After back-to-back slow starts, the Michigan offense knew it had to strike quickly against Purdue. Facing a team with the ability to put up a lot of points, the Wolverines had to look to offensive stars Mike Hart, Chad Henne and Mario Manningham to outscore the high-flying Boilermaker offense.
And though all three of them had great games, Michigan’s best weapon may have come from outside the trio. The most help came from an unexpected place – the defense.
Time and again, the Wolverine offense started in Purdue territory because of turnovers forced by their defense.
“That’s what we’ve been preaching – we’ve been coming out pretty lazy in the first half and we really wanted to come out and show people that we could have the excitement in the first half,” nickel back Brandon Harrison said.
A pair of first-half turnovers forced by Tim Jamison (fumble) and Harrison (interception) allowed Michigan to extend its lead from three to 17 points in a matter of a few minutes, thanks to great field position.
Michigan’s defense has forced the second-most turnovers in the nation, trailing just Cincinnati.
“Those are huge,” cornerback Morgan Trent said. “That’s game-changing when you can go out there and get a turnover on first down and second down and get a short field for our offense. That changes the game significantly.”
Michigan’s first touchdown came just two plays after Stevie Brown recovered a punt that went off the back of a Boilermaker blocker.
In all, three of Michigan’s first four touchdowns came after turnovers. The touchdown drives were all two plays or fewer and took a total of just 29 seconds.
His time to shine: If there’s such a thing as a silver lining when your No. 1 and No. 2 running backs go down with ankle injuries within minutes of each other, Saturday may have found it.
Sophomore Carlos Brown, a five-star running back that seemed immune to good breaks last season, finally got his time in the limelight Saturday afternoon.
The Georgia native scored two second-half touchdowns on a career-high 13 carries and 66 yards.
“He’s been through some ups and downs,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “I thought today he showed some flashes of what he could do.”
Brown came to Michigan last season as one of the most highly touted backs in recent memory to choose Ann Arbor as his college destination. But by year’s end, he had been relegated to snaps during practice as a backup quarterback and seriously considered transferring after trying his hand at cornerback.
Brown stuck around for his sophomore season and returned to his natural tailback position. His decision to stick around finally appears to be paying dividends.
Running backs coach Fred Jackson said the performance followed Brown’s best week of practice at Michigan.
“(Carlos) has really been getting better,” offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. “So it was really great to see him get game experience where he could show it.”
It’s about time: It may have seemed like ages, but the Michigan kicking game finally had a flawless afternoon.
For the first time in four weeks and just the second time in the seven-game season, the Wolverines went without either a missed field goal or extra point.
Senior K.C. Lopata was a perfect 2-for-2 on his field goal attempts (34 and 35 yards) and 6-for-6 on his extra point attempts.
In every other game excluding Michigan’s 38-0 victory over Notre Dame, the kicking team had some sort of placekicking miscue.
Not everything was perfect on special teams, though. For the second straight week, the Wolverines allowed their opponents to recover both of its onside kick attempts.