Purdue-Michigan: Defense to Blame for Wolverines' Loss

Jason BarczyCorrespondent INovember 3, 2008

How is it that a top 25 defense returning eight starters from a year ago can blow a game like Michigan did on Saturday?

Twice Michigan's defense blew 14-point leads and made Justin Siller, a third string quarterback who was a running back two weeks ago, look like Vince Young. It was embarrassing. Especially after Steven Threet, Brandon Minor, and the rest of the offense did everything it could to win the game.

Even special teams came up huge, but the defense just fell apart time after time and now there is a growing consensus that defensive coordinator Scott Schafer has to go.

Nothing is working for Schafer. Not the 4-3, 3-4, 3-3-5, or man defense, zone—anything really. These guys are fundamentally flawed and cannot tackle worth a lick.

The defense was heralded coming into the season as the unit that was going to carry the Wolverines to their 34th consecutive bowl game and be the strength of the team. After giving up 35 points to Notre Dame, 45 to Illinois, 46 to Penn State, 35 to the Spartans, and now 48 to Purdue, the defense seems to be virtually non-existent.

There's only so much Brandon Graham and Terrance Taylor can do before the others have to step up and show some moxie.

On with the grades.



The offense, starting with Brandon Minor, have not looked better the entire season and what was amazing was that they looked that way for a full four quarters.

Steven Threet was average. He only completed 9-for-21 passing but had two nice touchdowns and no interceptions.

One thing that really bothered me was early in the game, some sideline reporter (I forget who she was) reported that Threet had said something along the lines of not being comfortable as a leader.

That's great. He's obviously not the best quarterback judging by his accuracy, but now it's coming out that he doesn't like being in the leadership position, which is exactly what being the starting quarterback is supposed to be about.

Still, Threet did better Saturday than he had all season.

Darryl Stonum could probably be credited with his touchdown more so than Threet and Stonum actually lived up to expectations for once. I don't know if it's time to drink the Kool-Aid, yet but I might look up the recipe again.

LaTerryal Savoy's touchdown will go down in his family's highlight reel for the rest of his life. It was nice to see him do something good for once though.

But the story of the offense was Brandon Minor. What a day he had. Three touchdowns and 156 yards rushing doesn't even begin to describe it. Minor was running over anyone and everyone. He burst with such speed and power not seen out of the Michigan backfield since Chris Perry.

The junior running back was determined to win that game and God bless him, he did everything he could—if only he could play defense.

The offensive line was shaky at times, giving up three sacks and six tackles for a loss to a Purdue defense that was considered one of the worst in the country.

And while 300 yards isn't a great output, the offense still looked better than it did all year.

Offensive Grade: B+



Just thinking about this makes me sick to my stomach.

The Wolverines' defense allowed Justin Siller to throw 21-for-34, 266 yards, three touchdowns, rush for another 77 yards, and then add another touchdown.

Kory Sheets added another 128 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns.

In the last 1:20 Michigan allowed Purdue to move 73 yards in four plays, not to mention Brandon Harrison totally giving up on the hook and ladder play before he realized what was happening, which by the way was disgusting. And by disgusting I mean watching Michigan look stupid again on another gimmick play like they did last year on Oregon's "Statue of Liberty" plays.

This might quite possibly be the worst performance I have ever seen by a Michigan defense.

It's time for folks to quit making excuses for Obi Ezeh's play, which has gotten progressively worse each week.

Donovan Warren has yet to show me why he was rated a five star recruit out of high school and I can't wait to be rid of Morgan Trent.

Say goodbye to Stevie Brown after this season. The only reason we haven't parted ways with him yet is because there is no one to replace him.

Boubacar Cissoko made the play of the day for the defense when he broke up a sure touchdown pass.

And that's the only good thing I can say about the defense at this point.

Defensive Grade: F


Special Teams

Special teams had two major gaffs in the game but made up for it with two good plays and solid returning all day.

At the time, I thought Martavious Odoms' fumble might have cost Michigan the game, but the offense came through after that and put the Wolverines back up by 14.

Then the fake punt by Purdue resulting in a first down nearly killed Michigan, but at the end of the game special teams gave Michigan a chance by blocking the PAT.

If Michigan had caught the hail mary at the end (which it nearly did) that blocked PAT would've been huge.

So, two bad plays were negated by two good plays. Then when you add in all the yards Michigan had in the return game (272 yards) the Wolverines had a really solid day on special teams.

Aside from the touchdown by Odoms, there were at least three or four other times Michigan returners were close to breaking one for a touchdown.

Zoltan "Space Emperor" Mesko was his usual self, including a 58-yard punt.

Special Teams Grade: B



Rich Rodriguez forcing Scott Schafer to switch to the 3-3-5 didn't work out so well, did it? I'm puzzled why he did it because Schafer has no known experience calling plays for the 3-3-5 and resulted in a complete disaster.

This took Will Johnson off the field in favor of Cissoko. I like Cissoko and all, but Johnson is a senior who has earned the right to be on the field a lot.

Maybe the two were just looking for something to change it up and see if something could work, but maybe it's a sign that there's some internal strife between Schafer and Rodriguez.

Schafer was never an RR guy and Rich Rod has to be more frustrated with this loss than anyone, especially after his offense did everything it could to win the game and Schafer's defense did everything it could to lose the game.

Rich Rod's offense made some huge strides Saturday, but Michigan's defense seems to be taking two steps back each week.

Coaches Grade: C


Final Thoughts

Now that Michigan will officially have its first losing season since 1967 and will miss a bowl game for the first time since 1975, what now?

Do the coaches see what the younger players can do in the final three games?

Do the seniors coast through their final season or do they step it up and finish proud?

Three games left and there is plenty of opportunity to restore some lost pride for not only fans, but for the 15 seniors on the team.

Guys like Terrance Taylor, Will Johnson, Tim Jamison, and Morgan Trent need to get it into the younger guys' heads that they don't want to go out on their careers never beating Ohio State.

That is the only way to salvage this season. Beat Ohio State and all will be forgotten and forgiven.

Final Grade for Purdue Game: C


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