Michigan has typically responded to losses well during the Jim Harbaugh era. That was not the case whatsoever on Saturday against No. 13 Indiana.
The No. 23 Wolverines went into Bloomington and were completely outclassed by the Hoosiers in a 38-21 loss. It marked Michigan’s first loss to Indiana since 1987, and it was very clear early on who the better team was.
Indiana controlled play in the first half, out-gaining Michigan by 183 yards en route to a 24-7 halftime lead. In the process, Michael Penix picked apart the overmatched Michigan secondary — just like Michigan State did in its upset win over the Wolverines last week. Plenty of that success came on free plays, too.
Michigan defenders were continually fooled by hard counts and jumped offsides five times in the first half alone. On four of those plays, Indiana completed balls downfield. Two of them went for touchdowns. First, Penix hit Miles Marshall for a 13-yard score to put IU up 7-0.
Later in the first quarter, Penix connected with Ty Fryfogle for a 24-yard score to give IU a 14-7 lead.
Michigan’s offense mustered only 111 yards of offense in the first half, but was able to make things mildly interesting in the second half. The Wolverines twice cut Indiana’s lead to 10 points on Joe Milton touchdown passes, but that was as close as they would get.
After Milton found Ronnie Bell to make it 31-21 with 13:43 remaining, the defense finally forced a three-and-out and put the offense back on the field. That’s when disaster struck. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Milton, making just his third career start, threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by Jaylin Williams and returned deep into Michigan territory.
That turnover set up another Indiana touchdown and put things out of reach for the Wolverines.
Things looking bleak for Michigan
Michigan had been 9-5 after a loss during the Harbaugh era, but four of those were bowl defeats that followed losses to Ohio State in the final week of the regular season. Typically Harbaugh has been able to get his team to respond positively to adversity. This time around, Michigan cowered to a superior opponent.
This loss was different — just like the loss to Michigan State last week was different. The loss to Michigan State, a team that lost to Rutgers in its first game and was blown out by Iowa on Saturday, showed that Michigan’s win over Minnesota was a mirage. Saturday’s loss to Indiana showed that Michigan is a program that is on the decline.
Indiana was better in every facet of the game. The Michigan defense was gashed by for nearly 500 yards by the Hoosiers, a team that had 558 yards of offense combined in their first two games of the season.
Michigan entered Saturday’s game averaging more than 200 rushing yards per game. On Saturday, UM finished the day with 13 rushing yards on 18 carries. And when you remove the sacks, Michigan running backs had 22 yards on 13 carries. That’s 1.7 yards per try. This is a program that has prided itself on physical play in the trenches. Sure it was without two of its starting offensive linemen, but Michigan’s effort on Saturday was unacceptable.
Now with UM at 1-2 on the year, the questions about Harbaugh and his future will only intensify.
Indiana off to 3-0 start
Indiana’s 3-0 start is one of the early stories of the 2020 season. The Hoosiers are 3-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1988 and could be in for one of their best seasons in program history.
Indiana had a breakthrough in 2019. After 11 consecutive losing seasons, the Hoosiers went 8-5 for the program’s first eight-win season since 1993. With Penix — plus RB Stevie Scott, TE Peyton Hendershot and receivers Whop Philyor and Ty Fryfogle — all back in the fold, Indiana had the looks of a sleeper team in the Big Ten East. In the early going, that has come to fruition.
The Hoosiers opened the season by upsetting Penn State in a wild overtime victory that was sealed with a controversial two-point conversion run by Penix. They followed it up by handling Rutgers without much issue last week on the road. Now Indiana is 3-0 and looks like the top challenger to Ohio State in the Big Ten East.
Tom Allen is an early candidate for Big Ten Coach of the Year, too.
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