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Michigan Secures Big Ten Championship, Sets Sights on Playoff

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Phillip Lutz, Guest Writer

Michigan celebrates after winning the Big Ten Championship. Photo//Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press

The #3 University of Michigan Wolverines completed their domination of the Big Ten conference as they defeated the Purdue University Boilermakers 43-22 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The team effort took down the surging Boilermakers, giving the Wolverines their first back-to-back Big Ten Championships since the 2003-2004 season. They also made history as the first Michigan football team with a 13-0 record.

The Wolverines won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half.

The Boilermakers, under QB Aiden O’Connell, started with a six-yard loss on the first play and then a three-yard completion to Devin Mockobee. O’Connell was sacked on the next play for a seven-yard loss, forcing the Boilermakers to punt the ball.

Sophomore QB J.J. McCarthy took the ball for the Wolverines after the Boilermaker punt. McCarthy completed a nine-yard pass to senior WR Cornelius Johnson. McCarthy also connected for 16 yards with WR Ronnie Bell.

Michigan struck gold first as freshman TE Colston Loveland hauled in a 25-yard touchdown pass, securing the catch while draped by two defenders. Big Ten Kicker of the Year Jake Moody hit the extra point, giving the Wolverines the early 7-0 lead.

O’Connell and the Boilermakers were now trying to catch up. The Purdue QB hit Mershawn Rice for 13 yards, then Mockobee for five- and nine-yard completions. WR Charlie Jones then started heating up with 15- , 14- , and 17-yard completions. Purdue later tied the game with a Mockobee one-yard score.

On Purdue’s next drive, O’Connell hit Jones for a 25-yard pass completion. They drove well into the red zone and looked to gain the lead. On the first play of the second quarter, O’Connell fumbled after a four-yard loss, but he recovered the ball at the Michigan 17-yard line. The Boilermakers were forced to kick a 33-yard field goal, but they led 10-7.

Sophomore RB Donovan Edwards started off the Wolverine drive with a seven-yard gain before McCarthy hit senior TE Luke Schoonmaker for a nine-yard pass pickup. McCarthy then hit Bell for a 20-yard gain, giving the Wolverines a needed first down. McCarthy later went back to Schoonmaker to cap off the drive with a seven-yard touchdown. Michigan was back in front 14-10.

Purdue ran the ball several times to open their ensuing drive. O’Connell hit Rice for eight yards and TJ Sheffield for a 20-yard pickup. Fineran hit the 33-yard field goal, narrowing the Wolverine lead 14-13 heading into halftime.

Edwards shocked everyone on the first play of the second half, as he ran the ball for a 60-yard scramble. He said after the game he would have probably gotten the touchdown, but he did not want to try a stiff arm with his broken hand.

LB Kalel Mullings, converted to running back with the Corum injury, took the ball in for the one-yard touchdown. Moody hit the extra point, giving the Wolverines all of the momentum and a 21-13 lead.

McCarthy showed off his arm strength on the first throw of the next Wolverine drive, hitting Schoonmaker for a monster 40-yard pickup. Edwards finished the drive on the next play as he ran it in for a 27-yard touchdown, carrying defenders with him into the endzone. 28-13 Michigan.

O’Connell came out firing on the Boilermakers next drive as he hit Jones for a 32-yard pass completion. Mockobee then ran it for a 25-yard gain. However, O’Connell threw an interception to freshman DB Will Johnson at the Michigan one-yard line. This was the first turnover of the game for either team. Michigan could not capitalize on the takeaway, however, and they were forced to punt the ball back to Purdue.

The Boilermakers put together a nice drive to come away with needed points. O’Connell hit Paul Piferi for a 26-yard pass completion. Fineran later hit the 43-yard field goal, slowly creeping in on the Wolverines lead, now 28-16.

On Michigan’s next drive, Edwards was able to get minimal gains running the ball before McCarthy hit Bell for a 10-yard pick up and a crucial first down. McCarthy then made his first and only mistake of the game, uncharacteristically throwing an interception. He was forced out of the pocket and tried to force the ball into double coverage. Boilermaker ball.

O’Connell hit Andrew Sowinski for a 24-yard pickup and then Rice for a 21-yard completion. The Boilermaker drive stalled, and Fineran hit the 27-yard field goal to bring the score to 28-19.

Michigan’s offense stalled on their next drive and had to punt back to Purdue. However, Michigan’s defense stepped up once again with another Johnson interception off of O’Connell, this time at the Purdue 16-yard line. Johnson stepped in front of the intended receiver for the takeaway.

McCarthy and the Wolverines put it in the endzone a few plays later, as McCarthy hit Bell for a sweet 17-yard touchdown. Michigan then ran a trick play on the attempted two-point conversion. McCarthy rolled out to the right, hitting Schoonmaker in the endzone for the two points. 38-19 Michigan.

Purdue was trying their best to stay in this game, but they only managed another field goal to make it a 38-22 game. Time was not on their side anymore, and their hopes were looking bleak.

Edwards ran the ball five times on the next drive with an 18 -yard scamper capping it off. Mullings got his second touchdown of the day on a three-yard rush up the middle. Moody hit the extra point, widening the Wolverines lead 43-22. This ended up being the final score in what was a semi-competitive game, but Michigan was once again too strong to overcome in the second half.

The Boilermakers never gave up and showed tons of heart. Sadly, it was not to be. O’Connell finished with 366 yards passing, one of the biggest passing totals given up by the Wolverine defense this season.

McCarthy had 161 yards passing with three touchdowns and an interception. He also added 14 yards rushing. Edwards was named Most Valuable Player of the game, rushing for 185 yards and a touchdown. He showed the heart and resiliency needed for this team. Blake Corum, the rushing leader for the Wolverines, had knee surgery earlier in the day and was not able to be present for the game.

Bell had five receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. Schoonmaker had three catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Loveland’s early 25-yard touchdown was his only catch of the contest.

On Sunday, Michigan stayed put at #2 in the College Football Playoff rankings with an undefeated record. The Wolverines (13-0) will travel to Glendale, Arizona to square off against #3 TCU (12-1) in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve. This will be the early playoff game, set to kickoff at 4 PM/ET.

TCU lost their conference championship by a field goal in overtime to #10 Kansas State, but they performed well enough to not drop in the rankings. The Horned Frogs will be riding high with QB Max Duggan, who has been playing his way into the Hesiman conversation as of late.

The other side of the playoff bracket features #1 Georgia (13-0) taking on #4 Ohio State (11-1). The Buckeyes snuck their way into the playoff after #4 USC lost the Pac-12 Conference Championship to #11 Utah.

A Michigan-Ohio State rematch may be in the cards as a possible championship matchup, but only time will tell. Go Blue!

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