Michigan 41, Purdue 13

Michigan 41, Purdue 13

November 5, 2023
Blake Corum (image via The Score)

I was a little nervous. Something was gnawing at my brain going into this game, and that was whether Michigan would look sloppy against the Boilermakers in the midst of Sign-gate. I was never nervous about the outcome of the game, but just about whether it would be a tight contest. Maybe something like a 14-10 contest at halftime. Or 17-13 in the third quarter before pulling away. The distraction of Sign-gate combined with the rustiness of coming off a bye week concerned me. So I was glad to see Michigan jump out to a 17-0 lead almost immediately. But the second quarter was boring for Michigan. Michigan was outgained by Purdue, as well as outscored 6-3, sending it to halftime at 20-6.

Hit the jump for more.

I think Jim Harbaugh got emotional. When Michigan decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 in its own territory late in the second quarter, I felt like that was a completely emotional decision on Harbaugh’s part. Yes, Michigan is very good on short yardage, and the Wolverines should be able to get one yard against Purdue pretty much whenever they want. But 95% of the time, Harbaugh would choose to punt the ball in that situation. I didn’t like the decision prior to the call, and obviously it didn’t work out in Michigan’s favor. That gave Purdue a short field, which they turned into a field goal. Ultimately, that put Purdue at 6 points and they added a garbage-time touchdown to get to 13 by the end of the game, the most points Michigan has given up this season. That’s not a big deal, but it sure would have been nice to hold the Boilermakers to 3 or 10 points, just like everyone else this season.

The running game isn’t clicking. The offensive line has taken a step back in the run game this season. There aren’t wide open holes like there have been in the past year or two. So far it obviously hasn’t hurt Michigan’s ability to score, but the numbers aren’t there on the ground. Blake Corum (15 carries, 44 yards, 3 TD) had a subpar game, but Purdue head coach Ryan Walters came up with a good game plan to slow down Michigan last year when he was the defensive coordinator at Illinois, too. Donovan Edwards (8 carries, 21 yards, 1 TD) didn’t do anything noteworthy in the run game for a ninth straight game, and Kalel Mullings (4 carries, 20 yards) didn’t see a ton of snaps. He missed the past couple games, and it appears that was because of a hand injury that saw him wearing a cast on his left hand. Mullings did have the longest run of the night for a running back when he broke a tackle, bounced to the right, and gained 14 yards. The other two biggest gains came from wide receiver Semaj Morgan on a jet sweep for a 44-yard touchdown and wide receiver Cornelius Johnson going 14 yards on an end around. Blake Corum leads the nation with 16 touchdowns, but all 16 have come from inside the 5-yard line; he also has the lowest rushing output (649 yards) of anyone in the top 13 touchdown scorers in the country.

Obligatory Donovan Edwards section. As mentioned above, Edwards had another poor output on the ground, but he did catch 3 balls for 41 yards, including a beautiful 37-yard catch on a fade from J.J. McCarthy. Early in the first quarter, Michigan motioned Edwards out wide and he was reluctantly followed by 6’2″, 235 lb. freshman linebacker Domanick Moon. So that was easy pickings on the fade route, and that represents the bind that Edwards puts defenses in. I just wish Michigan could get him going in the run game. Out of 38 qualifying players in the Big Ten, he ranks #31 in yards per carry (3.14), and everyone ranked lower than him is a quarterback.

J.J. McCarthy appreciation. The running game may not be performing up to par, but McCarthy did not play particularly well, either . . . to the tune of 24/37 for 335 yards, which is 9.1 yards per attempt. It’s pretty impressive to me that 24/37 for 335 feels like an off game, but McCarthy had lots of manageable throws that were just a little behind or high for his receivers to reel in. I felt like his timing was a little bit disjointed, perhaps because of having the bye week. Tight end A.J. Barner had 8 catches for 99 yards and 1 touchdown against Michigan State in their previous contest, and he was held without a catch in this one. There were other throws that were just off the mark with Roman Wilson (9 catches, 143 yards), Cornelius Johnson (2 catches, 39 yards), and Colston Loveland (4 catches, 55 yards). Purdue occasionally had good coverage, but for the most part, it seemed like the incompletions were unforced errors. This isn’t to diminish McCarthy, but it shows how good he’s been that those numbers can be slightly disappointing.

Braiden McGregor appreciation. McGregor made 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and a couple quarterback hurries. He seems to be a half-step away from making a lot of great plays, and he’s making some really good ones. Before the season I thought he would be the next guy to make a step as a pass rusher, but he’s not quite there. Instead, it has been Jaylen Harrell and Josaiah Stewart making plays on the quarterback, but McGregor has been doing a nice job as a versatile run stopper and pass rusher. I think he probably needs to stick around one more year, as this is the first season where he seems fully back up to speed following his knee injury a few years ago.

Will Johnson is a monster. Johnson missed the first portion of the season with an injury, and when he first came back, he seemed a little tentative and a half-step slower than usual. Even when he ran back the pick-six against Minnesota, there seemed to be a little hitch in his giddyup. But now he looks to be healthy, and wow, he’s just different than most cornerbacks. He covers like a corner and tackles like a strong safety. He made 2 tackles, 2 pass breakups, and 1 interception that he returned 26 yards. Michigan has done a good job of developing cornerbacks in recent years, but Johnson is a different animal.

What’s happening next? Uhhhh . . . I dunno. There are lots of rumors floating around about what’s going to happen with Harbaugh. I’ve seen lots of smoke that the Big Ten is going to suspend Jim Harbaugh in the next couple days, and then there’s also the idea that Michigan will file for an injunction to keep Harbaugh on the field. The rest of the Big Ten wants commissioner Tony Petitti to take action now, and Michigan basically says there’s nothing connecting Harbaugh to Connor Stalions at the moment. (Stalions resigned on Friday.) If Harbaugh is removed from the sideline, that could mean offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore is elevated to head coach, and that’s too much to handle for one guy. Could that mean quarterbacks coach Kirk Campbell takes more of a role in calling offensive plays? There are a lot of things up in the air right now for this 9-0 football team. Personally, I don’t have any control over what happens with the Michigan football program, so I’m trying to just enjoy what’s happening on the field.

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