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Posted on Sat, Nov 13, 2010 : 5:24 p.m.

Michigan defense puts together a dominant performance for first time this season

By Michael Rothstein


Michigan senior defensive end Adam Patterson looks to take down Purdue quarterback Rob Henry in the second half Saturday. Patterson finished with four tackles.

Melanie Maxwell |

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin stood on the sidelines. Reduced to a cheerleader’s role as an ankle injury kept him out of Saturday’s game at Purdue, he offered encouragement to teammates.

And he watched Michigan's best defensive performance of the season.

Without Martin and Jonas Mouton, its two strongest defenders, Michigan won, 27-16. Without its two best defenders, the Michigan defense was exactly what the Wolverines needed on a rainy, dreary day.

“You always want to be out there,” Martin said. But I’m proud of how my guys played.”

For the first time all year, Michigan had real reason to feel pride on defense.

The Wolverines forced four of Purdue’s five turnovers and held the Boilermakers without an offensive touchdown.

Michigan hadn’t done that since it played the overwhelmed and overmatched FCS school Delaware State last year.

“We needed to have a good win like this and have our kids have some confidence coming out of a game, not always having Denard (Robinson) bail us out to win the game and that kind of (thing),” secondary coach Tony Gibson said. "It felt so good to get that thing done and score on defense and create stuff. And then when we did turn it over hold them and get the ball back.”

It started early, too.

Hybrid linebacker Cam Gordon picked up a Dan Dierking fumble and returned it 58 yards for Michigan’s first touchdown.

It was the Wolverines’ first defensive score of the season and first since Ryan Van Bergen took a fumble recovery back 14 yards against Wisconsin on Nov. 14, 2009.

“I had some blockers out ahead of me,” Gordon said. “So I stayed behind them and got a feel of what was going on, and then I ran for the end zone.”

It wasn’t just Gordon. Michigan received standout performances from unlikely places.

Fifth-year senior cornerback James Rogers, who was thrust into a starting role this year when Troy Woolfolk had a season-ending ankle injury, intercepted two passes. Gordon recovered another fumble and reserve linebacker Kevin Leach recovered a muffed Purdue punt return.

Linebacker Obi Ezeh, who lost his starting job midway through the season and has struggled for most of the last two seasons, led Michigan with eight tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss.

In all, a Michigan defense that let every other team in 2010 gain at least 343 yards allowed merely 256 yards. It allowed a season-low 132 yards passing.

Most impressively, for a team that struggled so much on third down this season, Purdue was 2-of-17 third-down conversions.

“On third down, we won,” linebacker Kenny Demens said. “We’ve struggled on third down, but we played with a little swag today.”

It was well deserved, even though the Boilermakers were the worst scoring offense in the Big Ten entering Saturday.

For this defense, which was the worst scoring defense in the league coming into the game, it’d take a good performance against any team.

That it came against Purdue, a team that beat Michigan the past two years, was of little consequence.

Wisconsin, Michigan’s opponent next week, put up 83 points on Indiana on Saturday. Ohio State has one of the most exciting offensive units in the league.

That’s what awaits Michigan the rest of the way, but on this day no one was taking anything from the Wolverines’ defense.

“It’s awesome to have it,” defensive end Craig Roh said. “Obviously your confidence goes up a lot.

“It’s great to be this dominant in this game.”

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein



Mon, Nov 15, 2010 : 9:46 a.m.

Contrary to what most of you think, true Buckeyes do not wish for a cupcake Michigan team. "The greatest rivalry in sports" exists when the two teams are evenly matched. The "War of the Roses" was great between Woody and Bo because, although we each cheered our respective sides, the outcome was in doubt until time expired. (For those of you too young to remember, in those days, it was Rose Bowl or nothing. If you didn't win the Big Ten Championship, you sat home on New Year's Day.) The rivalry degenerated under Cooper, a man hired to beat Michigan, but truly never understood how great Big Ten FB is and how important "The Game" is. However, when Tressel came "The Game" returned. It seems so many UMers look back a Carr as a second-rate failure. It's interesting to note, he recruited and coached the only UM team that participated in a #1 vs. #2 game against the Bucks. Coach Carr may not have been the charasmatic TV personality that's needed in today's ESPN-oriented sports world. But he did pretty well for you guys. Being totally dependent on the spread offense in late November in Ann Arbor is foolish. Why do you think the babies in the SEC never venture north?

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Nov 14, 2010 : 7:28 p.m.

You can play with words if you like, and choose a definition for demand that suits your straw man. You can play the same game with my reference to the Michigan helmet. It's cute. And it obviously makes you feel better. It is, however, intellectually dishonest. And it seems all some people do around here is whine about those who want to see a good football coach in charge of the program. I don't believe those people are "tru" fans. Some of them are probably OSU fans who enjoy seeing a weak Michigan team and love and honor Rodriguez as one of their own for ending one of the greatest streaks in the history of organized sports (Michigan being above.500 in 40 straight conference seasons). And some are just sad, and want to level all sorts of ad hominems against anyone they disagree with because they are incapable of addressing the football issues.


Sun, Nov 14, 2010 : 4:02 p.m.

1) By using the term "dominate" it is clear that Rothstein is writing for the hometown groupies that didn't see the game. 2) Even I can't trash your defense as well as you do it yourselves. 3) I'm surprised by the UMers that act like the weather was a big (unexpected) factor. Where have you been for the last 100+ years? In mid-November, Big Ten FB is played in weather like you had in West Lafayette. You sound like the pansies from the SEC who expect to play every game as if it were "bowl" season.


Sun, Nov 14, 2010 : 2:48 p.m.

Hey Sunset...How old are you? And I'm not trying to be mean...just curious bc it will help me gage your knowledge of the program and of the game of football in particular. This Defense is horrible and we know it. There are lots of reasons why we have so much youth on that side of the ball. And I do hold RR accountable for that youth. To me there is very little wiggle room for how that happened and why it's in the shape that it is. But before Troy Wolfolks injury I had picked this team to finish at 8-4...And I still feel that if Troy hadn't gone down we would have those 8 wins right now. I also think we lose the next 2 games and we finish 7-5. It is what it is and complaining about it even for me hasn't helped one bit. And I think we can all agree that with a mediocre defense we would prob only have one loss right now and the last two games would be a toss up and maybe split 1-1, instead of knowing we prob lose both. I like watching this offense, even though the past few weeks hasn't been as pretty as I'd like it to be. Get those younger players on Defense the experience...and feed them so they each put on about 15lbs by next year and watch out!!!! GO BLUE!!


Sun, Nov 14, 2010 : 2:43 p.m.

3 and out, 2sweetblue, Murrow's Ghost, packman -- You guys are killing me. The Michigan D did not allow an offensive TD and held Purdue to 9 offensive points. The same Purdue team scored 13 against Wisconsin and 20 on the road at Northwestern. By no means am I saying the D turned a corner. Nor am I saying the outlook is rosey. I think Greg Robinson should be replaced. But even though I believe Robinson is a bad DC, I still give credit when it's due. Is it too much to ask for you to give a morsel of credit every once in a while to a team you supposedly support?

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Nov 14, 2010 : 1:02 p.m.

I disagree. I think he needs one more win to enter the discussion of whether he should keep his job. 3-5 in the Big Ten is not Michigan Football.


Sun, Nov 14, 2010 : 8:22 a.m.

theteam I agree with what you have posted. I like RR but I also want better than a 7-5 season. Next year will be the year. I think with our minimal losses from graduation, bowl and spring practices for our young guys, next year UM will be going for a B10 title.


Sun, Nov 14, 2010 : 6:14 a.m.

First of all, I think everyone is entitled to his/her opinion period without being labeled a "Hater" or "Kool-Aide" drinker cause it's just an opinion and everyone has a different view. After all we are at home posting our comments and not in the locker room or the sidelines. Some of us are die hard and very passionate and some are casual but we are all FANS of MICHIGAN. I've read some positive and some negative posts in regard today's win. Like I said, some fans might look at the cup and say half empty(pessimistic) or half full (optimistic). It was an ugly win, sloppy, crappy, lucky or whatever you call it but not a LOSS which would've been a disaster. The defense was dominant (in this game) despite 5 TO from the offense and very poor play from our QBs and O-Line, penalties. Kicking team well it's been non existent all season. This team has yet to click on all cylinders since the UCONN game. The offense continue to cough up the ball (17 TO counting MSU,IOWA,ILL and PURDUE)mostly unforced. The D been bad all year(except Purdue)and special teams (kicking) just embarrassing period. This team most likely will finish 7-5 and 3-5 in B10. It's true 7-5 is a progress than last year 5-7 but with NO signature wins (0-3 vs MSU, 0-3 vs PSU, 0-3 vs IOWA,0-3 vs OSU, 1-2 vs Wisky) it won't validate the progression. For Michigan to regain it's respect again, they have to beat the BIG BOYS period and not the BGSU, IN, UMASS, UCONN......cause 7-5 not impressive considering the competition. IMO, RR bought himself another year with beating ILL and Purdue but I believe his leach became tighter and tighter and 7-5 won't impress AD. Next year is the YEAR for RR experiment and no more excuses. Will he succeed in bringing glory days back to Michigan and beat MSU,OSU,IOWA...time will tell or 2011-2012 cause this team HAS TO BE BALANCED IN ALL PHASES. GO BLUE

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Nov 14, 2010 : 12:41 a.m.

And we're sick of posts from people who have clearly forgotten what the winged helmet represents. We demand more than mediocrity.


Sat, Nov 13, 2010 : 10:56 p.m.

Come on was obvious that the terrible weather was the main reason for most of the turn overs and keeping the score down for both teams. Dominant defense? We will not see that while RR is coach

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Nov 13, 2010 : 10:19 p.m.

I suppose if you're Greg Robinson, you take what you can get. Tony Gibson finally talked. He must have been bored, not having anything to do all day - it's not Purdue had a quarterback who could test anyone. Anyway, the defense did what it was supposed to do against an anemic team. Even the 16 points was heavily aided by turnovers - I doubt they score more than 3 if Michigan's offense were up to par today. So, nice job. Van Bergen did well in particular, given Martin was out. He has improved a lot since the early part of the season.


Sat, Nov 13, 2010 : 9:19 p.m.

Although Purdue doesn't have a great offense, I think the U-M defense was key in getting the win and they got some big turnovers to help seal the win. They deserve kudos for that, even if it was Purdue. With Denard having a poor game, someone had to step up and the defense played with pride and got the job done. Wisconsin will be a whole different animal next week. They will test U-M's manhood on defense by trying to run the ball down U-M's throat like they did against Indiana and about everyone else they play. It will be important to have Mike Martin and Jonas Mouton back for that game.


Sat, Nov 13, 2010 : 8:29 p.m.

If you think Dominant Defense you didn't watch the same game I did. While the D was better it was no way dominant over a crappy program, terrible article


Sat, Nov 13, 2010 : 8:17 p.m.

heartbreak, I agree, but the hatters didn't watch the same game we did. GO BLUE!!!!


Sat, Nov 13, 2010 : 8 p.m.

I think Edward and 3 are being too critical. The defense actually swarmed to the ball today on most plays I saw. They did not make the dumb mistakes I've seen made over and over (like not covering). I think the weather really helped because throwing was not easy, and getting good quick footing was not possible. But let's give kudos. This defense played better than any game since UConn and I think they deserve accolades. For the first time all year the defense got the ball back for the offense and that's progress, especially with Mouton and Martin both out. Even with Purdue's pathetic offense.

3 And Out

Sat, Nov 13, 2010 : 7:34 p.m.

"Dominant" LOL! That Purdue offense was one of the worst in the Big Ten Ive seen in years. The freshman QB could barely throw the ball and the other kid had a lacerated hand and was trying to throw with a glove on. Our defense is still very bad, dont kid yourself Mr. Rothstein.


Sat, Nov 13, 2010 : 7:04 p.m.

What a crock of BS spin this article is. First defensive touchdown? Look up the stat on defensive pass interference penalties...probably less than a half dozen all year...tells you how zombie like the defensive secondary is and how they are so timid, afraid, and a bunch of back pedaling wussies. Michigan won their last game this year. Say goodbye to Robinson and his 3-3-5. He couldn't defend with a 4-4-6.


Sat, Nov 13, 2010 : 6:20 p.m.

My gosh.............. IT WAS PURDUE!!!!! If we lose the next two we are 3-5 in Big Ten play. Purdue is horrible and they were playing with their tenth string QB. I am sure Richie will be around another year but he will never win a Big Ten title.