After the loss at Penn State no one knew what to expect against Indiana. The good news is the Wolverine offense showed out—breaking Michigan and B1G Ten records. The bad news is they needed that offense to compensate for a defense that didn’t show up until late in the 4th quarter.
But at the end of the day Devin Gardner racked up 584 yards of offense—503 yards passing and five touchdowns leading to Michigan’s 63-47 victory over the Hoosiers. Not since Rich Rod’s 2010 team’s 67-65 multiple overtime victory over Illinois has a Big House witnessed such an absence of defense.
“We won the football game, that’s the only thing I care about,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. That brings to mind two thoughts: 1) Bouncing back after Penn State was a psychological challenge. I replayed the Penn State game repeatedly in my mind all week. I can imagine what it was like for the team, which needed to get past it and focus on Saturday’s game. 2) Hoke is right; you have to put things in perspective. The main goal on Saturday is to win the game. They did that.
Now about the defense, or “what defense?” as Michigan haters are saying. Indiana’s offense is for real—11th in the nation, and tied with Michigan ironically. If they had a defense they would Oregon minus the hideous Nike uniform factor. True, the Hoosiers only put up 28 on Michigan State, but Michigan State’s overall defense is 4th in the nation. So their posing a challenge to our defense is not surprising. However, how much of a challenge they posed is disturbing
Once again, Michigan had turnovers—two in the second half, in the form of fumbles that gave the Hoosiers an opportunity to win in the Big House for the first time since 1967—the year of Super Bowl I.
Indiana quarterback, Tre Roberson, ran for a 15-yard score that pulled the Hoosiers within two points early in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing possession Gardner fumbled on the Indiana 2 yard line. Then the IU QB took himself out of the game because of a hand cramp. The back-up QB gave the ball back on an interception that was thrown well short of the intended receiver who had gotten past the Wolverine secondary—again.
That was Thomas Gordon’s first of two interceptions in the fourth quarter. The other one was at the Wolverines 6 with 2:57 left, helping the Wolverine’s avoid a second straight upset.
“We were frustrated because we were giving up so many points, so we knew we needed to make a couple plays,” Gordon said. “The offense and defense are supposed to be picking each other up, and we hadn’t done that all night until the end.” Cynics have to ask how much a part did the Hoosier quarterback going out the game with a hand cramp have to do with all of that? The bottom line is we will never know and it doesn’t matter any more than any of the things that led to Michigan’s demise at Penn State matter now.
Still, while the Wolverine faithful try to focus on the great offensive performance, the fact is Indiana’s defense is 113th in the country. So the elephants remain in the room: what happens in November when you start out in East Lansing and end with Ohio State in Ann Arbor, after having to deal with Iowa and Northwestern on the road, and Nebraska at home. The defense we saw on Saturday will never do. Neither will an offense that turns the ball over. No interceptions this time, but two costly fumbles—and a game that could have been put away in the 3rd quarter went down to the wire.
Well here’s the reality. November’s games, like September’s and October’s games will have to be played one game at a time—end of story. The Michigan team is responsible for game day performance. The Michigan faithful is responsible for being faithful. So believe—and Hail!
Dr. Billi Gordon
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