Every. Single. Year.
Indiana came to the Big House having given up 482 yards to Minnesota and 542 yards to Maryland in their two games this month while putting up 385 and 374 yards, respectively. Tonight: 507 yards ceded, 385 yards gained. The yardage pattern continued for Indiana, though this time Indiana’s offense put up 5.1 yards per play on a defense that previously was allowing just 3.82 yards per play, the best in college football.
But even in a game that was a one-score contest for all but about six game minutes, the story tonight was less about what happened defensively and more about Michigan’s offense in the red zone and the players that had to be helped off the field.
Jake Moody, who found out that he was going to be the field goal kicker in the locker room before the game, converted all six of his field goal attempts. Moody hit from 33, 32, 31, 30, 29, and 23 to set a single-game Michigan record, and his reliability proved critical in a game that was as close as a typical Michigan-Indiana contest.
Michigan’s offense took just six plays to move from their 25-yard line to Indiana’s 13-yard line before two Karan Higdon runs went for –1 yards and a Shea Patterson pass to Higdon fell incomplete, leading to Moody converting his first kick of the night. A similar scenario played out on Michigan’s third drive, with a defensive pass interference call against Andre Brown on an attempted pass from Donovan Peoples-Jones to Zach Gentry moving the offense to Indiana’s 18-yard line before two short runs and an incomplete pass led to another Moody field goal.
[Injury updates woven into the narrative after THE JUMP]
A 31-yard post to Ronnie Bell off play-action moved Michigan to Indiana’s 15; Tru Wilson ran for two yards, a ball went off Sean McKeon’s hands in the end zone, a bullet to Grant Perry on the sideline was knocked away, and Moody again trotted out and connected. Michigan’s offense had one more big play in the first half, a 41-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Nick Eubanks (thanks to a little help from Zach Gentry’s route-running) for the first of his career. Patterson went back to Eubanks on the two-point conversion attempt but the ball glanced off his hands, an unsurprising incompletion as Eubanks wasn’t more than 20 yards downfield—the big-plays-only tight end has four games this year with such a reception.
Another 40+-yard completion to a tight end, this time Gentry, moved Michigan down the field in a hurry on their next drive, the final drive of the first half. The run game went to work from there, with two Chris Evans carries and a Ben Mason carry moving Michigan to Indiana’s three-yard line. Patterson looked for McKeon on a quick out with mere seconds remaining, a play that Jim Harbaugh said in his postgame press conference they expected would either hit him in the end zone or with a chance to get out of bounds. McKeon was brought down in bounds, and the ensuing ball placement went awry when an Indiana player kicked the ball after the ref set it on the turf. Harbaugh was told by the umpire that there was no penalty on the play because the player did not kick the ball intentionally, and the clock ran out with Michigan down, 17-15.
The game provided some likely anomalous deep shots on which Patrick Ramsey dropped glorious deep shots from the heavens into a basket, but it also gave the defense a lot of film to work on cleaning up short crossing crossing routes over the middle. Indiana seemed to come in with the idea that they could test Michigan’s safeties (didn’t work) and move the secondary off the line with deep routes and hit a drag over the middle, which Khaleke Hudson was picking up repeatedly by game’s end. The defense's yardage numbers aren’t as gaudy as usual, but tonight gives Michigan recent in-game experience with some of the ways man coverage is tested underneath before coming up against Ohio State’s dink-and-dunk, screen-heavy, pass-heavy offense.
Michigan’s defense was once again boosted by Don Brown’s preternatural ability to make in-game adjustments, with the defense allowing just one score in the second half, a 36-yard field goal with six minutes to go in the game. Devin Bush Jr. led the team with 11 tackles and added 0.5 sacks, 1.5 TFLs, 1 PBU, and a QB hurry. He was deadly on a twist that brought him off the edge, a game in which most linebackers wouldn’t have nearly enough speed to partake. Indiana also tried to test Bush on the edge and gained as much as other teams that have done the same this season: nothing. Indiana attempted to convert a 4th-and-10 at the onset of the fourth quarter with a fake punt, snapping to one of the players who normally comprises the shield and having him flip the ball on an end-around. Bush read the flip and got to the sideline in time to tackle the ball carrier; on replay, he appeared to teleport into the frame.
Cramps were the only thing that slowed Bush down tonight, and he was far from the only one. Khaleke Hudson, David Long, and Josh Metellus also cramped up and had to leave the game for brief periods, though all four returned.
Two players, however, were injured and did not return to the game. Chase Winovich was rushing the passer on 2nd-and-6 in the third quarter when Indiana lineman Simon Stepaniak shoved him from the side, then fell on him late in the play after Winovich was already on the ground and Ramsey had stepped up in the pocket. Harbaugh said that X-rays at Michigan Stadium and the hospital were negative, as was a CAT scan. Harbaugh declined to name what exactly Winovich injured and added that he thought they were in a good place considering the test results.
The most frightening moment in the game came on Michigan’ kick return after Indiana’s fourth-quarter field goal. Berkley Edwards was leapt into by Cam Jones, who was called for targeting, as the returner ran past. Edwards was on the turf for minutes that felt like an eternity as a silence unlike anything I’ve ever experienced fell over Michigan Stadium. Trainers and the team’s medical staff were eventually able to transfer Edwards to a board and cart him to an ambulance. He has feeling in his extremities and though Harbaugh said he suffered a significant concussion he was reportedly responding well to other tests.
With relatively good news on the injury front, Michigan escapes another bizarro Indiana contest with a win and all their goals in front of them. For the second time in three years, Michigan travels to Columbus with the division and a shot at the Playoff on the line. The Revenge Tour commences once more in 157 hours and 48 minutes.