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Smothering Defense Freezes Boilers

<p>Behind the dominant play of their defense and another stellar rushing effort from Mike Hart, the Michigan Wolverines escaped West Lafayette with a <strong>16-14 victory</strong> over the Purdue BoilerMakers.</p> <p><strong><font size="3">***Photos Included***</font></strong></p>

Purdue's high-powered offensive attack was held in check for over a half last week against a stingy Wisconsin Badger defense. With the sting of last week's loss motivating them, the Boilermakers came out determined. After holding Michigan to a three-and-out on the game's opening possession, the Boilers attempted to establish their ground game right away. That approach seemed to catch the Michigan defense a bit off guard and the home team experienced early rushing success. Six carries by tailback Jerod Void, including his longest rush of the season (18 yards), accounted for half of the yardage on the drive. Two big third down conversions in Michigan territory, one coming on a pass interference penalty against Marlin Jackson and another when Kyle Orton connected with Michigan native Charles Davis, prolonged the drive and put Purdue at the endzone's door before Void capped things off with a one yard touchdown run.

The Wolverines attempted three straight passes in their opening possession, which prevented Mike Hart from getting a touch. On an overcast day with the wind gusting, the Michigan offense made sure to correct that mistake the next time out. Hart had four chain-moving runs and then flashed his receiving skills to get Michigan on the board. On 2nd and 8 from the 25 yard-line Chad Henne dropped back for a screen pass, and Hart did the rest. After reading his blockers and bursting up the sideline, the elusive back cut back inside at the five and fought his way to the goal line before breaking the plane with his outstretched arm. His effort on that play proved to be a sign of things to come.

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Michigan's answer to the home team's initial drive gave the defense a chance to really settle down, which spelled bad news for the Boilers. Michigan's defensive backs set the tone early with punishing tackles and in your face man-to-man defense. Marlin Jackson had a number of bone-jarring hits while also holding Big Ten receiving Tyler Stubblefield leader without a reception in the first half. (His only catch came late in the fourth quarter). The play up front got better as well. After losing his starting position for disciplinary reasons, Lamarr Woodley responded with a dominating performance. The sophomore star had four tackles, three of which were behind the line of scrimmage (including two sacks and a forced fumble that was overturned on replay). On the five drives after their opening possession the BoilerMakers were held to a total a 40 yards.

Meanwhile, the Purdue defense slowed the Michigan attack as well. Pressure off of the edges from Ray Edwards and Anthony Spencer and timely blitz calls really stymied the Wolverines' passing attack. Early in the second quarter the Maize and Blue mounted a drive that resulted in a 30-yard Garrett Rivas field goal to make the score 10-7. However, they weren't able to take advantage of the excellent field position (average start Mich 45-yard-line) they received on the next to possessions thanks to poor punts off of the foot of Dave Brytus. One of the drives died when Henne hesitated on throwing a pass to an open Braylon Edwards on a drag across the middle. His delay forced Edwards run into coverage. When he finally the delivered the ball #1 was surrounded by opposing players and it was picked off by Antwaun Rogers.

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A 10-7 halftime score looked to be in the cards until a huge bust in the Michigan secondary on 3rd and 9 with a little over two minutes to go left Brian Hare wide open down sideline for 37 yards. Another big pass play (24 yards) to Dorien Bryant put the Boilers in field goal range at the Michigan 27. The scoring attempt was thwarted when big Patrick Massey blocked the kick to preserve the three point margin at intermission.

The Michigan defense picked up where they left off when they came out of the break, adding to their nation leading turnover total. With a little under 10 minutes left in the third, the defensive front flushed Orton from the pocket. At the last minute the Heisman trophy candidate saw one of his receivers come open and heaved the ball downfield. Leon Hall peeled off of his man to pick up Orton's target (whom was releasing deep) and intercepted the pass. The offense failed to capitalize, however, when Garrett Rivas missed a 38 yard field goal.

A few minutes later, the Boilers finally saw an opening in the stifling Michigan D and they took advantage. Purdue moved running back Brandon Jones wide, forcing a one-on-one matchup with Scott McClintok on the outside. Michigan was lined up incorrectly and the combination of those things left McClintok isolated on the outside against Jones with no safety help over the top. The result was a 63 yard touchdown strike from Orton to Jones to give Purdue a 14-10 lead with 4:25 left in the third.

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The defense rebounded to hold Joe Tiller's offense in check, but Michigan's offense just couldn't capitalize on the opportunities. A blocked field goal on a low Garret Rivas kick, missed throws, and intense defensive pressure prevented the Wolverines from getting on track. The one constant, however, was Mike Hart. The New York native made things happen time after time when he got his hands on the ball. He almost single-handedly answered the Boiler scoring drive with two spectacular runs. The first one, which went for 25 yards, was impressive, but the second was downright amazing! In a play reminiscent of the Barry Sanders run against the Dallas Cowboys where the defense thought he was wrapped up until he broke free and busted it long for the touch down, Hart ran into the arms of Purdue defenders, squirted free and burst to the outside for 33 more yards. The subsequent field goal cut the deficit to one (14-13) with 1:06 left in the third.

Early in the fourth quarter Michigan got away from Hart again, but when crunch time rolled around they knew whom to call. Big runs of 16 and 11 yards keyed Michigan's final scoring drive, as Rivas made up for his previous missed attempt (the block) by kicking one through the up-rights to give Michigan the lead with 2:45 left in the game.

In a situation similar to the one they faced in last week's game, the Boilers were attempting to drive down field for the win. They seemed well on their way when Orton hit Dorien Bryant over the middle in stride. The speedy receiver turned up field for 25+ yards when he leaped over a tackle attempt by Markus Curry. That proved to be a costly mistake as Big Ten Defensive Player of the year candidate Ernest Shazor tattooed him, jarring the ball loose. Leon Hall then recovered the pigskin on the sideline to preserve the victory.

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On the game Hart had 33 rushes for 206 yards and 3 receptions for 22 yards. He became the first back since Jon Vaughn in 1990 to have back to back 200 yard rushing games.

For more on the game, click the following links:Boxscore,Notes


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