Michigan’s Wolverines breezed into the Indiana Hoosier’s Memorial Stadium (52,929) with a history of solid accomplishment against the Hoosiers at their back, having bested them 64-9 over the years. They also had an abundance of solid accomplishment this season, sporting a 7 and 2 record with only one Big Ten loss this season while Indiana had not yet won a Big Ten game.
While the former was less result important than the latter, and both are impressive to an extent, the Wolverines had every reason to be wary of the Hoosiers for a number of reasons. History means nothing as each game is unique, and the Hoosiers have been playing their best against better competition. They have been losing this Big Ten Season, but coming close against Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State, and now the Wolverines.
Late in the fourth quarter Michigan bollixed a fine series in an attempt to score a go ahead TD on third and goal. Inexplicably they chose to run Drake Johnson outside, and he was easily stopped short of the goal. A field goal got the Wolverines on top again by a single point. It was 27-26.
Considering the course of this game it seemed very unlikely that that score would stand up, and it didn’t.
The hope at the time was that Michigan’s beleaguered run defense could finally get a stop, but they didn’t as the Hoosiers drove to what used to be called pay dirt, establishing a 27-34 point lead with a little over two minutes left in the fourth.
Jake Rudock was up to the ensuing two minute drill. Emulating Tom Brady a little, he hit Jehu Chesson with a games saving TD for the tie, and much to the absolute surprise and delight of M fans, they were still alive with but a couple of ticks remaining on the clock.
Rudock played the best game of his Michigan career. He has elevated his status from “care-taker” to a rising star at QB. He heaved 33 passes for 432-yards, and he set a Michigan school record by tossing 6 TDs. His only error was an interception he lofted late in the game. It fell short.
Jehu Chesson has become a force at wide receiver, setting a school record with four TD catches. The long anticipated downfield passing connection of Ruddock to a streaking Chesson is now a matter of fact. He made some difficult, and timely receptions. His talented fellow wide out, Amara Darboh presented his best Jason Avant impersonation of a possession receiver, by collaring 8 for 109-yards and moving the sticks on critical third downs. He made a great TD catch.
The wide receivers, long considered as more or less a liability, have proven to be one of the strengths of the offense. TE Jake Butt continues as a consistent offensive strength. He caught 7 for 82-yards. Chesson, Butt and Darboh carried their great play to overtime.
Saturday’s accolades belong to the offense as the defense struggled to stop the Hoosier running game. No longer will M’s defense be considered at the top of the national heap, but in spite of their poor tackling, they preserved the victory with a brilliant 4th down goal line in the 2nd overtime. The Hoosiers became so confident in their running game that they ran 8 straight times with good result.
Hoosier RB Howard, had a very good day against the Blue. He rushed 35 times for 238-yards and had 2 TDs on the ground and one in by air, both at critical times. This collapse of the Wolverines highly ranked defense against the Hoosier running game was a total surprise, but it will recover.
As everybody knows, a happenstance which elevated the importance of this game was the renewed life Michigan State’s loss at Nebraska a week ago provided the Wolverines.
It injected new hope into a possibility of the Wolverines making it to the Big Ten Championship Game in this, Harbaugh’s first season. It make this Indiana game as important as Penn State or Ohio State, regardless of the win/loss records of M, or their opponent. Aspiring championship teams have to win in November.
Practically moribund earlier this season, M’s championship hopes could only be realized if the Wolverines could win out. Their last three games of the season, Indiana, Penn State, and Ohio State each had to fall to realize the dream. With this win one third of the job is done. Thus the importance of beating the Hoosiers had assumed a level not imagined earlier. Injury concerns at RB and at nose tackle are grating. Both D. Smith and Drake Johnson were a little dinged, Isaac and Green were nowhere in sight, and the running game suffered, producing only 141 net yards.
Nose Tackle Ryan Glasgow did not play, and his absence was very noticeable. He is a player that makes those around him better. Obviously, this hurt the run defense more than I had hoped it would.
Michigan had not exactly blown away the opposition in away games, and that trend continued Saturday. For a while, the outcome was questionable, and it was questionable if the Wolverines could ever stop the Hoosiers from scoring, but they did when it counted most, with Delano Hill tapping the ball away at the goal line late in the second overtime on a fourth and goal to save the lead and the win.
While Indiana was credited with one of the better Big Ten offenses, their defense was not considered to be at the same hyper solid level, and they proved that Saturday. As they say, defense wins ball games, as does a lack of defense, but for the other side. Suffice it to say that Hoosier offensive prowess exceeded their defensive performance Saturday, as did that of the Wolverines. Aspects of both offenses were outstanding Saturday. Michigan totaled 581 net yards and the Hoosiers 527.
The Wolverines special teams surprised all by giving up more punt returns. A 51-yard TD return was the result of poor tackling on the edge as the runner slipped a tackle and got outside. Though improved over the Saturday before last in some respects, the unit again showed some rough edges on return coverages and a couple of low center snaps, one of which accounted for a missed field goal. This nearly caused a critical extra point miss which could have cost the game, but the kick hooked through.
The Wolverines have displayed some problems in pass defense at times, but Saturday they excelled, holding the best passing unit in the Big Ten to 220-yards.
Indiana had not presented an over whelming ground game this season, but as recorded above, it was more than adequate Saturday. At times, it simply seemed unstoppable. The Hoosiers have an outstanding hurry up offense and caught the Wolverines off guard a couple of times. The Wolverines wanted to avoid a shoot-out, but couldn’t. Michigan incurred more than their usual number of penalties this game.
The Wolverines scored first after stopping the receiving Hoosiers. Jehu Chesson caught two during the drive, one for 12-yards, and one for a 34 yard TD. IU then hit two FGs of 39 and 36-yards to make it M-7, IU-6 at the end of the first quarter.
The Hoosiers dominated time of possession 11.49 minutes to 3.11 for the Wolverines, but the Hoosiers were hindered by multiple false start penalties, and a 12-yard Wolverine sack.
M started the second quarter with a bang, driving for a second TD. Jake Butt caught one for 24-yards, and Jabrill Peppers showed again why he is one of the better players in the Big Ten with an 18–yard scamper. Jake Rudock ran for 19, and threw to Jehu Chesson for a 25-yard TD. M-14, IU-6. It looked like the Wolverines were in control with great offensive execution.
IU answered with another FG, this time from 51-yards to get within 3.
M answered with a D. Smith run for 16-yards, and a spectacular end zone reception by Jehu Chesson for 64-yards made it M-21, IU-9.
Hoosier QB Nate Sudfeld passed his team into the end zone via a 7-yarder to RB Jordan Howard, aided by an M penalty during the drive for Indiana’s first TD, and it was 21-16, and half time.
M received to start the second half. And it wasn’t pretty as Jabrill Peppers was thrown for an 8-yard loss on a jet sweep, and Channing Stripling couldn’t collar the IU punt returner who slipped his contain tackle, got outside and sped for a 51-yard TD to make it M-21, IU-16.
To make matters worse. Kenny Allen missed a FG because of a low snap, and IU got its next TD, to make it 24-26 Indiana, and Rudock threw a floater that came up short and was intercepted.
The miserable third quarter finally ended. Aided by a pass interference penalty, and a Jake Rudock scamper, M answered with a 78-yard drive which produced an Allen FG of 20-yards. The Blue led by one with about 6:30 left in the game.
RB Jordan Howard then took over for Indiana with consecutive carries, and scored with a rush from the IU twenty-five to put IU up by seven, 27-34.
At 2:52 of the 4th, M answered with a Jake Butt 16-yard catch to the 50-yard line, D. Smith, Houma and Chesson contributed to one of the most important comeback drives of the year so far, with Chesson contributing a 41-yard snag and grabbing a five-yard TD. M-33, IU-34. The clock recorded two seconds left in the game. When Kenny Allen nailed the extra point, it was time for overtime at 34 all. This drive was as good as it gets, with everything on the line, and no mistakes allowed. Kudos to holder Blake O’Neill for righting a low snap to provide the extra point for the win.
M deferred at the start of OT. IU set up at the M 25. Several runs and Jordan Howard bulled in for the IU TD from the one M-34, IU-41. A 21- yard Jake Butt catch, and a Kenny Allen extra point quickly ties it again at 41 up.
Michigan set up at the 25 and Amara Darboh quickly broke the suspense with a TD catch for the go ahead points. M-48, IU-41, and it was IU’s turn. M defense rose to the occasion and foiled the 4th down pass on a play described above for a final of 48 to 41.
While the Wolverines inability to stop the run was not expected, they played hard enough to overcome circumstances, and win. This time the offense gets the kudos, but like losses wins are team accomplishments.
All that is left before M’s Bowl game, are the States, Penn and Ohio. Both are red letter must wins.