WEST LAFAYETTE — Walking off the field at Ross-Ade Stadium after Saturday’s 48-42 loss, redshirt junior left guard David Moosman released his frustration.
He cursed loudly.
Michigan will officially miss a bowl game for the first time in 34 years.
He cursed loudly again a few steps later.
Michigan is in the midst of a five-game losing streak for the first time since 1967 and headed for its first losing season since then, too.
Moosman didn’t need other words to convey his emotions after the Wolverines allowed a tie-breaking, last-minute touchdown on a hook-and-ladder play and blew two 14-point leads to lowly Purdue.
“It’s not disbelief,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I know what’s going on. It’s just frustrating and disappointing.”
Entering Saturday, these two teams were equally desperate. Purdue coach Joe Tiller’s final season hadn’t been the swan song he envisioned. His senior quarterback, Curtis Painter, hadn’t lived up to high expectation and missed Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury. And the Boilermakers were sitting at the bottom of the conference.
For Michigan, it was a chance to try to save a season that was all but lost.
“They were coming in hungry too with the same record and the same things at stake,” Purdue wide receiver Desmond Tardy said. “So we had to come in and overpower it and think past their tradition, just think this team is here now — not the, I don’t know, national championship team they might have had years back.”
All afternoon, the Wolverines had chances to seal the game but couldn’t quite close the door.
With just over a minute remaining, Michigan (1-4 Big Ten, 2-7 overall) tied the score on junior Brandon Minor’s third rushing touchdown of the game. The defense needed to hold the Boilermakers for 80 seconds to force overtime. Purdue moved the ball into field-goal range after three plays, setting up second and seven from the 32-yard line.
Against Michigan’s man defense, Purdue quarterback Justin Siller passed it four yards over the middle to Greg Orton, who pitched it back to Tardy. He ran down the sideline to the end zone and put the Boilermakers (1-4 Big Ten, 3-6 overall) on top as the crowd went crazy.
Senior safety Brandon Harrison said the defense was supposed to be lined up in press coverage but gave the receivers too much cushion on the play.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Michigan was equally unnerved when it allowed another trick play.
With the game tied, the Wolverines forced Purdue into a long fourth down. But a 61-yard fake punt run by the up-man turned an opportunity for Michigan to get the ball back into a prime scoring chance for the Boilermakers, which Siller completed two plays later for one of his three passing touchdowns.
“We kind of anticipated it, and we yelled that it may be coming because of the alignment,” Rodriguez said. “They did a nice job executing.”
Despite the close score, the Boilermakers held a clear statistical advantage on the afternoon. They had a 25-15 edge in first downs and held possession of the ball for 15 more minutes. They outgained Michigan by 222 yards.
The frustration will only mount as the Wolverines look at the missed opportunities they had through out the game.
And for the fourth time in five weeks, the Wolverines allowed 21 unanswered points, which leaves more unanswered questions.