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Michigan transfer Zach Carpenter on watching Indiana’s sideline: “The team was just electric”

Michigan center Zach Carpenter was watching from the opposing sideline as Indiana safety Devon Matthews intercepted Wolverines’ quarterback Joe Milton with just over five minutes remaining and IU up 38-21.  It was a 3rd and 25 desperation heave by Milton, and when Matthews stepped in front of the pass and snared it at the Indiana 10 yard line, it was game over.

The now famous ensuing celebration involving Matthews and Tom Allen on the Indiana sideline left the IU junior safety tackled to the ground and the fourth year coach with an abrasion on his cheek.

Both player and coach were fine, and the celebration was only just beginning for IU as the Hoosiers claimed their first victory over Michigan since 1987.

Carpenter had been to Bloomington before.  Indiana was a school he seriously considered as an option when the coveted recruit out of Moeller High School in Cincinnati was looking for a college.  Like a lot of recruits, although he ultimately chose Michigan, coach Allen and the culture at IU left an indelible mark on Carpenter.

As it turned out, Indiana’s greatest recruiting impression made on Carpenter was yet to come.  And it came via an entirely organic moment on the football field at Memorial Stadium in November.

Carpenter had been on the sidelines for some big wins at Michigan the year prior as a true freshman in 2019, including when the Wolverines defeated Iowa, Notre Dame and Michigan State.  But what he saw that sunny afternoon in Bloomington was on another level.  And when Carpenter decided to put his name in the transfer portal a month later, his mind returned to that day.

“It had a huge impact, sitting on the other sideline you can look over and the team was just electric,” Carpenter said.

And at that very moment when it became apparent Indiana would defeat Michigan and end a generation of anguish in the series, Carpenter saw first hand that the culture Allen told him about as a recruit was something more than just a sales pitch.  And something more than he had seen in Ann Arbor.

“I remember coach Allen, he was giving the kid (Matthews) a hug and he fell down.” Carpenter said.  “Just stuff like that I had never experienced before.  Being back in Bloomington it reminded me of how much I liked it the first go round.”

Carpenter played on special teams against Indiana and eventually earned some starts for the Wolverines in 2020.  But the fit wasn’t right.  Ready to turn the page, Carpenter announced his commitment to Indiana on New Year’s Eve and enrolled in school and started training with the team.  Now on campus with IU for a couple months, he hasn’t been disappointed in his journey to the other sideline.

“It has been everything and more (than he expected),” Carpenter said.  “This place is special. The culture here is unreal. The players have all been welcoming. I’ve never felt uncomfortable or anything like that. They have been here, taking me in, helping me out in any way they can. The coaching staff here is great. They really care about their players and they want the best for them.”

BLOOMINGTON, IN – MARCH 11, 2021 – offensive lineman Zach Carpenter #50 of the Indiana Hoosiers during practice at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, IN. Photo by Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics

Indiana was just getting warmed up after that 38-21 win over Carpenter and Michigan.  Wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin would follow, and the Hoosiers would enter the top ten in the national rankings.  As transferring crept more and more into his mind, IU’s success on the field and entry into the national conversation continued to do all of the heavy lifting recruiting work.

“Throughout the season you saw Indiana football was big, all over, national coverage,” Carpenter said.  “Really put them in my mind for where I wanted to go.  There were a couple schools I had in mind, but Indiana was always one.”

Soon after he committed, Carpenter told The Daily Hoosier that he chose Indiana because it was the most genuine place.  That was an impression he had as a high school recruit, and it was cemented in his mind while watching  the Indiana sideline from across the field.

“I think it had a huge impact on making sure this was the right decision,” Carpenter said.

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