Michigan’s bowl hopes are officially on life support after Purdue went into Michigan Stadium and was victorious in Ann Arbor for the first time since 1966. It looked like Michigan was on its way to winning by a couple touchdowns after taking a 24-10 lead into halftime, but Purdue fought its way back and took the lead by scoring two touchdowns in two plays in the third quarter thanks to a surprising onside kick in between. That gave Purdue a 31-30 lead (Michigan missed an extra point), and the Boilermakers extended it to 38-30 with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Michigan made a comeback attempt and had a chance to tie the game after a touchdown, but Tate Forcier was sacked on the 2-point conversion attempt. Purdue managed to hang on in the closing minutes to win 38-36, handing Michigan’s its fifth straight conference loss.
Although the team as a whole made quite a few mistakes, the unit most responsible for this loss was the defense. Once again the defense was very inconsistent, looking great on some drives and looking completely clueless on others. It gave up way too many big plays and melted down in the third quarter, giving up a pair of touchdowns on back-to-back plays. It could have stopped the momentum Purdue was building after the onside kick, but instead it gave up a 54-yard touchdown pass. No defensive backs were in position to make a play, which was the case on quite a few passes during this game.
Aside from the defense, the coaching was probably the other thing most responsible for this loss. Michigan was trailing 38-30 with about 4:50 left in the game and faced 4th and 10 at the Purdue 20. Given the situation, a field goal seemed appropriate. Assuming the field goal attempt was successful, Michigan would have trailed by 5 points with more than enough time left on the clock to get the ball back and score a touchdown. Rich Rodriguez decided to keep the offense back out on the field, though, and Michigan came up short of moving the chains, giving the ball back to Purdue.
The defense made a stop, and a good punt return set up a touchdown about a minute later. Had Michigan already kicked a field goal, the touchdown would have given the lead back to the Wolverines. Instead it was a 2-point game, and it stayed that way after a failed 2-point conversion try. Obviously everybody would have been happy if Michigan had converted that fourth down, but even before the play happened I thought it was a bad call. In that situation I felt like Michigan had to get the points and cut the lead down. If it was fourth and short I could understand going for it, but it was 4th and 10 at the 20-yard line. The decision to go for it was a bad one at the time it was made, and considering Michigan lost by 2 points, it was obviously a bad one in hindsight as well.
- Michigan’s defense came out and looked as bad as ever at the beginning of this game. It only took Purdue 4 plays to score a touchdown, and each play was good for a chunk of yards, starting with a 9-yard pass on the first play of the game. That was followed up by a 22-yard run and a 14-yard pass. Then, on only the fourth play of the game, Joey Elliott found a wide-open Ralph Bolden for a 35-yard touchdown. No Michigan players were even in sight on the play, and Purdue easily scored to take a 7-0 lead.
- Michigan answered with a solid drive of its own made possible by Roy Roundtree and Brandon Minor. On 3rd and 15 early in the drive, Tate Forcier threw a pass into coverage that looked like it was initially intercepted. Roundtree wrestled it back to make a tremendous 26-yard catch, moving the chains and keeping the drive alive. Roundtree then caught a couple more passes for gains of 10 and 11 yards, moving Michigan down to Purdue’s 29-yard line. Brandon Minor got the ball on the next play and turned what appeared to be only a decent gain into a touchdown. Minor broke tackle after tackle, switched field, and sprinted to the right pylon for a diving touchdown, tying the game back up.
- Purdue’s offense was again able to move the ball through the air, but this time Michigan managed to pull things together to make a stop. The Boilermakers still got a 41-yard field goal out of the drive, though, giving them a 10-7 lead.
- Darryl Stonum gave Michigan great field position by returning the proceeding kickoff 55 yards to the Purdue 40. A 5-yard run by Brandon Minor and a 6-yard pass to Roy Roundtree moved Michigan inside the 30, but a 5-yard loss and a pair of incompletions made it 4th down from the 34. I wasn’t too confident in Jason Olesnavage’s range, but he came in and nailed a 51-yard field goal to tie the game once again.
- Purdue was again moving the ball, but Michigan kept the Boilermakers from having another scoring drive because Kevin Leach caught a tipped pass for an interception.
- After Tate Forcier escaped pressure and ran for 11 yards to move the chains on third down at the end of the first quarter, Brandon Minor turned the Purdue turnover into points by running for a 55-yard touchdown. He simply went to the outside and sprinted down the left sideline for the touchdown, giving Michigan its first lead of the game.
- Purdue again appeared to have a decent drive going, but it fizzled out after only a single first down, leading to the Boilermakers’ first punt of the game.
- Michigan added to its lead by moving the ball through the air. Tate Forcier kept the drive going by squeezing a pass in to Kevin Koger for a gain of 9 on third down, and then he found LaTerryal Savoy for 21 more yards. Forcier did pick up 14 on the ground a couple plays later, but he went back to his favorite target in this game, Roy Roundtree, for what turned out to be a big play. Roundtree ran across the middle of the field by himself, and Forcier hit him for the easy catch. Roundtree turned it into a big play by breaking a tackle attempt from the only player separating him from the end zone. With the defender out of the way, Roundtree was able to run free into the end zone for the touchdown, giving Michigan a 24-10 lead.
- Purdue again picked up one first down before its drive fell apart. This time it was a Donovan Warren interception that ended the drive and gave Michigan the ball at midfield, setting up what seemed like a chance to put the game out of reach.
- Michigan’s drive quickly went by the wayside after Tate Forcier lost 8 yards and fumbled the ball, though. Stephen Schilling recovered the fumble, but it put Michigan in a third and long situation. An incompletion led to a Zoltan Mesko punt, and Michigan missed out on a great opportunity to increase its lead.
- Purdue again moved the ball initially before its drive stalled. The drive didn’t end on a punt, though, because the clock ran out after a failed third-down conversion attempt, ending the second quarter.
- The beginning of the end for Michigan was what happened on the first drive of the second half. Again with a chance to extend its lead beyond 14 points, Michigan squandered a golden opportunity by making a crucial mistake. Tate Forcier faked a handoff, ran out to the right side, and tried to pitch the ball to Brandon Minor. The ball never made it to Minor, though, because a Purdue player tipped it, leading to a fumble that was recovered by the Boilermakers at the 19-yard line.
- Purdue’s Ralph Bolden ran into the end zone for a touchdown on the very next play, and suddenly Purdue only trailed by 7 points.
- Darryl Stonum had another great kick return, this time taking it back 54 yards to the Purdue 46-yard line. That led to a 6-yard touchdown run by Tate Forcier after a big pass play to Greg Mathews and a couple medium gains by Roy Roundtree and Brandon Minor. Jason Olesnavage missed the extra point, which turned out to be an absolutely huge mistake by the time this game was over.
- Purdue answered the touchdown by putting together a great drive consisting mainly of passing plays. The Boilermakers pounded it into the end zone on the ground, though, with Ralph Bolden again scoring a touchdown. The TD cut the lead down to 6 points, but it didn’t stay that way for very long.
- Purdue’s kicker popped the ball up about 16 yards downfield to the right side on the ensuing kickoff, and no blue jerseys were in sight. A Purdue player easily caught the kick, giving the Boilermakers the ball at their 46-yard line. On the very next play, Joey Elliott found a wide-open Cortez Smith for a 54-yard touchdown. Just like the first passing touchdown of the game, no Michigan players were anywhere near the receiver, leading to an easy touchdown. In a matter of two offensive plays, Purdue went from trailing 30-17 to leading 31-30.
- Following a couple three and outs by both teams, Michigan finally started to get something going thanks initially to a 16-yard pass to Roy Roundtree, who ended up with 10 catches, 126 yards, and 1 touchdown on the day. It was fitting that Roundtree had a career day against Purdue, because that was the school he decommitted from on signing day a couple years ago. He was the reason Joe Tiller uttered the infamous “snake oil” comment, so it was nice to see Roundtree play so well against the team he was once committed to.
- Michigan continued to move the ball but had its drive stall when Darryl Stonum couldn’t catch the ball after taking a hit on 3rd and 5. Jason Olesnavage came in to attempt a 48-yard field goal, which seemed like it shouldn’t be too tough after seeing how well he kicked the 51-yarder earlier in the game. That was a bad way to think, though, because Olesnavage kicked the ball wide left, keeping the score at 31-30.
- Purdue attacked Michigan’s secondary with a deep pass on the third play of its next drive, which proved to be a smart move. Jeff Lindsay got behind the secondary and was all by himself to make an easy catch that turned into a gain of 56 yards. Joey Elliott ran into the end zone from 8 yards out on the very next play, and Purdue took a 38-30 lead with about 10 and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
- Michigan went three and out, but the offense stayed out on the field to go for it initially since it was only 4th and 1. After some indecision, the punting unit went out onto the field, but not quickly enough to avoid a delay of game penalty. Zoltan Mesko made up for the penalty by booming the punt 63 yards, pinning Purdue back at its 11-yard line.
- Michigan came up with a stop to force a Purdue punt and caught a huge break on the return. Junior Hemingway ran up to catch what was a short punt, tripped, and had the ball bounce off of him. A Purdue player fell on it, but there was a flag for kick-catch interference. At first glance it looked like Hemingway tripped over a Purdue player, but this was a huge break for Michigan because Hemingway fell on his own. Not only did Michigan get the ball back as a result of the penalty, but it took over at the Purdue 31-yard line, needing a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to tie the game.
- Brandon Minor was running with an attitude and picked up 11 and 10 yards. Unfortunately a holding penalty negated the second run, backing Michigan up and making it 1st and 20. A sack backed Michigan up even more on the next play, but Tate Forcier ran for 11 yards to make it 3rd and 10. An incomplete pass made it 4th and 10 at the 20, and this goes back to what I said in the opening of this post. I wanted Michigan to kick a field goal to make it a 5-point game, but Rich Rodriguez decided to go for it.
Forcier scrambled out to the right side and had nobody open, so he pitched it back to Carlos Brown, who ran down the sideline. Brown was stopped a few yards short of the first down, but he lateraled the ball to Mark Huyge, who ran for enough yards to move the chains. The play was reviewed, though, and it was ruled that Brown did an illegal forward pass, negating the first down and giving Purdue the ball. While he probably did pitch the ball forward, based on the replays the officials had, it didn’t look like there was enough evidence to show that Brown did lateral the ball ahead to Huyge. Even so, after a lengthy review it was ruled that he did commit a penalty, and Purdue got the ball back with 4:38 remaining.
- Thanks to a couple Purdue penalties and a good stand by the defense, Michigan was going to get the ball back with decent field position. Junior Hemingway turned that into amazing field position by breaking a tackle and returning the punt 33 yards to the Purdue 11-yard line. With all of the issues Michigan has had on punt returns, I almost want the coaches to put nobody back there, but then Hemingway went and showed that he can be a threat to take one back to the house.
- It took Michigan 4 plays to get into the end zone, but Brandon Minor eventually did punch it in from a yard out to make this a 2-point game. Tate Forcier dropped back to pass and quickly ran out of time on the 2-point conversion attempt, and he was sacked. That meant that Michigan still trailed by 2 points, and with only 2 minutes or so left in the game, the only hope was to recover an onside kick.
- The onside kick was recovered by Purdue, but Michigan made a stop and got the ball back at its 10-yard line with 29 seconds left on the clock. After a pair of incompletions, Tate Forcier found LaTerryal Savoy for a gain of 17. Rather than just quickly go down, allowing Forcier to spike the ball, Savoy pitched it to Junior Hemingway, who went down with 1 second left on the clock. It seemed like quite a few players on both teams thought the game was over, but Forcier managed to get another snap off. Nobody was open downfield, though, so Forcier had to desperately pitch the ball back to David Moosman, who ran 5 yards before having the ball knocked out of his hands. That ended the game and sealed Purdue’s 38-36 victory.
At this point it is evident that this is not a very good football team. I think it would be accurate to say that the team has regressed, as has the coaching. Michigan has now lost 5 straight Big Ten games and hasn’t won a real game since September. It will now take a miracle for Michigan to make a bowl game, because I honestly don’t see how Michigan will win at Wisconsin or at home against Ohio State. The Purdue team that just beat Michigan lost 37-0 at Wisconsin last week, and Ohio State went on the road to beat Penn State this week. The Buckeyes can clinch a Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl with a win next week against Iowa, meaning they could be coming into Michigan Stadium as the best team in the conference. Not only is Michigan in danger of missing a bowl for the second year in a row, but it is in danger of finishing in last in the Big Ten for the first time in a very, very long time.
Michigan will get another chance to become bowl eligible next Saturday at Wisconsin. Call me a pessimist, but I would be absolutely shocked if Michigan even keeps the score respectable in this one. Kickoff is set for noon on the Big Ten Network.