Purdue cornerback Brandon King saw something critical in the Michigan offense that made him confident:
But it didn’t show up until after halftime.
In the first half, freshman quarterback Tate Forcier led Michigan to a two-touchdown lead. The offense looked unstoppable.
“They played a lot of man (coverage) in the first half, and it showed,” Forcier said after the game. “We saw it, and we picked it apart.”
It showed especially when Forcier found redshirt freshman Roy Roundtree for a 43-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Purdue was playing zero coverage in order to stop Michigan’s prolific run game, which left sixth-year safety Torri Williams vulnerable.
But once Roundtree beat Williams, the Boilermakers knew they had to change their game plan to have a chance.
After the break, Purdue played much more zone coverage, which threw off the Wolverines.
“We hadn’t done that all season,” Boilermaker cornerback Brandon King said. “And so when we changed the defense up, it kind of startled them as a team.
“We changed a couple defensive schemes, we changed a couple calls up, and it worked to perfection.”
After 24 points in the first half, Michigan scored just 12 in the second.
“They stuck with their game plan — we adjusted ours,” Purdue senior cornerback David Pender said. “I don’t think that they were ready for us to come out (like that).”
Questionable handshake: When Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez went to shake Purdue coach Danny Hope’s hand after the game, Hope brought a strange guest: fifth-year senior offensive lineman Zach Reckman.
“(Hope) came over and shook my hand, and then introduced me to Reckman and said, ‘Thanks, Coach, I really appreciate what you did.’ Whatever.” Rodriguez said.
Wait a second. What did Rodriguez do?
When the Big Ten suspended Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton for throwing a punch at a Notre Dame player on Sept. 12, Rodriguez said he hoped the conference would be consistent in its criteria for suspensions.
A week later, Reckman threw what was reported as a jab against Northern Illinois. When Rodriguez was asked the next Monday what he thought of Reckman’s questionable action, he said “it probably” was “a non-football act.”
And then, just like with Mouton, the Big Ten made Reckman sit out a game. It’s pretty clear who Purdue blames for the fifth-year senior’s suspension.
“Their coach brought him over like I was the reason his lineman got suspended for that one game,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know where that came from. I talked to (Hope) on the phone and said that wasn’t me and this was way back when. I didn’t have anything to do with that young man getting suspended.
“To come over and say something about that — whatever.”
The Momentum Swing: After Purdue got within six points in the third quarter, the opportunity was ripe for a comeback.
The Boilermakers lined up in their normal kickoff formation but caught Michigan off guard and executed a perfect onside kick. The Wolverine coverage team had already turned away from the ball for their regular blocking assignments, allowing Purdue to easily recover the ball.
“I never felt like it was going to work (in practice),” said Pender, who recovered the kick. “But it actually worked and it turned out to help our offense go down and score, and it helped us come out with the win.”
Rodriguez was particularly disappointed on the play because the last thing the coaching staff tells the coverage team before it takes the field is to watch the ball come off the tee.
“There are about 20 people screaming, ‘See the ball kicked, no penalties,’ ” Rodriguez said. “That’s the first reminder and the last reminder we do, just for that reason. Freshmen sometimes play like freshmen. They bailed out.”
That’s when it fell apart for Michigan. On the next play, Purdue scored on a 54-yard pass to take the lead for good.
“They got the momentum right after that,” junior cornerback Donovan Warren said. “It went down from there.”
History Lesson: Rodriguez and Hope took completely different approaches to the 55th meeting between Michigan and Purdue.
The Wolverines hadn’t lost to the Boilermakers in Michigan Stadium since 1966.
“What’s that got to do with today’s game?” Rodriguez said after the loss.
But Hope had been preaching history in practice all week. Forty-three years ago, Purdue quarterback Bob Griese played a critical role in the Boilermaker win. Despite an average game through the air, Griese forced a Michigan safety on his towering punt late in the third quarter. Those two points were the difference in the 22-21 Purdue victory.
Griese, who is now in the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame, is father of former-Wolverine quarterback and 1997 Rose Bowl MVP Brian Griese.
The series’ past wasn’t lost on Hope.
“We came here today to make history as a football team,” Hope said. “What a great motivating factor for a football team, to know we were coming up here to Ann Arbor, to the Big House, to make history. That has been the driving force all week long for us.”
Miscellaneous Notes: Sophomore wide receiver Darryl Stonum broke the Michigan single-season record for kickoff returns and yards in the first quarter. He currently has 30 returns for 803 yards. The record stood for five years. In 2004, Steve Breaston returned 28 kickoffs for 689 yards. … Senior wide receiver Greg Mathews’s 28-yard, third-quarter catch was the 100th of his career. It was his only catch of the game. … Before Saturday, senior defensive end Brandon Graham had a sack in each of his last four games. He didn’t record one against Purdue.