Saturday’s matchup against the Hoosiers was the definition of a trap game for the Wolverines.
Sandwiched between an emotional blowout win against Michigan State and next week’s matchup against archrival Ohio State, the Wolverines traveled on the road to take on a dangerous seven-win Indiana team, who has given Michigan many close calls in recent history.
Indiana came out swinging and early in the second quarter, with the score tied at 14, it seemed as though it was going to be another dogfight. However, 14 points was all Indiana could score as the defense settled down and didn’t allow a single point the rest of the way.
The offense, led by Shea Patterson and the talented receiving core, torched Indiana through the air for 25 unanswered points and help Michigan record their 24th straight win against the Hoosiers.
Fresh off last week’s career day, Patterson turned in another stellar performance. He completed 20-32 passes for 366 yards and five touchdowns, three of which were to Nico Collins (six receptions, 165 yards, three TD). Donovan Peoples-Jones also turned in a great performance with 73 yards and one touchdown on five catches, including a highlight-reel diving catch falling backwards into the endzone. Ronnie Bell notched his first touchdown catch of the season to go along with 616 receiving yards on the season.
Indiana, ranked 14th in the nation in passing offense, started the game with the ball and aggressively aired it out. A couple of chunk completions and a pass interference call on Michigan’s Lavert Hill moved Indiana down to the Michigan 15-yard line. The Hoosiers kept it on the ground five plays in a row and running back Stevie Scott jumped over the pile from one yard out on 3rd-and-goal to make it 7-0 Indiana early.
Michigan generated an immediate response by establishing their passing game, kick started by a 50-yard completion on a wheel route to speedy back Giles Jackson. The big play setup Michigan with a 1st-and-goal at the Indiana seven-yard line. Two plays later, Patterson hit Bell in the corner of the endzone to tie the score 7-7.
Hill was called for another penalty, this time defensive holding. It helped Indiana move down the field again. Fortunately for the Wolverines, a Ramsey interception stalled out the drive. Carlo Kemp and Aidan Hutchinson both hit the arm of Ramsey and Daxton Hill was able to secure the catch for an interception.
On the ensuing drive, Michigan was forced to punt after five plays, a sack, and an intentional grounding penalty.
The Hoosiers received good field position at their 48-yard line, after a short 31-yard punt from Will Hart. Indiana put the strong field position to good use, going 52 yards on seven plays, capped off by a QB sneak from Ramsey to take a 14-7 lead.
The Wolverines again responded with another touchdown from an unbelievable catch made People-Jones. On 3rd-and-9 from the Indiana 11-yard line, Patterson dropped back and placed a beautiful ball up in the air for Peoples-Jones, who made a diving catch backwards over the Hoosier defender. It was one of the best catches of the season, displaying the athleticism Michigan has in its receiving group.
The Wolverines defense stiffened up to force three consecutive three-and-outs. \Nico Collins used his size and strength to catch his first touchdown of the game off a 24-yard fade. Michigan had the ball with another opportunity to tack on points towards the end of the half, but a lack of urgency and a couple questionable runs in Indiana’s territory ended the half with the score 21-14 in favor of the Wolverines.
Michigan received the ball to start the second half and came out of the locker room aggressive. Patterson hit Peoples-Jones for a 41-yard completion on a go-route. Hassan Haskins converted a 4th-and-1 to move the Wolverines down to Indiana’s own 14. Michigan was unable to earn another first down, and instead settled for a 27-yard field goal from Quinn Nordin to make it 24-14 Wolverines.
The Hoosiers were able to drive down into Michigan territory to the 32-yard line on their next possession. Set up with 4th-and-1, Indiana did convert, but a holding penalty set up a 4th-and-11 and forced the Hoosiers to punt. Two plays later, Patterson connected with Collins on a post route across the middle and Collins outran the safety for 76 yards and a touchdown. Michigan was successful on the two-point conversion as Dylan McCaffrey ran it in to make it 32-14 Wolverines with 5:10 left in the third quarter.
Late in the third quarter, the pressure would again get home to Ramsey. This time the speedster Josh Uche beat the Hoosiers left tackle off the edge, strip sack Ramsey, and recover the fumble.
The Wolverines took over at Indiana’s own 19 and on the next play Patterson connected with Collins on a post route over the middle for a touchdown, making it 39-14.
Entering the fourth quarter, the game was already long decided. After an Indiana turnover on downs deep in Michigan territory and a Patterson interception, the Hoosiers conceded and ran the clock out with eight minutes remaining.
Michigan’s season is truly night and day since the start of the year. The second half against Penn State, back on October 19, resurrected Michigan’s hopes led by offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. They have moved into the modern era of football with screen passes out wide, downfield passing, and many opportunities for the uber-talented Michigan receivers to go up and make plays.
The Wolverine defense is still vulnerable to explosive plays because of Don Brown’s aggressive scheme, but has great playmakers at each position.
Michigan’s late surge sets up a crash course against archrival and undefeated Ohio State. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, this is one of the best Buckeyes teams in recent years and OSU comes into the game having won 16 of the last 19 meetings, including seven in a row. To stay in the game, Michigan’s offense will have to continue to fire on all cylinders.
This rivalry goes way beyond one cold Saturday in late November every year. For Michigan fans, beating Ohio State at 12:00 p.m Saturday in the Big House will be the biggest test of the season.