Michigan Football: The Soul of the Purdue Game

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

After all the Purdue hysteria, Michigan football used a strong second half to put away the Boilermakers and move to 1-0 in Big Ten play.

Let’s not waste time. The Speight-replaced-by-O’Korn thing will surely dominate most of the news stories for the next couple weeks, and we may as well get a jump on that here. It’s what I see as the story of the game anyway.

Related Story: Takeaways from win over Purdue

There is a portion of the fanbase that was after this switch by any means necessary for quite a while. And after yesterday, they may attack Jim Harbaugh’s home with pitchforks and torches if he were to insert Speight back into the game against MSU in two weeks, or maybe at least leave some flaming bags of dog poo on his porch.

The offense has been ugly. Many have talked about it, many more will. And of course we will take up most of our brief space here to discuss many of ‘spiritual’ or ‘ethereal’ issues involved in this very important topic.

So, let’s get into it with what I like to call the analysis of The Team, The Team, The Teams: offense, defense and special teams. (See what I did there? took the old Bo saying and… yeah, you get it, OK.)


What a difference a half makes, huh? O’Korn came in and made a great difference right away, throwing accurately (ahem) and driving the team down the field for that first score. It looked like a new day. There were already hints of how things would be different; O’Korn threw more underneath, rather than waiting all day like a statue to be sacked. He released the ball quickly and decisively, rather than… you get it.

But things did bog down quite a bit after that. The offense looked a lot under O’Korn like it did under Speight, until there was 6:45 left in the third quarter. On third-and-6, in the shadow of his own goal post, O’Korn dropped back to pass and was heavily pressured by the Purdue pass rush.

In fact, he was practically in the grasp. Two defenders flowed in from the right side (of course) but O’Korn coolly spun around them, squared himself up and miraculously found Grant Perry for the first down. This play unleashed the old O’Korn magic that we had briefly witnessed against Indiana last year, the only other meaningful snaps he’s had at Michigan.

O’Korn seems to be a guy who plays on emotion. When he hits that sweet spot where competitiveness meshes with the magic in the air, that’s when he can be really dangerous. And he had it working in this game, after that point.

He seemed to establish a flow, where he would dodge a pass rusher (almost always coming from the right side), loop around and find a receiver underneath who could take the ball in stride and make something with his athleticism. Hey, going forward, that may be a pretty good game plan.

Now, I’m not saying it’s all Speight’s fault. A lot of it is on the troubles the offensive line has had. That’s going to happen when you have three guys with almost zero game experience. This is not what you’d wish for your OL on a team that has playoff aspirations. This is a huge obstacle to overcome.

What I saw, especially in the second half, is that O’Korn is much more suited with his mobility to work within the confines of the weaknesses of this line. In fact, I think the line was energized by his presence and command of the offense. Nobody feels good about plodding away through your weaknesses with your fan base growing more disheartened every day. It was good to see somebody who could cover for some of their weaknesses and get them on down the road away from the constant scrutiny and criticism.

Then, with 8:43 left in the fourth quarter and a 21-10 lead, O’Korn did sumthin that truly made this his team. He ran a bootleg to the left, looking like De’Veon Smith. He fought for the first down in enemy territory. That was a huge moment of emotion and leadership for a young team starved for a leader who could make the game fun again on offense.

Speight is a good Michigan man, and he’s been a good quarterback. I would surely never wish him ill and I do hope for a speedy recovery. And I’m sorry to say it, but I hope he never plays another meaningful down at Michigan. I hope he goes to the NFL or finds a graduate transfer opportunity next year. I want Peters, I’m ready for the future.

But, back from the future. I like what they can do with the play-calling this year with O’Korn. He reminds me a bit a of a poor man’s Baker Mayfield. Did any of you see what Mayfield did to Ohio State in the second half? He was a dart thrower on roller skates. It’s a style that ripped up the Buckeyes’ defense pretty well, and I think O’Korn can excel at that. I think it may work pretty well against Alabama too, by the way.


Devin Bush was everywhere, again. The defense got tested with lane integrity this time. A lot of screens back behind the flow of the defense hurt them in the first half. But in the end that vaunted, crazy Purdue offense came away with less than 200 total yards. That is a good day’s work. Hopefully we never get complacent in our expectations of this defense.

By the way, did anyone catch the play where Rashan Gary blew up that jet sweep decoy on his way to the quarterback? Goodness, that was special. It happened at 3:20 in the first quarter. It looked like the play last year against Rutgers when Gedeon hit the jet sweeper behind the line with the ball, only Rashan was just minding his business, going for the quarterback, and this guy naively wandered into his path.

Special Teams

Brad Robbins got his chance – awesome hangtime and consistency, huh? He averaged about 38 yards per kick. Hopefully there’s a little room for improvement there. The announcers gave me a bit of a scare when they took almost a half to start identifying him correctly, rather than thinking he was Quinn Nordin. Really, Harbaugh, do your punter and field goal kicker have to have the same number?

Donovan Peoples-Jones is practicing his fair catches and he still has a little crazy time left in him. (Witness grabbing the ball on the sideline between a few defenders and making a run for it.) It’d be nice to see what he could do with kickoffs, wouldn’t it? Crawford doesn’t seem to be a star there. Maybe an “improvement week” project?


John O’Korn — I think we has its quarterback. No, he isn’t perfect, but he is an emotional leader and with a bye week coming, I think the Wolverines are in the perfect position to make this work.

Chase Winovich — Three—count ’em, three!—sacks. This guy is having a hell of a year. I hope he stays for one more.

Outside Influences

Announcers — The Fox crew of Joe Davis, Brady Quinn, Bruce Feldman and Mike Pereira (Rules Expert) were pretty competent, unbiased and worked well together. My only beef really was when Quinn and Pereira ganged up to say that Lavert Hill was guilty of PI with 0:58 left in the first half.

He was on one side of the receiver and was playing his man. The receiver had to go through him to get to the ball and initiated contact. And that’s why the ref didn’t call it. With trail technique taught at Michigan and other programs, the cornerbacks will not always play the ball. Just ask Chris Spielman if you don’t believe me.

The Refs — I think the Purdue head coach had more problem with the refs than I did. He even played the disrespekt card saying that they were Purdue and that’s why they got those calls. That’s why they call it Hamma time, buddy. Just hammer down in practice next week and do better, K?

Others — None to report, for now. But if Harbaugh puts Speight in for meaningful minutes sometime this year, for no apparent reason, there may be an angry mob outside his house looking to have a few words with him.