What a way to open up conference play.
The Wolverines stepped into Ross-Ade Stadium with a .500 record (2-2) and a lot of criticism coming from both fans and media. A lot of the noise was directed towards quarterback Denard Robinson, as it goes with any team, but a lot of it was amplified because of the impact he can have on the game.
On Saturday, Denard “Shoelace” Robinson was back to being the football player we all know and love. He only dropped back to pass 16 times, completing 8 of those, but that was probably more than enough for a Michigan team that made up its mind early to establish the running game.
That they did.
Robinson led the Wolverines in rushing yards with 235, but it’s not necessarily the total yards that has me impressed. Denard did a great job of just getting the job done. He knew he had to bounce back after a terrible performance at Notre Dame, and what better way to do that than average nearly 10 yards per carry?
It seemed like any time number 16 was called upon on first down, he was bringing the Wolverines within a couple of yards of a first down. And on third down, he would get behind his offensive line and plow ahead for 5 yards and a first down. Of course, there were a few big plays that come right along with Denard Robinson running the football, but he was efficient and effective, and that’s what I like to see.
Also contributing on the ground was Fitz Toussaint and Thomas Rawls.
Toussaint used a game Purdue last year to get his season going. However, today was not quite the same thing. Fitz had a very hard time getting anything going for himself, and his lack of production is starting to worry me. He’s going down on first contact, not getting out to the edge, reverting from the north-south attack. He wasn’t needed against Purdue for Michigan to pick up a win, but there will undoubtedly come a time this season when his production (or lack of) will be the difference between winning and losing.
On the other hand, Thomas Rawls showed a lot of promise today that I think this offense could build around. In Michigan’s final drive (aside from 2 kneel-downs to end the game), Rawls looked absolutely unstoppable. He was running through and around defenders like they weren’t even there. And of course he capped it off with his first touchdown of the season.
Thomas Rawls showed me enough today to convince me that he should get another shot at starting. The Wolverines will have a hard time riding on the back of Denard Robinson all season and will need to find another source of production soon. Last year, it was Toussaint who stepped up. This year, I think it could be Rawls.
Turning the page, is there anybody left who still needs some convincing that Devin Gardner is Michigan’s number one receiver? After getting banged up 2 weeks ago at Notre Dame, Gardner came out against Purdue and did not miss a beat. Although he didn’t pull down very many receptions, he went up inside the 5 yard line and came down with the ball in the endzone. That was a perfect example of his ball skills that simply can’t be taught.
I was also impressed with Devin Funchess and Roy Roundtree.
Funchess has established himself as a top tight end for the Wolverines, and in my mind, he’s the most pleasant surprise thus far. Saturday against Purdue, Funchess only had one grab, but it was a fairly difficult catch. Robinson threw the ball just a tad behind the target, but Devin used his wide receiver like hands and made a nice adjustment on the ball.
Roundtree maybe started to show a little spark of life against the Boilermakers. The good news is the Wolverines have enough talent out wide that they aren’t necessarily being hurt by the lack of production from Roundtree, but it could be something special if he got it going.
Defensively, this game was right near perfect, in my opinion. J.T. Floyd had a couple of nice plays on the ball in coverage; Jake Ryan made a lot of noise in the backfield; Raymon Taylor intercepted TerBush on fourth down and returned it for a touchdown. It was on overall great outing by the Michigan defense.
We all knew that Purdue would show a very balanced attack, so it would really come down to getting off the field on third down and taking advantage of any little mistake. They did both. In fact, Michigan scored two TDs before Purdue even had a first down.
Yeah, that’s impressive.
Tyler's Prediction Record: 5-0
Notes: Denard Robinson broke Antwaan Randle El's quarterback rushing record with a 235 yard effort on Saturday against Purdue.