you're on the floor.’”
Tight End: A-
This unit overall had a decent day, partially due to more involvement in the pass game compared to the first two games. Zach Gentry and Sean McKeon combined for eight catches for 130 yards and one touchdown. The performance by this unit, with more catches and better blocking, is a huge confidence boost heading into the second half of the season.
Tyrone Wheatley Jr. also blocked very well. The clip below is but one example of his strong performance last Saturday.
After Wilton Speight went down on a nasty play, John O’Korn came in and had an impressive game, particularly in the second half. His quickness and mobility allowed him to escape the rush, facilitating broken plays and downfield passes that build momentum for the offense.
He was 18-for-26 and 278 yards, and threw for one touchdown in four scoring drives. He had a few nice throws over the middle to tight ends and the unit created some positive chemistry and energy. He also marshaled two of the longest touchdown drives of the day at 86 and 84 yards.
There aren’t many reasons why he shouldn’t start against Michigan State, but we will have to wait and see what the coaches decide come game time.
Running Back/Fullback: A-
Chris Evans had the game that fans were waiting for this season with two touchdowns on 14 carries for 97 yards. Ty Isaac had only 20 yards on 10 carries due to the Boilermaker defense coming up big on several plays, but he also found the endzone once with a huge hole up the middle. This unit was balanced and strong with Evans and Isaac leading the way with TDs.
Special Teams: B+
Brad Robbins made his collegiate debut and was solid at punting seven times with an average of 40.6 yards per punt. Quinn “Wild Thing” Nordin had no field goals on the day due to a better productive offense in the red zone, but he did go four for four on extra points.
Another note about James Foug that was posted by Maize N Brew Editor, Drew Hallett.
Donovan Peoples-Jones made good decisions as well and allowed several punts to provide Michigan with great field position.
Wide Receiver: C
Not many were able to create big plays with the tight end success. Grant Perry had a few great catches for 39 yards. Other than Perry, nobody had many catches or yards.
One of the few great plays by O'Korn escaping and finding Perry for a nice gain. pic.twitter.com/8x58ovRiIS— David Noe (@DavidRNoe) September 25, 2017
Knowing what this group can and how it has created big plays down the field, it's good to see how they're developing so far, but they still need to improve on creating separation consistently to make plays.
The secondary had a bigger test against Purdue than Air Force based on their style of offense. A week prior, Purdue threw for 272 yards against Missouri. Their trickery and pass plays allowed for some success in the first quarter. This unit also helped hold Purdue to 0/12 on third down plays. Lavert Hill also made the Pro Football Focus Defense Team of the Week with three other Michigan players (Chase Winovich, Maurice Hurst, Devin Bush).
Offensive Line: D
Purdue figured out how to attack the line and shut Michigan down on several run plays. This was a much improved defensive line than Purdue has had in the past, allowing only 139 yards on the ground — down from Michigan's average of 200 per game. Four of Purdue’s five sacks on the season were also against Michigan last Saturday. Of all the units, this line will need to break down film and find ways to avoid pressure and sacks before taking on Michigan State.
This young group has become a true second half team, outscoring their first four opponents 80-14 (first half is 46-40). The scoring and red zone concerns ended some with better drives and it was great to see how several tight ends contributed at key moments. They also controlled the possession battle by having the ball for 38:59 of the game, compared to Purdue’s 21:01.
This was their first Big Ten road test in a hyped up environment, and you would not have thought it was as hot as it was with the way the team was relentless. This was a team win full of grit and toughness until the last down.
Don Brown and the defensive staff had another fantastic game plan holding Purdue to their fewest total yards (189) in 35 games. This is by far one of the biggest takeaways of the season so far based on how quick this young defense — with only one true returning starter — has dominated every opponent’s unique offensive style. Read more in the latest "Inside the Numbers" by Drew Hallett.
Yards vs. Michigan— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) September 23, 2017
UF: 192 (2nd-fewest in 45 gms)
Cin: 200 (2nd-fewest in 144 gms)
AF: 232 (fewest in 54 gms)
Pur: 189 (fewest in 35 gms)
The team will take the bye week to prepare for the showdown under the lights on Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. against Michigan State.