— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) October 21, 2017
The improved Indiana defense is not at the top of the Big Ten, but good enough to give the Wolverines a battle. Some wonder why a program that recruits basically two and three star players can compete with four and five star players. There may be several answers to that question.
The Wolverines have not made a habit of losing to the Hoosiers, having strung together 22 wins over the Bloomington denizens. They have not been easy wins as they often have been very close.
FORMER M COACHES MENTOR THE HOOSIERS: Mike Debord was the OC of Michigan’s 1997 Rose Bowl, and National Champions. Recently at Tennessee, he fostered a prolific offense. I had the good fortune to be acquainted with Mike while he was with the Wolverines. He was friendly, professional, and pleasant.
He is somewhat reviled as a coordinator by some M fans, who did not appreciate the style of offensive play. Now he advises a more wide-open style of offense. I don’t think he will ever be back in Ann Arbor, but other than in this game, I wish him all possible success.
Mike Hart of Little Bro fame/infamy is the Hoosier running backs coach. In contrast to Mike DeBord’s situation, there are fans that would like to see him in Ann Arbor again as the running backs coach. He did know how to hang on to the football, and as a freshman he became only the third freshman M RB to lead the Big Ten in rushing.
Nick Sheridan was here in the Rich Rodriquez for a short time as a quarterback. He is the QB Coach at Indiana now.
The only games I want to see the above coaches lose are those against the Wolverines. At times late Saturday I was afraid they might be happy post game.
SOME HIGHLIGHTS: The Wolverines lost the coin toss, and defended, receiving the second half kick off. The defense held for a good start.
The Wolverines had an impressive 6 minute drive on their first series. Unfortunately, it was not a point a minute drive as its stalled, and culminated in a 40-yard Quinn Nordin FG. Quinn is money in the bank, but again the Wolverines only got half of what they wanted for the drive. M was up 3-0.
On the next Indiana possession Hurst blocked a field goal and LaVert Hill secured it and hauled it 35-yards. Again the drive stalled, and again Nordin hit a field goal, this time from 38. More money in the bank, but again the Wolverines only got half of what they wanted. It was 6-0.
On their next possession O’Korn pulled out his Houdini bag of tricks and got himself free from the scrum, and hit Donovan Peoples-Jones for 17-yards for a much needed first down to prolong the drive. The Wolverines benefited from DPJ taking a late hit resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct call. Review killed the targeting call, but the 15-yards unsportsmanlike penalty endured. Karan Higdon showed some magic, and streaked 12-yards for the score. 13-0.
Indiana managed a late field goal near the half to finalize the half time score at 13 to 3.
The Hoosiers took the ball to start the second half, and took it to the Wolverines. The defense allowed the Hoosiers first score in the second half on a run by Hoosier John Ellison, but neither side added any additional score in what remained of the third quarter. For the rest of the quarter the defenses prevailed, as both teams settled for three and outs. The score remained 13-10.
The Wolverines running game broke out in the fourth quarter as Karan Higdon, and the other backs went to work. Higdon’s 59-yard streak to and over the goal line energized the Wolverines and their fans. The Wolverines appeared to be in charge and headed to a certain win, as they were up 20-10.
But as the clock ticked to 3:27, a cloud appeared on M’s football horizon,. Indiana QB Peyton Ramsey threw a TD pass to Whop Phiylor. It was a whopper, reducing M’s lead to a fragile 3 points, 20-17. Thoughts of a tie or worse began to fester.
The concern was enhanced by what seeming to be a successful Indiana onside kick which bounced over the head of M’s Donovan People-Jones. He leaped and hit it with his hand, knocking it into the hands of Indiana’s Simmie Cobb, Jr.
Cobb tight roped down the sideline attempting to gain control of the ball and stay in bounds. A review gave Michigan the football. It was ruled that he did not gain control of the football until out of bounds.
The Wolverine offense was not up to the task of icing the game in regulation, as they went three and out. The defense sputtered a little and could not protect the M lead. A 46-yard Hoosier field goal tied it 20-20, and it was on to overtime.
OVERTIME: The Hoosiers won the toss and forced the Wolverines to go first. Higdon ran the ball 25-yards into the end zone for what became the winning score.
Then the Wolverine’s defense made their magnificent goal line stand by withstanding a Hoosier first and ten at the two. That terrific stand was described earlier. Final M-27, I-20.
TAKE AWAY: This Wolverine team has plenty of fight. They can give and take hard knocks, win away from home, and can play defense with the best of them. The weakest link in their chain right now is passing offense. Usually balanced between run and throw, they netted just 58-yards passing. This time the game was in perfect passing weather. Even without errors, that low production passing game will hinder winning. At the very least they need to maintain balance.
At the first of the year, I thought the receivers were one of the better position groups, but it seems that the much maligned running backs are producing than they are now.
The offensive line is still leaky in pass protection, but they were outstanding at times in the run game today.
It seems John O’Korn, and the OL, and the receivers, all need to do better in the passing game in the search for a balanced attack.
John needs to connect down field a time or two to gain confidence, and move defenders back. He overthrew a long ball to a wide open Donovan Peoples-Jones during the first drive, and another to Grant Perry. It seemed to me that throw to Perry had to be high to miss the defender. It was still a miss even if it was just off the fingertips of Perry. There is always room for improvement.
Bring on prime time and Penn State. This one is going to be interesting.