Saturday, September 23, 2017

No. 8 Michigan 28, Purdue 10: 21 unanswered points propel the Wolverines

                                                     Photo Credit: Michigan Athletics

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.— In the first sellout since 2008 at Ross-Ade Stadium, the Purdue Boilermakers looked to shock the world by upsetting at No. 8 Michigan Wolverines. Purdue (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten West) put the nation on upset alert into the third quarter, but 21 unanswered points gave No. 8 Michigan (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten East) a 28-10 victory.

Wolverines linebacker Chase Winovich wasn’t having anything to do with talks surrounding an upset.

“It’s just crazy to me. It’s just like, why? Why give a team who’s already young and hungry locker room banter? It’s just like common sense to me that maybe we shouldn’t do this.  I don’t want to get too fired up about it,” Winovich said. “Just know that it definitely helped us this game.”

The two teams remained scoreless throughout the first quarter of play. Offense fleeted at best and was highlighted by several punts on both sides.

For Michgan, John O’Korn replaced Wilton Speight late in the first quarter after being crushed on a sack and was taken to the locker room for evaluations. After confirming that Speight did not have a concussion, he was then transferred to a nearby hospital for X-rays.  Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh mentioned postgame that Speight has a “soft tissue” injury and is unsure on how long he’ll be out for.

On his first drive, O’Korn went 5-for-5 through the air for 61 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Gentry. O’Korn brought a different dimension to the Michigan offense as amassed 270 yards through the air and a touchdown.

After David Blough began the game just 3-of-7 with 11 yards of passing, he was replaced by backup Elijah Sindelar, who has played a significant amount this season. On his first drive under center, Sindelar led the Boilermakers 75 yards in 5 plays, including 64 yards in the air. Sindelar found Brycen Hopkins for his third touchdown of the season.

Purdue got the ball right back after Navon Mosley got his first career interception off a tipped pass from O’Korn. Cole Heldman broke four tackles on his way to a 13-yard catch for the highlight play of the drive. J.D. Dellinger split the uprights from 29 yards out to give Purdue a 10-7 lead with 6:04 left in the first half.

The Boilermakers were able to carry their 10-7 lead over the Wolverines into halftime.  The Purdue defense was able to contain Michigan to just 131 yards of offense in the first half.

Purdue free safety Jacob Thieneman picked up a costly 15 yard targeting penalty and would be ejected from the remained of the contest after a hit on Nick Eubanks.  Thieneman had recorded four tackles and a sack before his ejection.  The penalty extended the Michigan drive and allowed Michigan to score on a 10-yard touchdown run by Chris Evans.  Evans went through the middle of the Boilermaker defense and was never touched on the way to the end zone.

In the third quarter, Michigan managed to completely flip the momentum on the game.  The Wolverines gained 147 yards on offense.  The Michigan defense held Purdue to -4 yards of total offense in the third quarter. 

On Michigan’s first drive of the fourth quarter, John O’Korn split two Boilermaker defenders for a 23-yard completion to Sean McKeon.  O’Korn then completed a 25-yard pass to Gentry, who made a great play on a ball thrown to the wrong shoulder.  Ja’Whaun Bentley was ejected for targeting after helmet-to-helmet collision with O’Korn.  Ty Isaac pushed the Wolverines' lead to 11 with a yard touchdown run.

Chris Evans put the nail in the coffin with a 49-yard touchdown through the Purdue defense to make it a 28-10 game.  Evans finished the game with 97 rushing yards and two touchdowns to lead the Michigan offense.

With Tarik Black out for the season with a broken foot, Sean McKeon took the challenge and led the Michigan receiving core with five receptions for 82 yards.

“Coach Harbaugh said after the game that we really established ourselves as an offense today.  Being tough, resilient, overcoming adversity in the second half and getting that going.  I think that’s really our identity is toughness, being physical, and we’re looking to keep it going,” McKeon said.  “We did a great job getting open today.  John [O’Korn] made some great throws so I think that was really the difference.”

The Wolverines were able to hold the Purdue offense to just nine yards of total offense throughout the second half.

“Play on key, hunker down, and let’s get the ball to the offense,” Devin Bush said on Michigan’s halftime adjustments.

Michigan gets a week off with extra preparation for in-state rival Michigan State on Oct. 7, while Purdue also returns to the action that day as Minnesota comes to town.