Michigan: Five things we learned vs. Purdue

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Here are some of the key takeaways from Michigan’s victory over Purdue:

■ Why call out the Wolverines? Chase Winovich had three sacks in an overall impressive team defensive performance that held Purdue to 189 total yards, including 10 in the second half. He was named the Walter Camp national defensive Player of the Week. The Boilermakers also were held to 30 rushing yards. For the third time in four games, an opponent has 1) questioned Michigan’s defensive speed, 2) said they would “shock the world” and then 3) a Purdue receiver said it would be a “surprise when people see us beat Michigan.” Two words: Bulletin board. “It’s just crazy to me — why give a team that’s already young and hungry locker room banter?” said Winovich, who led the team with six tackles. It definitely helped us in this game.” Linebacker Devin Bush, the Wolverines’ leading tackler this season, also had six tackles and now has 32 this season. “Our guys weren’t looking to tap out, they were looking to tap in,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. Purdue showed lots of misdirection and trick plays in the first half, and defensive coordinator Don Brown made adjustments in the second half. Purdue was 0-for-12 on third down. “That was huge,” Harbaugh said. “Give a lot of credit to Don Brown and his coaches and the players. Greatest share to the players. They had to dig deep. It was a test.”

■ No more red-zone allergy: Much had been made of Michigan’s one touchdown in 10 red zone trips, and it was a main focus of the Wolverines during practice last week. Their fortunes changed in the Purdue game when backup quarterback John O’Korn led the Wolverines to three red-zone touchdowns. “It was nice to see something that was stressed so much all week carry into the game,” O’Korn said. “That’s my only comment on that. We were three-for-three in the red zone. The work we put in all week as a team paid off.” Tight end Zach Gentry gave Michigan its first touchdown on a 12-yard reception from O’Korn. “It’s definitely a great feeling,” Gentry said. “It was really frustrating those first three games to get down in the red zone so often and put all the weight on (kicker) Quinn (Nordin’s) shoulders, which he’s done a good job. It felt good to keep punching it in.” The only negative for Nordin — he won’t get Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

■ The tight ends do exist: Entering the Purdue game, Michigan’s large group of tight ends had a combined 11 catches for 177 yards. Against the Boilermakers, the Wolverines’ tight ends became a major target for O’Korn. Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry were the team’s top receivers and combined for 8 receptions for 130 yards and. McKeon had 82 yards on five catches, while Gentry had 48 on three catches including a touchdown. Gentry, who converted to tight end from quarterback and is a big target at 6-foot-7, made a stunning play on a 25-yard reception, hitting the seam and adjusting for the catch. “I just looked straight up and John threw a good back-shoulder ball, and I was able to adjust to it successfully,” Gentry said.

■ Rotating at right guard: As has been the case this season, Jon Runyan Jr., has entered the game at right guard and spelled starter Michael Onwenu. Runyan was in on two of Michigan’s long touchdown drives — the Gentry score which covered 84 yards in 13 plays, and the 86-yard, 11-play drive in which Chris Evans scored on a 10-yard run. “We were trying to keep Mike fresh,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “A platooning of the guards took place. Old school.” The rotation seems to be working. Onwenu was back in for Michigan’s final scoring drive when Ty Isaac scored from one-yard out.

■ Making a switch: The television broadcast put kicker Quinn Nordin in double duty and had him also handling the punting. While the share the same jersey number, it was freshman Brad Robbins who started at punter in place of Will Hart. Robbins had seven punts for 284 yards (40.6 average) with one inside the 20. Harbaugh had said last week that Robbins had been punting well and with some struggles from Hart, a change was made.