- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
Michigan played its best -- and most complete -- game of the season Saturday in a Big Ten-opening 44-13 win over Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., and it was a game that proved many things for the Wolverines.
It established Michigan as a contender in the Legends Division, as Michigan State struggled with Indiana, Northwestern lost to Penn State and Nebraska lost to Ohio State on Saturday. It also showed continued improvement from the Wolverines as the season has progressed, that they built on the positives, especially defensively, from a 13-6 loss to Notre Dame two weeks ago.
Senior quarterback Denard Robinson also rediscovered himself as he had the second-best running game of his college career against the Boilermakers.
1. Denard Robinson: The senior quarterback did exactly what he said he would, rebounding from a horrific performance against Notre Dame to make smarter decisions -- he did -- and learn he wouldn’t have to force things to be successful. After a 235-yard rushing day, Robinson also set the Big Ten record for quarterback rushing with 3,905 yards, passing Antwaan Randle El, who had 3,895. He also moved into fourth place on the career FBS quarterback rushing list with only Colin Kaepernick, Brad Smith and Pat White ahead of him.
2. Raymon Taylor: The sophomore is starting to become a reliable corner for the Wolverines, intercepting a pass in his second consecutive game. This time, though, he returned the ball 63 yards for a touchdown that broke the game open against Purdue. If he can prove to be a ball hawk opposite J.T. Floyd, Michigan’s secondary might continue to be one of the league’s best.
3. Offensive play calling: Coordinator Al Borges called a strong game, complete with putting Robinson in positions in which he could succeed, taking advantage of screens and short passes and also continuing to use the wrinkle of Jeremy Gallon on the end around. He focused much more on the ground against Purdue, which worked. He said he spent the off-week looking at his calls on the road as opposed to at home, and it seems to have worked.
1. Michigan’s running back situation: Fitzgerald Toussaint just doesn’t look like the same running back he was a season ago. He scored two touchdowns Saturday, but they came on short runs set up by Robinson’s play. Borges tried to get Toussaint going, giving him 17 carries, but he only gained 19 yards. Michigan seemed high on Thomas Rawls before the season started and he could end up pushing Toussaint for time. Combined with that, Michigan’s offensive line, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to open up the same holes for Toussaint as it does for Robinson.
2. Gallon as a punt returner: Michigan is not getting much out of the position right now. Gallon is a dynamic playmaker in the offense and the Wolverines are doing a good job getting him the ball in different ways. But when it comes to returning punts, he has made mistakes all season. He only made one return Saturday and it went for no yards.
3. Defensive line pass pressure: This is a small drop considering how well Michigan played Saturday, but the line once again failed to get a ton of pressure on Purdue’s quarterbacks. Craig Roh was in on the Jake Ryan sack and the line did a good job against the run, however.