Michigan Football: Winners and Losers from the Week 6 Game Against Purdue
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The Michigan Wolverines couldn't have done much better Saturday.
Other than a turnover, the Michigan offense was nearly perfect, as it seamlessly ripped through the Purdue Boilermakers defense during a convincing 44-13 victory at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind.
Crisp and decisive play-calling certainly helped the Wolverines earn their first Big Ten triumph of the season, and so did the stellar athleticism of Denard Robinson, who showed an incredible ability to rebound from a lackluster, five-turnover showing two weeks ago in Michigan's 13-6 loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Michigan's defense—although inconsistent at times this year—dominated the Boilers, who entered the duel with the second-ranked scoring offense in the Big Ten, averaging 45.2 points per game.
Devin Gardner made a spectacular grab in the first half, catching a well-thrown ball from Robinson en route to hauling in a 23-yard second-quarter touchdown that gave Michigan a firm grip on the clash, 27-3.
Needless to say, the Wolverines' victory was exactly what they needed to avoid being called a bust in 2012. Now back in the AP Top 25 at No. 25, the Wolverines (3-2) can now focus on their goal of winning a Big Ten championship.
The first month of the season was hard to stomach. Although both of Michigan's losses came to legitimate national title contenders in Notre Dame and Alabama, the way it lost did little to reinforce the notion that it was indeed one of the Big Ten's elite.
Questions were answered. Michigan came through under fire.
Winner: Jake Ryan, Michigan Defense
Michigan's defense was led Saturday by ferocious play from the likes of Jake Ryan
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Jake Ryan looked like one of the Big Ten's elite pass-rushers Saturday.
That's because he is; it just took him a few games to really get to full speed.
Ryan was a major reason why Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush couldn't find the time to make an accurate throw. Often on the run, TerBush was pestered by Michigan's long-locked monster of a linebacker.
Hits were plenty. TerBush probably asked his teammates for a little extra help to block Ryan on the edge. Purdue's line did adjust, effectively taking Ryan out of the equation from time to time, but Ryan, an extremely cerebral player, made adjustments, too.
Getting at the quarterback was the Wolverines defense's strength. Ryan was the muscle man, along with Craig Roh; the pair tallied 3.5 tackles and contributed to Purdue's quarterback change.
But head coach Brady Hoke wants to see more; he's not easily satisfied. Michigan's defense is better than it showed Saturday.
"The four-man rush, we don't do a great job rushing the quarterback," Hoke told TheWolverine.com. "A couple times the quarterback got out of contain. To be honest, we should have played it better. They knew to play it better, and they didn't play it better. That's disturbing."
Nonetheless, a brawny outing by the defense is cause for Michigan to gain confidence heading into next week's duel with Illinois.
Winner: Raymon Taylor Shines, Comes Up Big with Pick-6
Raymon Taylor was an important piece in Michigan's success Saturday.
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Who would have thought that a somewhat inexperienced sophomore cornerback could have such an impact against one of the Big Ten's top offenses?
Michigan's secondary leads the Big Ten in passing yards surrendered (115 yards per game), but it's been somewhat amiss since losing sophomore starting cornerback Blake Countess in Week 1. Purdue strutted into Ross-Ade Stadium with the Big Ten's second-ranked passing offense, averaging just about 250 yards per game.
Youth was bound to be exploited by the Boilers, right?
No. Michigan held the Boilers to 157 yards through the air, and much of that credit should go to Raymon Taylor, who wanted nothing more than to prove himself.
He did that Saturday with a 63-yard pick-6 that gave Michigan a 20-0 lead over Purdue.
"One thing about Raymon, Raymon's aggressive," Hoke told TheWolverine.com. "I'd rather have guys who are aggressive. They're going to run the hitches, the rockets, the screens and that type of thing. One way they can beat you is if wait on them and don't go attack. He went and attacked.
"Obviously he did a nice job with the ball [after the interception]. He didn't have to make anybody miss, just run it down the sideline, which I could have done."
Of course, Hoke was poking fun at Taylor, making the interception-for-touchdown seem simplistic and elementary. Taylor, while elated with his contributions Saturday, wants to continue pushing.
"It was a great week," Taylor told TheWolverine.com. "We focused on our jobs and our keys. We knew what the wide receivers were going to run on third and fourth down. We focused hard for this weekend.
"But we've got a lot of work to do. That's our main goal, to win the Big Ten championship for Michigan. That's what we came to Michigan for - the team is hungry to win a Big Ten championship."
Winner: Gamers Do What Gamers Do; Denard Robinson Is a Gamer
Denard Robinson was explosive Saturday. Just explosive.
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There were some college football fans and pundits who expected Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson to blunder yet again Saturday against Purdue after a horrific performance two weeks ago during a 13-6 loss to Notre Dame.
Robinson did the opposite, as he showed the nation why he's the most electrifying one-man force in the game. He rushed for 235 yards and threw for 105 as Michigan dismantled Purdue, 44-13.
It was a huge outing for Robinson, considering the circumstances, of course.
1. He failed against Notre Dame. And he admitted that.
2. Saturday's game was the 2012 Big Ten opener.
3. Saturday's game was on the road.
4. Put up or shut up—Robinson put up, obviously.
"Shoelace" was humbled after throwing four picks to the Irish defense two weeks ago. He was rightfully embarrassed by his lack of composure and accuracy. Although he completed 8-of-16 passes Saturday, he looked like a "real" quarterback in the Wolverines' victory.
Getting Robinson on track was likely one of Michigan's top priorities this past week. Mission accomplished.
"We really wanted to [run]," Hoke told TheWolverine.com. "When you play on the road, controlling the football and running the football has to be a big part of your mindset. We had that mindset going in as coaches that we wanted to run the football, get Denard established enough.
"When you run the football, you've got a chance to take the crowd out of the game, to some degree, because when those chains are moving, people get a little frustrated."
Robinson did his part on the ground, but he also made connections with his go-to receivers: Roy Roundtree, Devin Gardner, Devin Funchess and Jeremy Gallon, who led Michigan with 37 receiving yards.
Gardner made a circus catch before sealing the deal on a 23-yard touchdown toss from Robinson. Funchess made a drive-continuing 14-yard catch. Roundtree had 23 yards from two catches, including a 13-yarder that helped the Wolverines march down the field.
The distribution was limited, but the effectiveness wasn't. Robinson owned the pocket Saturday; he looked comfortable and threw some of the best balls he's thrown all season.
Winner: Al Borges' Play-Calling Hit the Mark
Al Borges made the correct calls Saturday.
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Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges has been questioned for his play-calling, specifically pertaining to the way he uses Denard Robinson.
Robinson isn't a pro-style quarterback who operates at maximum speed in a conventional offense. However, "Shoelace" was productive under Borges' watchful eye Saturday.
Borges' calls had the Michigan offense looking like the Big Ten's best against Purdue. Other than an iffy third-down pitch to Vincent Smith in the fourth quarter, Borges hit the mark each and every series.
Look, he knows football. That's why he's at Michigan. Borges doesn't need a writer or a analyst to critique his judgment. With that being said, Borges did a phenomenal job mixing up Purdue's defense and giving Robinson the green light to turn on the afterburners and go to work.
Now, if Borges can get Devin Funchess more involved, the Wolverines offense will have another option to utilize. It looked like Funchess was on his way to becoming a bigger part of the scheme, but the freshman tight end has been in and out the past couple weeks.
In Between: Fitzgerald Toussaint Scores Twice, But...
Fitzgerald Toussaint scored twice Saturday in Michigan's 44-13 win over Purdue.
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It's hard not to call a guy who scored two touchdowns in a Big Ten season-opening victory a winner.
But Fitzgerald Toussaint just hasn't been impressive this fall for one reason or another. Maybe it's because the Wolverines don't have to rely on running backs to make big plays; they just have to do what Toussaint did Saturday, and that's score on short-yardage situations and move the chains.
Toussaint was effective in the Wolverines' trouncing of Purdue, scoring two first-half touchdowns that took the win out of the Boilers' sails. But he rushed for just 19 yards on 17 carries, his second-lowest total since rushing for just seven in Michigan's 31-25 Week 2 win over the Air Force Falcons.
Michigan will need Toussaint to break out his shell. Scoring twice Saturday will surely motivate the former 1,000-yard rusher to get on his horse and ride. He has no other choice, really.
Sophomore Thomas Rawls scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, showing his bulldozer-like prowess during a couple final drives. The Flint native might get more reps in the coming weeks if Toussaint doesn't pick up the pace.
But again, it's hard to deny Toussaint's pair of touchdowns. More is expected from him, though.
The run game needs tweaking. That's been evident all season. Michigan will win when Denard Robinson rules the ground, but he can't be the only option.
Coach Brady Hoke isn't pleased with the one-dimensional aspect of the Wolverines' rushing scheme.
"Am I happy with it? No, because I still think your point of attack runs," Hoke told The Wolverine. "I thought at the end, when Thomas Rawls came in and we got into a little bit of conventional offense under center and those things, I thought we ran the ball pretty downhill. I think we're still not getting vertical enough."
Losers: Penalties, Spotty Play from the Offensive Line
Brady Hoke wants his team to be more disciplined.
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The offensive line has to create more opportunities for backs like Fitz Toussaint to gain yards. His 19 yards on 17 carries were almost laughable.
Penalties didn't exactly hurt the Wolverines on Saturday; they rolled Purdue with ease. However, four calls cost Michigan 36 yards. The penalties were "stupid," Michigan coach Brady Hoke told a Big Ten Network reporter after his team's 44-13 victory.
Hoke called the undisciplined play "ridiculous" in an interview with TheWolverine.com. Six one way, half a dozen the other. Michigan has to tighten up. The game was never in question Saturday, and the last thing Michigan needs is to slow itself down when it has its foot on the neck of an opponent.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81