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Indiana 7, Michigan 52: Three things we learned

Were there signs of life?

NCAA Football: Indiana at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Probably the most impressive thing about this Indiana team is its ability to create more questions than answers just about every time it takes the field.

Today, we reopened the quarterback battle and it’s not immediately clear why. It’s also not clear whether it’s Rod Carey or Tom Allen making the decision to alternate quarterbacks.

And of course, the biggest question of all: How much longer will the powers that be tolerate this? Does seeing Jack Tuttle play the entire fourth quarter and throw a touchdown to make it 52-7 move the needle for anyone?

What makes this all more frustrating is the clear talent on the roster and just how hard some of these guys are playing in a failed effort to keep the team afloat.

Omar Cooper went up for a catch, got flipped, and landed head-first for a first down when the game was already out of reach. Aaron Casey came out like his hair was on fire and made J.J. McCarthy uncomfortable for a while in the first half. Both quarterbacks took hits on drives that were never going anywhere.

Will things continue to get worse? Can they? Do I want to know the answer to either of those questions?

Here’s Three Things:

Rod Carey

Since we can’t confirm that Carey was responsible for the decision to revert to using two quarterbacks, I will not fault him for that. That whole fiasco will be addressed below, anyway.

In his first game as “Permanent Offensive Coordinator”, Rod Carey briefly had the Indiana offense looking like a new and improved unit. Tayven Jackson put together a nice drive in the first quarter before an errant pass resulted in a pick, but the designed quick passes were working and clearly giving the young quarterback some confidence.

Then he drew up this trick play in Brendan Sorsby’s first drive that would end up being Indiana’s only touchdown of the game after a replay review wiped out another high-effort play from Omar Cooper.

There were issues with turnovers today, but it looked more like a combination of inexperienced quarterbacks and offensive line play that still leaves a lot to be desired, so I don’t really blame Carey for that either.

It didn’t amount to much today, nor will it likely matter in the context of the season, but to Carey’s credit he did demonstrate an ability to recognize what he has on this roster and stuck to what was working in a way that Walt Bell never really did.

I also really appreciate his willingness to take some of the least desirable jobs, maybe in all of college football in filling in as the line coach after Darren Hiller’s firing then assuming Bell’s roll midseason. You cannot deny that he wants this program to be better.

What is going on with the quarterbacks?

Neither Brendan Sorsby nor Tayven Jackson had their best games today, but this really isn’t about either of them. This team’s struggles have nothing to do with their ability to play quarterback and I’m sure they could win at different programs.

Unfortunately, they both play for Indiana, which continues to demonstrate its fundamental incompetence on a weekly basis. There is absolutely no reason to be alternating quarterbacks in week seven of a college football season.

What young quarterbacks need is experience and consistency, and they’re getting nothing. In less than one full season, they’re already playing for their second offensive coordinator.

Oh, and it was nice to see Donaven McCulley, arguably the most talented quarterback on the roster, throw a touchdown from the wide receiver position. To top it off, we saw a touchdown from Jack Tuttle, another one who got away.

As I type this, Mike Penix is the Heisman favorite in Vegas.

To be fair to both quarterbacks, it’s worth noting that Jackson suffered an injury to his throwing hand at some point in the second half.

Everything Else

If the quarterback disaster was not emblematic enough of how broken this program is, we also got a taste of all of the worst hallmarks of the current era.

When the game was still close in the first half, a facemask penalty wiped off a 37-yard completion to McCulley that would have put Indiana in Michigan’s territory with a chance to tie the game at 14.

On the first play of Michigan’s next possession, Indiana got a roughing the passer penalty that set up another touchdown drive to make it 21-7 at the half. And then the second half happened.

Indiana allowed five consecutive scoring drives. The only Michigan drive in the second half that did not result in points was when Michigan ran out the final six seconds after Indiana turned it over on downs.

These issues are not getting better and until something changes, it’s hard to see Indiana being competitive in any game for the rest of this season.