WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The jubilation among the Michigan football team was warranted. The Wolverines had just won their first road game of the season and their Big Ten opener, and quarterback Denard Robinson had completed a record-setting day.
As Michigan coach Brady Hoke stepped to the podium to speak to the media after Saturday’s 44-13 win at Purdue, his voice was drowned out by the whoops and hollers of his team inside the locker room. That pandemonium came in the wake of Michigan’s first win in three weeks.
After a loss to Notre Dame, followed by the team’s bye week, the Wolverines wasted no time asserting themselves Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Michigan took a 14-0 lead on its first two possessions in a manner that wasn’t so much overwhelming as it was methodical. Fitzgerald Toussaint capped off a 17-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run with 4:40 left in the first, then scored his second touchdown — also a one-yard run — 32 seconds into the second quarter to finish an eight-play, 63-yard drive.
Even with a cushion, Michigan’s defense faced a test. Purdue cut Michigan’s lead to 28-10 on O.J. Ross’ four-yard touchdown catch with 10 seconds left in the first half, but the Wolverines (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten) thwarted any momentum that the Boilermakers attempted to create from Ross’ touchdown.
“We had to keep punching on them,” Michigan linebacker Kenny Demens said. “They’re a good football team. They could have easily gotten back into the game. [Hoke] made it a point, just to go out there and just to keep punching.”
Finally, in the fourth quarter, Robinson became the Big Ten’s most prolific rushing quarterback of all-time. With an 11-yard carry on second-and-8 from the Purdue 25, Robinson passed Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El, who set the previous record of 3,895 career rushing yards in 2001.
Robinson finished with 235 yards on 24 carries and ended the game with 3,905 yards so far for his career.
“I want to be accountable to the team, and when I stepped out there, I said, ‘I want to be accountable, and I want to do whatever it takes for me to win for Michigan,’ and that’s what I did,” said Robinson, who finished 8 for 16 passing with 105 yards and one touchdown, a 23-yard pass to Devin Gardner that gave Michigan a 28-3 lead with 3:14 left in the first half.
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Michigan’s defense also set its own tone. Jake Ryan sacked Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush (16 of 25 passing for 105 yards, one touchdown, and one interception) on the first play of Purdue’s second drive, and the Wolverines held the Boilermakers to 213 yards rushing and passing.
The Wolverines’ offense even got a boost from its defense — Raymon Taylor’s 63-yard interception return gave Michigan a 21-0 lead less than three minutes into the second quarter.
"We didn’t want to sit back and wait for plays to come to us,” said Demens, one of three Wolverines with six tackles. “We wanted to make the efforts and impacts on our side of the ball.”
Purdue quarterbacks TerBush, Robert Marve, and Rob Henry finished with 157 yards on 23 of 35 completions but weren’t able to string together a consistent offensive effort. Purdue (3-2, 0-1) got inside the Michigan 20 only twice and kicked two field goals — Paul Griggs’ 40-yard boot that cut Michigan’s lead to 21-3 with 7:01 left in the second quarter and his 37-yard kick less than three minutes into the fourth quarter.
Purdue searched for a spark on offense, even inserting Marve in the third quarter in place of TerBush — less than a month after Marve sustained an ACL injury in a loss at Notre Dame. In the end, even that was futile.
“I don’t think there was one specific time that decided the game,” said Purdue coach Danny Hope. “We weren’t able to execute our game plan and [Michigan] was able. Robert Marve gave us a shot in the arm and gave us a chance at that point. It was consistent throughout the game that they played better and executed better than we did.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.