Michigan Wolverines Football: Indiana Snaps 33-Year Streak, 38-21
The streak is over, and Michigan football’s misery might be just beginning.
Indiana (3-0) out-raced the Wolverines (1-2) in a nearly empty Memorial Stadium Saturday, beating U-M for the first time in 33 years, 38-21.
The Hoosiers ran wild on the Michigan defense — make that passed wild. Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw for 342 of Indiana’s 460 total yards, going 30-of-50 passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions. IU added 118 yards on the ground, tailback Stevie Scott III carrying 24 times for 97 yards and a pair of TDs.
Michigan redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Milton actually racked up 344 yards through the air, but desperation added to that total. The Wolverines fell behind 24-7 at the half, and Milton wound up 18-of-34 passing with three TDs but also a pair of crucial interceptions that blunted an attempted rally.
U-M rushed for a grand total of 13 yards on 18 tries, with a long of 11, largely abandoning the run after digging such a hole. The air game took over, with junior wideout Ronnie Bell making six grabs for 149 yards and a touchdown, and sophomore receiver Cornelius Johnson catching four passes for 82 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown reception.
But it was Indiana’s relentless passing game — paced by Ty Fryfogle (seven catches, 142 yards, 1 TD) and Whop Philyor (11 grabs for 79 yards) — that gave the Hoosiers their first win against Michigan since 1987.
“A slow start, playing from behind, having some passes dropped, forcing some things toward the end … all those things contributed,” head coach Jim Harbaugh noted of the loss.
Harbaugh cast it as young players learning to translate solid practice performances into similarly good efforts when the bright lights go on.
He’s still waiting.
“I love coaching these guys,” Harbaugh said. “I love this team. They’re talented, they’re strong, they play hard. Preparation is really good. We’re seeing it in practice, seeing what guys are capable of doing.
“Getting into the games, getting into their game plays — trusting their technique, trusting their fundamentals, trusting their talent, trusting their innate abilities and turning that into game plays — that’s what we’re learning.”
They’re learning the hard way, right now, finding themselves under .500 through three games for the first time in Harbaugh’s tenure. It doesn’t get any easier, with Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State on the schedule in the next five weeks.
For now, the Wolverines go back to the drawing board, while a ranked, undefeated, Indiana team celebrates.
The Hoosiers struck first, Penix picking apart Michigan’s defense with a flood of short tosses on the way to an 11-play, 74-yard touchdown drive to open the scoring. Penix connected on 7 of 9 in the possession, starting with a quick dump to Fryfogle that went for 20 and ending with a 13-yard TD jump ball that Miles Marshall wrestled away from redshirt sophomore cornerback Gemon Green.
Following a pair of three-and-outs, Michigan tied it on a 78-yard march in only four plays. Milton scrambled to find Bell on a 24-yard toss. Indiana safety Jamar Johnson soon gave U-M 15 yards, throwing a post-play punch and getting kicked out of the game.
On the very next snap, Milton counter-punched.
He gunned a 37-yard laser down the middle to Johnson for a touchdown. The deep ball arrived on the money, tying the game at 7-7 with 4:48 left in the opening quarter.
Penix struck right back, guiding the Hoosiers 75 yards in seven plays for the go-ahead TD. He found Fryfogle on a 31-yard bomb over junior cornerback Vince Gray. Three plays later, Fryfogle leapt over Gray in the end zone on a 24-yard scoring strike.
The aerial fireworks were on, the teams combining for only 27 first-quarter rushing yards, but 224 through the air (153 by Indiana).
IU’s Charles Campbell then put the Hoosiers up, 17-7, on a 52-yard field goal with 6:53 remaining in the half. Campbell’s career-long boot arrived after Indiana moved from its own 12 to the U-M 35, aided by a key third-down holding call on the Wolverines secondary.
The Hoosiers tossed in a dagger at the end of the half. Backed to their own 4-yard line, they carved out a 12-play, 96-yard touchdown drive to score with 56 seconds remaining in the half. Again it featured Penix picking apart the Wolverines’ MIA pass defense, including a 35-yard toss to Fryfogel — who established a career high in the first half — and a one-yard TD throw to Peyton Hendershot.
The Hoosiers simply overwhelmed the Wolverines in the opening 30 minutes. In addition to taking a 24-7 lead to the halftime locker room, IU out-gained U-M, 294 yards to 111. Behind a reconfigured offensive line, given the injury absence of both starting tackles, the Wolverines rushed for 15 first-half yards.
“The running game was not real productive,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what led to our not having success.”
Milton struck back aggressively through the air the first time he touched the ball in the second half. He fired back-to-back completions to Bell of 23 and 52 yards, then gunned a 13-yard touchdown toss to freshman wideout Roman Wilson.
Just 5:59 into the second half, the Wolverines trailed, 24-14, showing signs of life.
But Michigan’s defense kept giving the Hoosiers extra chances, like a kind-hearted ring-toss overseer to a struggling 5-year-old.
Indiana’s 75-yard touchdown drive in response appeared stopped just into Michigan territory, but Gray’s pass interference on a ball well behind his entanglement moved the chains. Penix then hit Jacolby Hewitt on a 32-yard strike, and Scott finished it off on a one-yard touchdown run.
“It was definitely penalties,” Harbaugh said of IU’s 50-percent success rate on third downs (9 of 18, compared to Michigan’s 3-for-11 effort). “The offsides contributed to third downs and touchdowns. We helped extend their drives.”
Scott's score made it 31-14 at the 4:39 mark of the third quarter, but Milton was still firing away.
With Bell running all alone down the middle, Milton missed him on a crucial third-and-long. What could have been a touchdown went down as another missed opportunity.
Given another chance, though, Milton moved the Wolverines 64 yards in six plays for a score. He floated a perfect 21-yard TD toss to Bell, who rose up over defenders to haul it in and pull Michigan back within 11, 31-21, just 1:17 into the fourth quarter.
Then came the clincher.
Milton tried going deep again, and Indiana DB Jaylin Williams picked off the pass, racing back 36 yards to the Michigan 29. Indiana bled the clock down to 8:40, cashing in on Scott’s two-yard touchdown plunge to regain complete control, 38-21.
Indiana defensive back Devon Matthews removed all doubt, picking off another deep ball by Milton with 5:05 left.
Harbaugh, meanwhile, sounded more patient than angry in his postgame comments.
“We’re close to doing it,” Harbaugh insisted. “You see it done. You see it happening. We’ve got to take the next step to doing it in the games.”
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