Michigan football beats Purdue, 43-22, for second straight Big Ten championship

INDIANAPOLIS . — Three down, one to go.

Michigan had four goals entering the season. It checked off the first when it beat Michigan State by three scores at the end of October. It checked off the second when it topped Ohio State by 22 a week ago.

And it finished the third as Saturday night turned to Sunday morning at Lucas Oil Stadium.

J.J. McCarthy threw for three touchdowns, Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score and Kalel Mullings had two more scores on the ground to lead Michigan to a 43-22 victory to clinch its second straight Big Ten Championship and an-all-but-certain bid in the College Football Playoff.

"I don't think I need to say what the last (goal) is," said Edwards as he accepted the Big Ten championship game MVP award. "We're on our way there."

It was Michigan football's formula all season and it didn't change with a title on the line. Start slow, finish strong and as it had in each of the first 12 games of the season, the best second-half team in the nation showed exactly how it got its reputation.

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On the first play of the third quarter in a one-score game, Michigan lined up in a three tight-end set, all on the left side of the line. The Wolverines ran Edwards directly behind the overloaded set, he juked past defensive back Reese Taylor before he scampered up the left sideline for a gain of 60 yards.

"I rise to those occasions, I thrive for that," said Edwards of running for 147 yards in the second half. "I believe I'm made for the big moments."

Michigan running back Donovan Edwards celebrates a touchdown scored tight end Luke Schoonmaker against Purdue during the first half of the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Indianapolis.
Michigan running back Donovan Edwards celebrates a touchdown scored tight end Luke Schoonmaker against Purdue during the first half of the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Indianapolis.

Four plays later, Mullings, who played running back and linebacker on the night, pounded in a score from 1-yard out, the first of his career with 12:25 left in the third quarter.

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U-M (13-0) forced a three-and-out on defense and was in the end zone less than two minutes later. After J.J. McCarthy found Luke Schoonmaker for a 40-yard gain on a crossing route on the drive's first play, Edwards broke three tackles as he ran in a score from 27 yards out.

"This guy's got 401 yards over the last two games," U-M coach Jim Harbaugh said, pointing at Edwards. "I mean you want to talk about big games, this guy comes alive in the big games.

"When it's a big game, his whole career whether it's high school or college now, he just hits another gear. He takes off to another level."

Purdue scored on consecutive drives to get within nine with 12:37 to play, but freshman Will Johnson's second interception of the game at the Purdue 16 with 9:57 to play set the stage for McCarthy to find Ronnie Bell for an 18-yard touchdown on third-and-11.

A trick play two-point conversion − where every lineman but the center flanked outside the hashes to the left, before McCarthy got the snap, rolled right and connected with Schoonmaker − made it a three possession game.

Michigan would score again late, a 3-yard run by Mullings with 1:22 to play to put the game to bed.

McCarthy finished 11-of-17 passing with 161 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Edwards ran 25 times for 185 yards and one touchdown.

Its the first 13-win season in Michigan program history and the first time the Wolverines have won consecutive league titles outright since 1991-92.

"I want to thank the parents of the Michigan Wolverine players for raising such terrific young men," said Harbaugh. "They help us win in every way; on the field, off the field through perseverance, character and mostly love.

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"It's been that kind of a team. It's a brotherhood."

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates the 43-22 win against the Purdue Boilermakers in the Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Saturday, December 03, 2022.
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates the 43-22 win against the Purdue Boilermakers in the Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Saturday, December 03, 2022.

Now, the Wolverines await their CFP matchup and destination.

No. 1 Georgia figures to hold onto the top spot and would likely select the Peach Bowl in Atlanta vs. whichever team is No. 4, TCU, Ohio State or Alabama. That would line the Wolverines up for the Fiesta Bowl against either TCU or potentially a rematch with the Buckeyes.

"Please, please, bring it on," McCarthy said of a potential rematch with the Buckeyes. "That would be truly a blessing if we got to play those boys again."

McCarthy masterful

For the second week in a row, Michigan wasn't running the ball well early.

Doak Walker Award finalist Blake Corum underwent surgery on Friday and didn't travel with the team, and one week after Donovan Edwards ran 22 times for 216 yards and two scores, he was bottled up in the first two quarters.

Edwards ran 11 times for 37 yards (3.4 per carry) in the first 30 minutes, his longest rush of the half going for 9 yards. That put the impetus on McCarthy to carry the offense and much like he did in Columbus, the sophomore had no problem shouldering the load.

On U-M's first drive, his first connection was a 9-yard drag route to Cornelius Johnson on third-and-9 to move the sticks. His second came after he was flushed from the pocket, rolled left and then threw across his body to find Ronnie Bell for a gain of 16.

On the next play, he threw a jump ball to the left corner of the end zone where freshman tight end Colston Loveland went up and over two Purdue defenders for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 9:11 to play in the first quarter.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy looks to pass against Purdue during the first half of the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Indianapolis.
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy looks to pass against Purdue during the first half of the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Indianapolis.

"Pretty dynamic," Harbaugh said of McCarthy. "When (McCarthy and Edwards) came in they said 'Coach, we're winning the Big Ten championship and beating Ohio State.' And, you know, we got it."

After the Wolverines went three-and-out on their next drive — McCarthy nearly connected with Bell on what would've been a gain of at least 50 but the ball was just too far for the senior receiver and it ricocheted off his hands — Michigan got back to its methodical ways.

The Wolverines drove down to the Boilermakers 30 when an incomplete pass from McCarthy to Edwards in the end zone forced the kicking unit onto the field. With Jake Moody on the field looking to tie up the game, two Purdue linemen jumped offsides which made it fourth-and-1. Harbaugh elected to go for it and the Wolverines handed the ball to their new short yardage back, Mullings, who plowed ahead for two yards and first down.

Five plays later, McCarthy converted another third down, rolling right to extend the play before he threw a dot to Luke Schoonmaker for a seven-yard score.

Bend don't break

There were times it seemed as if Michigan didn't read the scouting report or somehow forgot about Purdue's top weapon, Charlie Jones.

Michigan forced Purdue backwards for 10 yards on a three-and-out on the game's opening drive, but then the Big Ten's leading receiver torched the Wolverines in the rest of the way. He caught three straight passes for gains of 15, 14 and 17 on the second drive before Devin Mockobee scored from one-yard out to cap the 10-play, 92-yard drive and tie the score 7-7.

The Boilermakers would string together two more time consuming drives, one that lasted 11 plays, the next for 13, both of which ended with 33 and 45-yard field goals respectively from Mitchell Finneran to make it a one-point game going into the break.

Purdue wide receiver Charlie Jones reacts to a first down against Michigan during the first half of the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Indianapolis.
Purdue wide receiver Charlie Jones reacts to a first down against Michigan during the first half of the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Indianapolis.

Jones finished the first half with seven catches for 74 yards. While the Wolverines dedicated more resources his way in the second half, Jones still got his, catching six more passes to finish the game with 13 receptions for 162 yards.

The Wolverines seemed to know Purdue couldn't run on them, the Boilermakers carried the ball 37 times and managed just 90 yards, so they played a bend-don't-break defense against one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the conference in Aidan O'Connell.

The senior completed 32-of-47 passes for 366 yards, the most through the air Michigan allowed all season, but threw two back-breaking interceptions.

"We looked at kind of the points and trying to measure how many touchdowns or points we needed," said Purdue coach Jeff Bohm. "So, yeah, we could take a lot of things back. I just think we do not convert down in there."

On the second drive of the second half, Purdue had a 32-yard gain to Jones followed by a fake flea-flicker that gained 25 yards to get to the Michigan 18. But on the next play, O'Connell forced a lob to Jones but Will Johnson, who'd just subbed in for the briefly injured DJ Turner, located the ball and intercepted it on the Michigan 1.

Michigan Wolverines tight end Luke Schoonmaker (86) celebrates the 43-22 win against the Purdue Boilermakers in the Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Saturday, December 03, 2022.
Michigan Wolverines tight end Luke Schoonmaker (86) celebrates the 43-22 win against the Purdue Boilermakers in the Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Saturday, December 03, 2022.

Purdue drove into Michigan territory on each of the next two possessions, but settled for two more field goals from 43 and 27 yards. The Boilermakers entered the game as the sixth best red zone offense in the country.

It was the ensuing drive when Johnson came up with his second pick and Michigan was able to put the game away. Finneran would add a Big Ten Championship record setting fifth field goal of the game with 5:07 to play.

The Wolverines now just have one night of sleep between them and finding out their opponent in the national semifinal.

"I love our chances," McCarthy said of winning it all. "Last year it was kind of bright lights, everything was new, Big Ten Championship, College Football Playoff.

"Ultimately, this whole offseason was about winning it. At the end of the day, everything is great about today but the job is not finished and we've got a lot bigger plans.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan football beats Purdue for second straight Big Ten title