Michigan’s complete performance kept its Big Ten title hopes alive.
John Navarre threw two touchdown passes to Braylon Edwards and the 13th-ranked Wolverines shut down No. 10 Purdue’s passing game in a 31-3 victory Saturday that moved them into second place in the conference.
“We know to win the Big Ten, we have to win the rest of our games,” Edwards said.
The Wolverines (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) took control of the game with two first-quarter TDs and never gave the Boilermakers (6-2, 3-1) a chance to win at Michigan Stadium for the first time since 1966.
“I thought our defense and special teams were the difference,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “It was a good performance to stay in the race.”
Michigan’s win sets up a game next week at No. 11 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) that will have more than just local interest. The Spartans are the only team without a Big Ten loss.
“It’s going to be a big game with a lot of hype,” Navarre said.
Steve Breaston’s 21-yard end-around gave the Wolverines a 14-0 lead, which they maintained until halftime. Markus Curry’s 2-yard fumble return, after Carl Diggs forced a fumble, put Michigan ahead 28-3 early in the fourth quarter.
The Boilermakers, who had won six straight, had a chance to be 7-1 for the first time since 1978 and to be 4-0 in the Big Ten for the first time in 23 years.
“I’m not stunned,” Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. “I felt that this was the most-talented team in the league.”
Navarre was 17-of-30 for 225 yards with TD passes of 14 and 26 yards to Edwards, who caught six passes for 86 yards. Jason Avant caught five passes for 90 yards.
“Michigan has the best core of receivers that I’ve ever seen,” Tiller said. “These guys could start at Miami of Florida, or wherever you want to pick.”
Chris Perry was effective enough – with 95 yards rushing – to prevent the Boilermakers from playing only against the pass.
Purdue’s Kyle Orton completed 18 of 37 passes for 184 yards. Orton had thrown just two interceptions in 232 attempts this season, but Leon Hall intercepted two of his passes.
When Michigan made a rare mistake, the Boilermakers failed to take advantage of it.
Shaun Phillips stripped the football out of Navarre’s hands and recovered the fumble at Michigan’s 28 with 1:45 left in the first half. Three plays later, Orton forced a pass after eluding a sack and Hall intercepted it in the end zone.
“That was the biggest play of the game,” Carr said.
The Wolverines’ defensive scheme appeared to confuse Purdue and when it didn’t, Michigan’s speed limited big plays.
“You can keep the quarterback out of his comfort zone by showing blitz, then moving out,” Carr said. “And by showing zone, then moving out.”
Michigan has won its six home games by an average of 34.5 points.
Breaston added to his long list of sensational plays late in the first quarter.
The redshirt freshman fielded a bouncing punt on the right sideline, sliced across the field, and ran down the left sideline for a 30-yard return. Breaston scored on a 21-yard run, with Navarre leading the way as a blocker.
Purdue, trailing by just 14, stopped the Wolverines on their first drive in the second half, then drove to Michigan’s 4. But the Boilermakers had to settle for a field goal after Larry Stevens sacked Orton and Hall broke up his pass in the end zone.
Michigan went 80 yards on the ensuing drive and took a 21-3 lead when Navarre lofted a 26-yard pass to Edwards, who leaped over Jacques Reeves in the end zone.
“John and I practice those jump balls,” Edwards said. “Number eight never saw it coming.”
Entering the game, Purdue ranked eighth in the country allowing just 14.4 points a game and the Wolverines were the 10th-highest scoring team in the nation with a 39-point average.
Michigan’s standout safety Marlin Jackson was in uniform on the sideline, but did not play for the second straight game.
“I’ll be ready to play next week – no matter what,” said Jackson, who would not reveal the nature of his injury.