Defense does the job, yes, but far from perfect

U-M Football Grades vs. Purdue: Dominant Defense and Grounded Run Game

Michigan football delivered an impressive performance against Purdue, earning a resounding 41-13 victory at Michigan Stadium. In this report, Free Press sports writer Tony Garcia evaluates the Wolverines’ performance, grading them on a scale of A to F in key areas.

Offense: B

The offense got off to a fantastic start, with a strong opening drive that covered 76 yards in just six plays. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy displayed precision, completing both of his passes for a total of 57 yards. Running back Blake Corum also contributed, scoring a 2-yard touchdown. The momentum continued with a seven-play, 67-yard drive, highlighted by a crucial 21-yard pass to Tyler Morris and a 14-yard end-around by Cornelius Johnson. Corum found the end zone again from 3 yards out. However, the offense struggled in the remainder of the first half, managing only 100 yards and six points across their remaining possessions.

The second half began slowly, with consecutive punts. However, the offense took advantage of solid field position and quickly scored touchdowns on three of their next four possessions, each within three minutes. McCarthy had an outstanding game, completing 24 of 37 passes for a season-high 335 yards. The rushing game also contributed with 144 yards on 34 carries, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. One notable play came from Semaj Morgan, who ran for a 44-yard touchdown on an end-around.

Defense: B+

The defense performed admirably, despite technically allowing 13 points. They were largely blameless for the majority of those points. The first three were conceded after a muffed punt by the special teams unit, granting Purdue excellent field position at Michigan’s 34. However, the Wolverines held firm and forced a field goal. Another instance occurred when a turnover on downs allowed Purdue to start their possession around the 34, but the defense stopped them outside the 10-yard line, again forcing a field goal. The only lowlight was a garbage time touchdown with 18 seconds left when the Wolverines were already up by 35 points. The defense had several standout moments, including a tough interception by Will Johnson, nine quarterback hurries, four pass breakups, three tackles-for-loss, and a sack. They also limited Purdue to one third-down conversion on 14 attempts and allowed just 10 first downs throughout the game.

Michigan Wolverines linebacker Junior Colson (25) tackles Purdue Boilermakers running back Devin Mockobee (45) during the first half at Michigan Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.

Special Teams: B-

Special teams had a mixed performance. They lost points due to a notable mistake in the second quarter when the punted ball hit Quinten Johnson as he ran downfield to block, resulting in a turnover. On a positive note, James Turner made both of his field goal attempts and all five extra points. Punter Tommy Doman had a strong game, consistently pinning the Boilermakers deep in their own territory. Jake Thaw also had an impressive 32-yard punt return to set up a score in the third quarter.

Coaching: A-

Despite facing distractions, the coaching staff did an excellent job preparing the team for this game. The only questionable call was going for it on fourth-and-1 on Michigan’s own 34 late in the second quarter, which resulted in a short field for Purdue and a subsequent field goal. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh justified the decision, expressing faith in the defense. The team converted seven of 14 third downs, had multiple players with receptions, committed only one penalty, and maintained a perfect record in the red zone. The offensive line performed admirably, allowing just one sack on nearly 40 passing plays. Defensively, the team limited Purdue’s conversions and continued their streak of not allowing plays inside their own 8-yard line for the ninth consecutive game.

Overall, Michigan displayed a dominant defense and an effective offense, paving the way for a resounding victory. Despite some minor hiccups in special teams and coaching decisions, the team showcased their talent and ability to execute.


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