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Posted on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

Brady Hoke expects Purdue to attack Michigan's weak perimeter defense

By Kyle Meinke

The Michigan football team has a weakness. Purdue has a strength.

The Boilermakers' strength can exploit the Wolverines' weakness.

In other words, it's not hard for Michigan coach Brady Hoke to project what Purdue will try to do when the teams meet at noon Saturday on ESPN2.

“Well, I would attack our (defense's) perimeter," he said Wednesday before practice. "The stretch play they run, and all those things, are ready-made for it.”


Purdue relies on its running game and Ralph Bolden, shown scoring against Minnesota, leads the Boilermakers with 398 rushing yards.

Associated Press

Michigan's defense has improved remarkably this year, but its biggest weakness in recent weeks has been its incapacity to contain outside runs. Northwestern exploited the perimeter for a half two games ago, then the Wolverines seemingly clamped down on the problem.

But Michigan State showed that fix was only temporary when it handed the 17th-ranked Wolverines (6-1, 2-1) their only loss of the year.

The Spartans rushed for 213 yards against Michigan, with much of that coming on runs that tailback Edwin Baker bounced outside. The Wolverines did not hold containment well, nor did they adjust.

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said the biggest reason the Wolverines are struggling on the perimeter is defenders are not fighting off blocks by receivers.

"We’ve got to be a lot more physical on blocks," he said. "It has got to be the mind-set, when a wide receiver tries to block you, that’s an insult.

"There have been too many times where we're just kind of caught on it and pull off it, rather than attacking it and going through it."

Fighting through blocks has been an issue across the defense. Senior defensive tackle Mike Martin said that, along with tackling, has been the biggest point of emphasis the past two weeks.

"Coach, if he catches a guy not running through (a block), he’ll rip him," Martin said.

The linebackers also shoulder some of the blame for the leaky run defense. They have struggled with hesitancy issues, and also have taken some bad routes to ball carriers.

What do the linebackers need to work on to shore up this problem?

"I think the initial reaction, the play recognition, the aiming points when you’re going downhill," Hoke said. "Playing with the speed that you need to play with. If you’re hesitant at all, that half a step that you’re behind can cost you as a defense.”

That starts Saturday.

Purdue is running the ball well. It is ranked 27th nationally in rushing offense (195.1 yards per game) and fourth in the Big Ten, just behind Michigan. A lot of that production has come on runs outside the tackles.

How much do the Boilermakers rely on the run? They are 9-1 under coach Danny Hope when rushing for more than 200 yards (which Michigan has allowed its past two games). They are 4-17 when they don't.

Hoke said Purdue's offense is comparable to what Michigan State runs.

“Similar, not quite the same," Hoke said. "They throw the bubble. They throw the rocket. They run the outside zone, the stretch play. Yeah, that’s where I would start (if I were facing us).”

Running backs Ralph Bolden (398 yards) and Akeem Shavers (325) lead with way for Purdue, and speedy Akeem Hunt (141) also will get time. Starting quarterback Caleb TerBush (142 yards) also rushes a little bit.

Purdue also deploys some Wildcat sets with receiver Justin Siller at quarterback. They could use those formations to stretch the Michigan defense and attack the perimeter.

Martin is familiar with Siller, as they both played high school football in the Detroit area. Siller was a full-time quarterback then.

Martin remembers two things well about him: First, Siller is really fast. Second, how good it felt to blast him for a 9-yard sack on a big-time hit.

"You never forget those, man," Martin said. "I still got pictures on my Facebook, I think."

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 3:59 p.m.

The phrase: "It all has to come together - eventually" applies here, I think. Anyone who has had a job which takes them out of their comfort zone and forces "new learning" knows that there is often a longer than expected time when they just don't get it. They experience making the same mistakes, having the same lapses repeatedly - and patience is the first thing to go. I think that's where the Wolverines are at - and I agree this mostly juniors team were held back in their first 2 seasons. It's understandable but critical; it comes down to finding out if both offense and defense WILL put it all together during this season. It's not a question of CAN, it's a question of WHEN. We see a disconnect between what we believe to be sound reasoning and the unexpected result which disappoints us. We then start looking for people to blame. It's a seemingly fair thing to see, for example, a football star like Denard be so inept as a passer. But the coaches keep saying: he practices the fundamentals very well, he just doesn't produce game-time results. Fans want to find the "culprit" and nothing can stop their criticisms and their "offered" solutions. In the end, if Denard fails to get it - in time - fans will criticize Coach Hoke & Denard. At least at this point: it appears that Denard WILL put it all together. But do do that, his offensive line has to provide their own put-it-all-together performance in a game: SOON. So this article about the M Defense is good but IMO it's focusing on the "wrong" unit - the D shows signs of putting it all together. Michigan's defense has been adequate. I think they're closer than the offense to putting it all together. I'm going to focus more on Michigan's offense for that reason and because: successful offense solves a LOT of problems. Against Purdue, Iowa and Illinois: lets hope there's real progress for Denard and his O-line. Failure against these three

Blu n Tpa

Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 10:51 a.m.

RW You are correct. "Players win games, coaches lose them."


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 10:29 a.m.

Anyone at MSU including the water boy can tell him how to beat UofM.


Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 10 p.m.

The interior is weak to Coach Hoke


Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

Michigan seems ready to shore up this perimeter weakenss. I'd be shocked if they don't and the same thing happens against Purdue as it did against MSU. I am optimistic that Michigan will correct a lot of issues. They probably won't be perfect, but much better and secure the win. Go Blue!!


Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 8:43 p.m.

Every game Michigan loses falls on the coaches.

Terry Star21

Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 8:41 p.m.

No matter how good any team is, there are always painful learning lessons along the way. I would like to believe we received those two weeks ago - and we have learned from them to be a better team. Every single game we have left is important, and I am looking forward to improvements made, albeit minor this week - we can continue to improve ever week and play really strong games against our final two foes nebraska and ohio state. These two games, although not signifying the entire season, will go a long way with continued recruiting success and the bright future of Michigan Football. MgoBlueForTiM......continued improvement, no reading a book and a bright future......


Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.

Purdue's offensive and defensive lines are no bigger than our own and on average came in as lower level recruits. No matter how they played against Illinois, we shouldn't get pushed around like we did in the MSU game. Less pressure on Denard and we should score a lot more than 14 points. This is a game, that if we lose, will fall on the coaches. But we won't. Go Blue!


Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

Hey Kyle, good chat today my man, enjoyed it. Let's hope our D has corrected some of those miscues and effort. I think we'll be ready for Purdue, they started out on fire last week against the Illini but fizzled the rest of the game, Offensively anyway. As long as Michigan comes ready to play, we should be fine for this game, gotta start playing well in the stretch run of this season to start a precedent for this staff, I still contend that flailing towards the 2nd half of seasons the last 3 years was a result of the previous staff and their ineptness in SOOOO many areas. This staff has demonstrated an ability, largely with the same players, to not have our D look like a sieve. Can't wait to see the future M Defenses crushing people.