Fitz Toussaint's big game helps Michigan football team thump Purdue, 36-14
Updated 5:07 p.m.
All week, Michigan football coaches and players insisted they had forgotten about Michigan State.
Apparently, the Wolverines weren't kidding.
Fitzgerald Toussaint scored twice and rushed for a career-high 170 yards on 20 carries Saturday as the Wolverines successfully washed away the taste of their only defeat of the season, rolling to a 36-14 homecoming win over Purdue.
"It's hard for me to compare (this team) to anything that happened before, but I like our team and I like how they've liked each other," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "Maybe that's corny, or whatever, but from where I sit, I like that they respect each other.
"And it shows."
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
In the previous three seasons, Michigan (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) had gone a combined 4-14 following a loss to the Spartans.
So far this season, the Wolverines are 1-0.
"Every team faces adversity," Toussaint said. "It's not really how you have adversity, it's how you respond. We knew we had two weeks to get prepared for this game, and we did what we had to do."
Two weeks after having his worst performance as a Michigan starting quarterback, Denard Robinson was much more efficient against Purdue, finishing 9-for-14 passing for 170 yards to go along with 63 yards rushing.
But for the first time in some time, the Wolverine backfield gave him help. Toussaint's 170 yards were the most by a Michigan running back since Carlos Brown ran for 191 against Eastern Michigan in 2009.
It also marked the first time a Michigan player not named Denard Robinson had 20 carries since Brown had 25 attempts against Illinois in 2009.
“We came in defensively with the idea that we had to stop number 16 from a run game standpoint," Purdue coach Danny Hope said. "I thought they did a good job of maybe taking the game out of his hands, out of Denard's hands, and spreading the ball around a little bit.
"That spreads us a little bit thin."
Things ended well, but didn't start as strong for Michigan.
Purdue scored on its first possession, and drive-kililng interceptions by both Robinson and Devin Gardner kept the Wolverines from seizing early momentum. The score stayed knotted at 7-7 throughout the first quarter.
Senior defensive tackle Mike Martin took care of that problem, though.
Martin steamrolled through the Purdue offensive line on a first-down play early in the second quarter, sacking Caleb TerBush in the end zone for a safety to put the Wolverines up 9-7.
Michigan would sputter offensively after the free kick, but managed to set itself up with decent field position, resulting in a 37-yard field goal by Brendan Gibbons to make it 12-7.
The Boilermakers appeared to have an answer, though, as backup quarterback Robert Marve drove Purdue deep into Michigan territory on the ensuing drive. But as it has all season, the Michigan defense answered in the red zone, getting a deflected-ball interception by Courtney Avery on the Wolverines' 17-yard-line.
Michigan wouldn't squander this chance.
Following a pair of solid runs from Toussaint, Robinson found Jeremy Gallon on a 42-yard pass to set Michigan up on the Purdue 2-yard line. Toussaint then polished the drive off with a 2-yard scoring plunge, putting Michigan in control at 19-7. Gibbons would add a 22-yard field goal just before the half to make it a 22-7 game.
Toussaint then put the game out of reach late in the third, scoring on a dazzling 59-yard cutback touchdown run to give Michigan a 29-7 advantage.
"(Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson) always stresses, when you see a crease, shoot through a cannon," Toussaint said. "That's what I did."
The Wolverines added a 37-yard touchdown run from Michael Shaw to complete the scoring.
Michigan outgained Purdue (4-4, 2-2 Big Ten) 535-311, and finished with 339 yards rushing as a team, while Purdue ran for just 89.
Purdue's final score of the game came on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Marve to O.J. Ross with just 15 seconds to play.
Michigan will return to the road next Saturday for a noon contest at Iowa. With Michigan State's loss to Nebraska on Saturday, the Wolverines aren't out of the Legends Division championship conversation just yet.
But, predictably, Hoke's not concerned with that just now.
"Every game is a championship game," he said. "We've said that since (the Big Ten opener against) Minnesota.
"Next week, we're on the road, and it's a championship game."