By Luke Pasch, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 6, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE — On Saturday afternoon, good Denard Robinson reappeared.
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Coming off of an abysmal five-turnover performance at Notre Dame two weeks ago, the senior quarterback and co-captain bounced back against Purdue, setting the tone early on Michigan’s first drive of the game.
After the Wolverine defense forced a three-and-out, Robinson marched his team down the field on a methodical 17-play drive that lasted nearly nine minutes, and ended as redshirt junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint fell into the end zone from the one-yard line for the opening score.
That would become the theme for the remainder of the contest, as Michigan controlled the tempo throughout in a 44-13 victory.
Robinson threw the ball far lass than he did against the Fighting Irish, as about 75 percent of the Wolverines' total offense came on the ground. He finished the game with 236 yards on the ground — his highest total of the season and second-highest of his career — and although Toussaint was contained for the most part, he did add a pair of rushing touchdowns.
But when Robinson did throw the ball, he was solid. He finished the contest 8-of-16 passing with one touchdown to junior wide receiver Devin Gardner, and he didn’t throw an single interception for the first time since Nov. 26, 2011, against Ohio State.
“It was good for his confidence,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke. “You know, it was probably good for all of us, to some degree. But I think when you look at it at the end of the day, I think he looked real comfortable.”
On the other side of the ball, the Michigan defense played remarkably, shutting down Purdue’s offense from start to finish.
Following Toussaint’s second score at the beginning of the second quarter, sophomore cornerback Raymon Taylor picked off Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush on a pass that was tipped by the receiver, and he returned it 63 yards down the sideline for the score. It was the defense’s first touchdown of the season and Taylor’s second interception in as many games.
“He ran a curl,” Taylor said. “He missed it — it was high, and it just fell in my hand. I saw it, I took off with it.”
Added Hoke: “I know one thing about Raymon: Raymon’s aggressive. And I’d rather have guys who are aggressive, and they’re going to run the hitches and the rockets and the screens and that kind of thing … Obviously he did a nice job with the ball. He didn’t have to make anybody miss — he just ran up the sideline, which I could’ve done.”
The Boilermakers’ only touchdown of the first half came after a Michigan fumble on a botched handoff. Robinson attempted to hand the ball to senior running back Vincent Smith in the backfield when Purdue defensive end Robert Maci broke through the line and blew up the play. The Boilermakers took over possession in Michigan territory with just under two minutes left in the half, and TerBush led his team to the end zone with just 10 seconds left.
Even with the hiccup, the Wolverines entered the locker room at the half with a commanding 28-10 lead.
About midway through the third quarter, following a Purdue punt, Robinson broke the pocket on a first down and rushed 46 yards down into the Boilermaker red zone. The play led to an easy field goal for redshirt junior placekicker Brendan Gibbons, who redeemed himself after missing a 44-yarder off the crossbar in the second quarter.
Following a Purdue field goal in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, Robinson worked his magic again, escaping linemen and dashing down the left sideline for 59 yards — his longest run of the night. The Wolverine offense settled for a field goal again, as Gibbons booted one through to give Michigan a 34-13 lead.
On the following Boilermaker drive, Purdue quarterback Robert Marve was under center in place of a struggling TerBush, and threw an interception on a pass tipped by the receiver, this time to redshirt junior safety Thomas Gordon. Gibbons was called on yet again, chipping one through the uprights from 28 yards.
And to put an exclamation point on the afternoon, sophomore running back Thomas Rawls scored a touchdown with just over two minutes left in the game on a 7-yard scamper to add to the Michigan lead.
Following the Big Ten-opening victory, the players spoke confidently and consistently restated their objective of winning the Big Ten Championship.
“We want to go to the Rose Bowl,” said fifth-year senior Kenny Demens. “(Hoke) treats every game in the Big Ten like it’s the Big Ten Championship. And we understand it, he understands it and he puts a lot of emphasis on it.”