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Published: Saturday, 11/13/2010

Michigan's defense stands strong aginst Purdue

Michigan tight end Kevin Koger, a Whitmer graduate, makes a catch for a first down and tries to shake Purdue cornerback Josh Johnson on a scoring drive late in the fourth quarter. Michigan tight end Kevin Koger, a Whitmer graduate, makes a catch for a first down and tries to shake Purdue cornerback Josh Johnson on a scoring drive late in the fourth quarter.
MICHAEL CONROY / ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - To hear a defensive player say it, Saturday's rainy conditions at Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium were perfectly suitable for a Big Ten game played in middle November.

"Oh my God, I love it," Michigan linebacker Kenny Demens said.

The sentiment was not shared by Demens' offensive teammates, receivers Roy Roundtree, Darryl Stonum, and Junior Hemingway.

"[The receivers were saying] man, it's going to rain every time we get the ball, isn't it," Roundtree said.

Beautiful or ugly. Enjoyable or tedious. Depends who is talking. What cannot be debated, though, is the much-maligned Wolverine defense stepped up despite the absence of two key players, yielding zero offensive touchdowns, putting up a touchdown of their own, and, in a role reversal from this season's script, bailing out the offense in a 27-16 win.

Both offenses matched the weather in terms of dreariness. UM turned the ball over five times. So did Purdue. So does that make this game a perfect 10? Not so much.

Stephen Hopkins' three-yard touchdown run with 1:58 remaining sewed up the victory, giving his team their second straight win, both over teams who beat the Wolverines in 2009.

For the Wolverines, it was their seventh win, which likely means they'll be playing a bowl game in Arizona or Texas instead of Detroit at the Pizza Bowl.

If the 10 turnovers aren't the most alarming statistic to come out of this game, then that distinction must go to Purdue's lack of execution on third down. The Boilermakers converted just two of 17 tries. That has been an area of concern for UM's defense.

"We played with a little bit of swagger today," Demens said.

Using two quarterbacks - a third, Justin Siller, was knocked out of the game on the first play - the Boilermakers (4-6, 2-4) were only able to muster three Carson Wiggs field goals to go along with a defensive touchdown. That score - a 94-yard interception return by Ricardo Allen - was payback for Cam Gordon's 58-yard fumble recovery in the first quarter. Gordon scooped up the ball after defensive end Craig Roh smashed into running back Dan Dierking before a hand off could be fully executed.

"That was a big play for us," safety Jordan Kovacs said. "Anytime the defense can score you have pretty good odds of winning the game. Then they countered it with one of their own."

Only one other turnover by the home team resulted in points for the Wolverines - a 19-yard touchdown run by Vincent Smith. Purdue used its forced turnovers to score 13 points.

Robinson was responsible for four turnovers, fumbling twice and throwing two interceptions. His second interception, coming late in the third quarter, sailed about 10 yards past Roundtree and directly to cornerback Josh Johnson. From that point forward, Robinson and Tate Forcier began taking turns every other series at quarterback, marking the first time Forcier has supplanted Robinson because of a performance issue.

"We're just giving him a break to let him kind of see what's going on out there," coach Rich Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez insisted that Robinson will be the starter Saturday against Wisconsin.

No matter which Wolverine quarterback took the snaps from center, he was repeatedly harassed by All-American Ryan Kerrigan. The Purdue defensive end abused right tackle Mark Huyge and anyone else in his way to record four sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.

Meanwhile, UM's defense posted its best outing of the year despite being without the services of arguably its two best players in noseguard Mike Martin (ankle) and linebacker Jonas Mouton (chest).

A week after coming up big in the third overtime of a win over Illinois, the defense abused freshmen quarterbacks Sean Robinson and Rob Henry, recording three sacks and allowing just 132 passing yards.

"Obviously, your confidence goes up a lot," Roh said. "It's great to be this dominant."

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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