Last year, I traveled to Ann Arbor with a group of friends to take in the Big House and an Indiana-Michigan game. I didn't have high expectations for the game, as the Hoosiers were coming off a tough loss at East Lansing. However, the Hoosiers stayed in the game until the final minutes, when the Wolverines pulled away to finish with a 63-47 victory. Despite the loss and our defense being unable to do anything, the Hoosiers played hard to the final snap, and the offense had another big day.
Fast-forward to one year. The Hoosiers returned to the Big House to play a Michigan team that has had a particularly rough season. Since the last time the two teams met, the Wolverines had gone 4-10. These four wins came against Northwestern (in 3OT), an Appalachian State team that was nowhere near the level of the one that had pulled off the upset in the Big House in 2007, a Miami-Ohio team with a new head coach, and against Penn State thanks to a few questionable calls from the refs. Coach Brady Hoke has become the subject of much criticism in Ann Arbor, and now that the AD who hired him, Dave Brandon, resigned on Friday, Hoke is even more hot water. By all accounts, this is a lost season in Ann Arbor, and one might think that the Hoosiers could capitalize on this, even with the injuries at the quarterback position.
Unfortunately, it was Indiana that looked lost on Saturday. The Hoosiers lost 34-10, falling to 3-5 on the season, and are the only team in the Big Ten who have yet to win a conference games.
Despite the troubles within Michigan athletics, the Wolverines looked like the team that had something to play for yesterday, and that exciting Hoosier offense from a year ago had all but vanished. Unfortunately, that struggling Hoosier defense from last year's game is also still around. Even though Michigan QB Devin Gardner did not have the ridiculous numbers of the previous game, he still went 22-for-29 with 220 yards passing and two touchdowns. Along with 184 rushing yards, Michigan still put over 400 total yards. Last week against Michigan State, they couldn't even break 200.
And then there was Indiana's offense. Kyle already discussed the frustration with watching the team try to move the ball down the field yesterday, as well as the suspect and disjointed playcalling from Kevin Wilson and OC Kevin Johns. I still think that Wilson should be given another season to figure everything out, and having injuries to three of the quarterbacks on the depth chart and losing two others to transfer doesn't help. However, not only did true freshman QB Zander Diamont continue to look lost, but the attempts at the Wildcat were feeble, while the passing game was basically nonexistent. Tevin Coleman did get over 100 yards again, keeping his streak at 10, but this didn't happen until very late in the fourth quarter. In addition, after a late fourth-quarter touchdown, the Hoosiers did not go for two, essentially conceding the game. Yet they still went for an unsuccessful onside kick on the very next play.
All of this dysfunction and inability to get anything going was even more frustrating because it comes after a bye week. Was Sudfeld's injury that damaging to the program? Are there other issues internally with the team? Or are the coaches have so little confidence with their quarterback options that they're unwilling to try anything with the QBs we have, despite? At this point, it's probably too late for the Hoosiers to get their house in order and make a bowl game. However, with games against Penn State, Rutgers, and Purdue left, perhaps we can see positive signs for the future, and send Coleman off with a few wins before he likely enters the NFL Draft next spring.
One positive to take away, however, is that left tackle Jason Spriggs, who suffered a brutal injury against MSU a couple weeks ago, came back to start in yesterday's game.
The Pivotal Play
Midway through the first quarter, Tevin Coleman fumbled a ball at the Indiana 27. The Wolverines responded by immediately scoring a questionable touchdown off a Gardner pass to make the game 10-0 Wolverines. After the fumble, Coleman did not come back into the game until late in the second quarter. Wilson explained this decision to a BTN reporter at the beginning of the second half that sitting Coleman was about accountability, and it was a team rule, and a chance for him to learn a lesson. Look, I get his point. But yesterday's game was neither the time nor place to be teaching lessons, especially to the only player on the team that is getting national recognition right now. Especially against a team like Michigan that on paper looked beatable and would have been a milestone victory for the Indiana program.
The Game Ball Goes To...
Chase Dutra, who had a nice interception of Devin Gardner late in the second quarter. Unfortunately, the offense could not do anything after Dutra returned the interception for 39 yards to set them up with great field position at the Michigan 12. Dutra had four tackles on the day as well, and is a redshirt freshman from Brownsburg, so one positive to take away is that the young defenders have a chance to improve in the future.
Stat of the Week
Eight. Between Diamont and Nate Boudreau, who came into the game for a short time until getting injured himself, the Hoosiers only attempted eight passes, for a total of 24 yards on five completions. IU has 35 passing yards combined in the past two games
This leads me to the larger point about quarterbacks. A lot of talk on Twitter yesterday was blaming Wilson for why there wasn't a more ready backup to come in for the Hoosiers yesterday. You cannot predict injury though, and not every team, unfortunately, has a J.T. Barrett type backup at the ready to jump right in with the first-team offense. And Indiana certainly isn't the only Division 1 FBS team whose offense has been stifled after an injury to their starter. One comparison may be Oklahoma State, who have had a prolific offense under Mike Gundy that has had rivaled their Big 12 counterparts most years. This year, however, starter J.W. Walsh was hurt early in the season and under Daxx Garman, the Cowboys' offense has sputtered. Not even all of T. Boone Pickens' oil money can fix the issues with the offense in Stillwater. An even more extreme example might be when Oregon looked to be one of the best teams in the country in 2007, until starting QB Dennis Dixon tore his ACL. Afterwards, the Ducks lost three straight to end their regular season at 9-4. Thus, losing a starting quarterback is often a damaging thing for a team, and not always an easy situation to recover from.
Offense: D. Wilson can be culpable for other issues with the offense though. I know Diamont is young and should be redshirting, but there really was no rhyme or reason to the playcalling yesterday. One minute was a conservative run out of an I formation, the next play was a wildcat direct snap. One drive was an attempt at tempo, the next was slowed way down. As Kyle pointed out last night, we still have the first-string offensive coordinator.
Defense: C. Yes, I know they gave up 34 points. However, the effort was an improvement from last year's debacle in the Big House, so I won't knock them too much. However, 34 points is still a lot for a Michigan offense that has been stagnant this year.
Special Teams: D+. Missing a 25-yard field goal is inexcusable for Griffin Oakes, who hit one from 58 earlier this season. The decision to go for one instead of two late in the game was also baffling.
Overall: F. I've been criticized for being too harsh with my grades, but I can't mince words after yesterday. Michigan has been beaten and bruised all season, their coaching has been disorganized, and the AD, prior to his resignation on Friday, had alienated students and donors alike because of his actions and PR mishandlings. Yet despite all the problems, the Wolverines came together and easily came away with a 24-point victory at the Big House, a place where IU still hasn't won since 1967 (and they still haven't won against them at all since 1987).
Song That Best Describes This Game
Had to pick a song by a MICHIGAN MAN this week, and we need to turn the page on this one.
The Hoosiers come home to play Penn State. The Nittany Lions have struggled on offense this season, but the same could have been said about Michigan last week. If there's one thing Indiana seems to do, it's make bad offenses look good.
- Helmet update: the Hoosiers sported the red state flag helmets yesterday.
- We'll close with a Devin Davis update, hot off the presses from the University. He's still at IU hospital in Bloomington, and according to Dr. Larry Rink, "His speech in normal and he has the use of all extremities". This is good news for Davis, and our thoughts are with #15 as he continues his recovery.