The following is the next in a series of fictional game stories predicting the outcome of Michigan’s 2017 football season.
Michigan Steamrolls Boilermakers
Reloading Wolverines rout rebuilding Purdue
West Lafayette, Ind. – Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium, college football fans learned the difference between a program that’s reloading and one that’s rebuilding.
No. 7 Michigan is reloading, with one of the youngest teams in the country, after sending 19 upperclassmen to NFL training camps from last year’s top 10 squad. But they’re loaded with talent, just lacking experience. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers are rebuilding with a rookie head coach; hoping to eventually recapture past glory.
Except reloading always beats rebuilding, which is why the Wolverines steamrolled Purdue, 48-14, in their first true road game of the season. Michigan is now 4-0 on the season, and also an incredible 45-3 in its Big Ten openers since 1968.
“This was a total team effort, we played well in all three phases of the game, and also got to play our entire travel squad,” Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh said. “The challenge for us as coaches is to make sure our kids stay focused, because we are a young team that’s never had to handle success and expectations before. We’ve got a bye week coming up, and that’s a lot of time to hear people say good things about you. Bo used to say that’s when he was the most worried as a coach.”
Indeed, folks should be saying a lot of good things about these young Wolverines. Their balanced offense is averaging over 200 yards a game both passing and running, and the defense again ranks among the top 10 in the nation.
“But we’re only a third of the way through the season,” cautioned quarterback Wilton Speight, who completed 16-of-22 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns. “Last year we were just crushing teams early on, including Colorado and Penn State that went on to be really good. But even that team learned things get tougher the deeper we go in the Big Ten. And it’s up to those of us who are team leaders to teach that to these younger guys, who haven’t faced that yet.”
The Wolverines did see their streak of 300-yard rushing games snapped – but still finished with a solid 254 yards on the ground.
“If our offensive line continues playing like this, we’re going to be tough to beat,” Harbaugh said. “But the defenses they’ll face only get better from here.”
Defensively, the Wolverines terrorized a bevy of Purdue quarterbacks all afternoon. Finishing with six sacks, while hurrying several other throws and intercepting two others. Michigan also recovered a fumble to finish plus-3 in turnovers.
“As great as we were on defense last year, the one thing we didn’t do for whatever reason was create a lot of turnovers,” said Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich. “So far this season it seems the turnovers are bouncing our way.”
Perhaps the most electrifying play of the game was a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown by Eddie McDoom, the first for Michigan this season.
“The blocking on that play was so good that I only had to out-run one guy,” said a modest McDoom, who actually out-ran three guys once he hit the open field.
Michigan will put its undefeated record on the line in two weeks when it hosts its instate rival, Michigan State, in Ann Arbor. The Spartans are 2-1 after losing late to Notre Dame on Saturday, and host Iowa next week in their Big Ten opener.