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IU football film study: How Ty Fryfogle won multiple ways in the first half against Michigan

The Indiana offense has a the potential to establish the run and beat teams on the ground with the combination of Stevie Scott and Sampson James. But through three games, the team has relied on the arm of Michael Penix Jr. and the hands of receivers like Whop Philyor and Ty Fryfogle, and it’s worked, as the undefeated, tenth-ranked Hoosiers are averaging 37 points per game. 

On Saturday, Indiana came out guns blazing, with offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan almost completely abandoning the run and letting Penix Jr. chuck it around the yard to the tune of 254 first-half passing yards and three passing touchdowns. Fryfogle, in particular shined in that first half, racking up seven catches for 154 yards and a score. Here’s how “TyFry” was able to beat every coverage thrown at him.

1st & 10 at IU 26

(13:20 – 1st) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Ty Fryfogle for 20 yds to the Ind 46 for a 1ST down


Sheridan did a great job of utilizing motion in this game, and he sets the tone early here by sending Fryfogle across the field. As Penix works through his progressions, he knows Fryfogle is sitting in the flat. Penix sees that nothing is there, so he turns and lobs it to Fryfogle, who then does a great job picking up yards after the catch.

The former three-star receiver isn’t known for his YAC (yards after catch) ability, but against Michigan he showed that he is not easy to bring down, even if he lacks the top-level speed and shiftiness of someone like Philyor.

2nd & 6 at MICH 25

(9:35 – 1st) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Ty Fryfogle for 7 yds to the Mich 18 for a 1ST down


As Indiana approaches the red zone, Fryfogle lines up in the slot and Sheridan dials up a timely mesh concept. Because Michigan is in zone, Fryfogle and Peyton Hendershot both run shallow crossers, Scott comes out of the backfield, and Matt Bjorson runs a ten-yard curl.

With all the chaos of these short routes on one side, an opening in the zone is created and Penix Jr. finds it, hitting Fryfogle for an easy first down. Nick Sheridan put together his most complete gameplan against respected Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown, and it is concepts like this one that kept the IU offense in rhythm.

2nd & 10 at IU 38

(3:33 – 1st) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Ty Fryfogle for 31 yds to the Mich 31 for a 1ST down


Indiana’s early success had the Michigan defense flummoxed. Don Brown’s young unit was jumping offsides, getting “Mossed” by the Hoosier receivers, and looked completely lost. Brown alternated between man and zone, trying to find something that worked. But as we see here, Fryfogle gets single-coverage, and he makes Brown pay for the call.

Vincent Gray is a talented corner for Michigan, but Ty simply abused him in this first half. Penix gets him on an island, delivers a perfect ball, and Fryfogle makes an incredible, juggling catch with one hand (as the other was being held). It’s a great play, a great throw, and a reminder to opposing defensive coordinators who want to cover Fryfogle one-on-one.

3rd & 3 at MICH 24

(1:41 – 1st) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Ty Fryfogle for 24 yds for a TD


A large part of Michigan’s first half defensive woes were due to a lack of discipline from the defensive front, which continued to be baited offsides by Penix’s hard count and clapping. Here Indiana gets another free play, and once again, Michigan is in a single-high safety look with man coverage, which was their base look on this drive.

Yet again, Fryfogle gets a nice release off of the line on Michigan’s Vincent Gray, and despite pretty good coverage from Gray, Penix Jr. knows he has a free play due to the offsides and he knows he has Fryfogle one on one against Gray. He throws a laser where only Fryfogle can get it, and despite great coverage, Ty is able to pull it in for a touchdown.

2nd & 7 at IU 15

(10:08 – 2nd) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Ty Fryfogle for 16 yds to the Ind 31 for a 1ST down


This play is a relatively easy pitch and catch for Penix and Fryfogle, but it is a great example of Penix’s patience in the pocket, and Nick Sheridan’s timely play calling. On the right side, Philyor runs a five-yard buttonhook to pull in the zone linebacker. With the defensive backs wary of the long ball, Fryfogle runs a ten-yard dig route right behind Philyor and is wide open for an easy first down conversion.

Penix waits in the pocket, even as it collapses around him, and right as Ty makes his break, Penix makes the throw, and while it isn’t difficult, it is one that both he and his counterpart Joe Milton for Michigan missed several times in this game. Its another example of a zone-beater that forces Brown to make man coverage calls, which leads to plays like the next one.

1st & 10 at IU 38

(3:26 – 2nd) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Ty Fryfogle for 35 yds to the Mich 27 for a 1ST down


Michigan is back in man coverage, which means poor Vincent Gray is one-on-one with Fryfogle again. He’s not on an island anymore, but Sheridan dials up a deep out route that sends TyFry to the boundary. Penix delivers another accurate ball and once again, Fryfogle shows some YAC ability.

One thing should be made clear: Ty shouldn’t have this much separation here. He doesn’t have a lot of room, and while Gray didn’t have a great game, that was because of Fryfogle’s play. Getting this kind of separation on a simple deep out is so impressive, and he did this all game long.

2nd & 10 at MICH 14

(1:49 – 2nd) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Ty Fryfogle for 9 yds to the Mich 5


On Fryfogle’s final catch of the half (and the game), he runs the same shallow cross route he did on his second catch. Sheridan likes this mesh concept against zone, and for good reason, it is extremely effective. It works almost exactly the same, with Fryfogle coming across the field and finding the open space in the zone. Penix finds him, and he falls forward near the first down marker.

Of his seven catches, this was Ty’s first that wasn’t a touchdown or first down. That speaks to his route running and his underrated big play ability.  Fryfogle knew the vertical passing game would be a big part of IU’s attack.

“We knew we were going to have to come out and throw the deep balls because [Michigan] plays mostly man,” Fryfogle said after the game. “You have to just make plays against man, there’s no other formula to it.”

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