Defense/Special Teams Notes: Michigan's Secondary Torched Once Again
The story of the Michigan Wolverines' football loss to Michigan State last week was the struggles of the secondary, after the Maize and Blue yielded 323 passing yards to the Spartans.
Those deficiencies reared their ugly head once again during Saturday's 38-21 setback at Indiana, with the Hoosiers racking up 342 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
U-M's cornerback duo — redshirt sophomores Gemon Green and Vincent Gray — struggled mightily once again, particularly in the first half. Indiana redshirt sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. racked up 254 yards and threw all three of his scoring tosses in the game's first two quarters.
One positive, perhaps, for the Michigan secondary was that the group tightened up after halftime, allowing Penix to register only 88 passing yards in the second half. U-M had trouble containing IU senior receiver Ty Fryfogle, in particular, who finished with 142 yards and a touchdown on seven grabs.
Michigan's defensive backs yielded explosive plays for a second straight week as well, allowing five different Hoosiers to reel in at least one reception of 16 yards or more. The longest pass play they gave up was a 35-yard reception to Fryfogle.
One other positive surrounding Michigan's defensive backs was that they recorded four pass breakups, with each of the four starters tallying one — Green, Gray, sophomore safety Daxton Hill and senior safety Brad Hawkins.
Sophomore defensive tackle Christopher Hinton recorded a pass breakup as well.
“It’s about playing the ball better [when it's in the air]," Hill explained after the game. "We had many opportunities to get off the field on third downs. We need to fix penalties and play the ball a lot better, because we’re in great position every time.
"Playing the ball better is the next step.”
Brad Robbins' Punting Performance One Of The Highlights Of The Afternoon For Michigan
Fifth-year senior Will Hart began the year as Michigan's No. 1 punter, but he was replaced last week by redshirt junior Brad Robbins, who has seemingly seized the opportunity.
Robbins handled the entirety of Michigan's punting duties at Indiana, booting seven punts for an average of 53.6 yards. Four of his seven attempts went 50 yards or longer, with four also landing inside IU's 20-yard line.
IU returned just one of the kicks for a paltry five yards.
The highlight of Robbins' afternoon occurred in the second quarter, when he registered a career-long 66-yard punt. Robbins also delivered a 65-yard punt in the same quarter, marking the two longest boots of his collegiate tenure.
It was a quiet day for the rest of the U-M special teams, with fifth-year senior kicker Quinn Nordin never attempting a field goal. He did, however, succeed on all three of his extra-point attempts.
Sophomore wideout Giles Jackson, meanwhile, averaged seven yards on two punt returns and 20 yards on three kicks brought back.
Miscellaneous Michigan Football Notes
• Michigan's loss dropped its all-time record against Indiana to 59-10. The setback also snapped the Wolverines' 24-game winning streak in the series, marking IU's first triumph since a 14-10 win in 1987.
• Redshirt sophomore linebackers Cameron McGrone and Michael Barrett each started after departing last week's loss to Michigan State with injury. The former finished with seven tackles and the latter with a career-best 11 stops.
• The 460 yards the Maize and Blue allowed were the most they had given up in a game since surrendering 480 to Alabama in last season's Citrus Bowl loss.
• Green posted one pass breakup against the Hoosiers, after entering the weekend with a Big Ten-best five already on the year.
• Hawkins, senior defensive end Kwity Paye and redshirt sophomore defensive end Taylor Upshaw registered Michigan's three tackles for loss on the day (one each).
• The 342 passing yards Michigan surrendered were the most it had yielded in a game since Ohio State threw for 396 on Nov. 24, 2018.
• The Wolverines' rush defense limited Indiana to 118 yards and only 3.1 yards per carry.
• Nordin connected on all three of his extra points, moving him into 12th place on Michigan's all-time scoring list with 237 points. Three more points will elevate him into a tie for 11th place, which is currently held by running back Chris Perry (2000-03).
• Indiana had been converting only 26 percent of its third downs entering the weekend, which was 13th in the Big Ten. It was successful on nine of its 18 tries (50 percent) on Saturday.
• Junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson departed with injury and did not return to the game.
• Hawkins led the team in tackles with a career-high 12. It was the third time he had ever racked up at least 10 stops in an outing.
• Michigan failed to record a sack for the second straight game.
• U-M did not force a turnover for a second consecutive clash. This marks the first time the Wolverines' defense has not recorded a takeaway in back-to-back same-season contests since facing Michigan State and Minnesota on Oct. 17 and Oct. 31, 2015, respectively.
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