ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Indiana football faced a daunting task coming out of its bye week, with a road battle against No. 2 Michigan at Michigan Stadium.
The Wolverines (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) are one of the best teams in the country for a reason, and they showed it on Saturday. Indiana (2-4, 0-3) played one of its best quarters of the season to start the game and led 7-0 after the first 15 minutes, but Michigan ran away with it from there. The score got out of hand during the third quarter, and things quickly fell apart for the Hoosiers as UM cruised to a 52-7 win.
IU will try to pick itself up for its homecoming game next week against Rutgers, but this turned into a brutal blowout loss in Ann Arbor.
Here are three reasons why that happened.
IU was unable to keep its bright start going
The Hoosiers played an inspired first quarter Saturday, out-gaining the Wolverines 141 to 17. IU was moving the ball well, and really could have been up by two scores. Tayven Jackson’s interception in the red zone on the second drive of the game was a huge missed opportunity, and the game would’ve looked a lot different with points there. IU got on the board soon enough, though, on a trick play touchdown pass from Donaven McCulley to Jaylin Lucas, and managed to hold the 7-0 lead through the end of the quarter.
But it didn’t last. The Wolverines flipped the game around in the second quarter, began to win those battles it lost in the first quarter, and Indiana started playing undisciplined football. Indiana extended Michigan drives with missed tackles, penalties, and mental errors. And Michigan capitalized on the mistakes. Offensively, IU completely stalled out in the second quarter, with just 25 yards from scrimmage. UM tied the game early in the second quarter, then took the lead late in the quarter, and Indiana’s unraveling increased exponentially as the quarter went on.
Michigan dominated up front
IU won the battles in the trenches in that first quarter. The offensive line held up just enough for the quarterbacks to make plays, and the defensive front was getting home quickly on Michigan’s offensive line. Lanell Carr had a big first quarter with two sacks.
But the Wolverines have one of the best offensive lines in the country, and their defensive front is similarly stout. And they regained control quickly.
Indiana’s defense was still able to generate some pressure, but not to the same extent as the first quarter. Michigan’s offensive line protected long enough to allow J.J. McCarthy to scramble and extend plays, whether by actually running (he finished with 27 rushing yards on 10 attempts, including sacks) or making crafty passes, like his 54-yard touchdown to Colston Loveland in the third quarter. IU missed some opportunities at bigger plays after the first quarter, but the pass pressure and run defense was just not at the same level as it was to start the game.
Indiana’s quarterback carousel proves ineffective
IU, during the bye week preparation for this game, evidently decided to return to a quarterback rotation between Tayven Jackson and Brendan Sorsby.
Jackson played the first two series of the game, and then Brendan Sorsby took over. Both showed some good things in the first quarter — they weren’t perfect, but they at least showed signs of playing capably at the quarterback position. In the first quarter, the two quarterbacks combined to go 8 for 13 for 58 yards with the interception. New offensive coordinator Rod Carey set up both players with quick, easy reads to get the ball out quickly. And Sorsby rushed for 24 yards on four attempts.
The offense’s letdown from there isn’t entirely on the quarterback play, but Jackson and Sorsby certainly didn’t make things any better. After that opening quarter, they combined to go just 5 for 15 on pass attempts for 38 yards, with one more interception. And each gave away a fumble as well — offensive line breakdowns contributed to both, though Sorsby was more at fault on his than Jackson was on his.
But on the whole, the quarterback play has to be seen as a disappointment Saturday. After Indiana’s offense started so promisingly, neither Jackson nor Sorsby — who alternated drives for most of the second half — could regain the early mojo.
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