Wolverines lose QB, but still defeat Purdue

Michigan tight end Sean McKeon (84) is tackled by Purdue linebacker T.J. McCollum (6) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

By MICHAEL MAROT AP Sports Writer WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — No. 8 Michigan lost its starting quarterback. Backup John O’Korn and a rock-solid defense made sure the bigger goals stayed intact. O’Korn led the offense on two time-consuming drives in the second half, Chris Evans ran for two touchdowns and the Wolverines scored the final 21 points in a 28-10 win at Purdue on Saturday. “They can win in the late rounds,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “That’s a great thing to learn about your ballclub. You never know quite what the character is. Things get tough, and a lot of people start groping for alternatives. Our guys dug deep and finished them off.” It was tougher than expected. When the Wolverines (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) lost Wilton Speight late in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury, they asked O’Korn, the former Houston starter who had thrown only one pass this season, to bail them out. He warmed up quickly, completing all five of his throws on his first series and capping it with a 12-yard TD pass to Zach Gentry for a 7-0 lead. He wound up 18 of 26 with 270 yards and one interception as one of his former coaches at Houston, Tony Levine, watched from Purdue’s sideline. “It meant a lot for me, even if I don’t play the rest of the year, to be able to go out and beat my former coach,” O’Korn said. “It was a big moment for me. Call it whatever you want.” For the next two quarters, O’Korn and the offense went nowhere. So the Wolverines’ championship-caliber defense stepped in with an incredibly stingy second-half performance to make sure their conference title hopes and playoff aspirations remained alive. Purdue (2-2, 0-1) managed only 10 yards and one first down over the final two quarters, not nearly enough to protect a 10-7 halftime lead. “Michigan beat us down Michigan-style,” Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm said. “The better football team won. In the second half, they were the tougher team. Our second half was unproductive offensively.” Evans finished with 14 carries for 97 yards, scoring on a 10-yard run with 2:42 left in the third quarter to give Michigan a 14-10 lead and sealing it with a 49-yard run with 6:46 left in the game. Ty Isaac’s 1-yard TD run was sandwiched in between.