4 Things We Learned: Michigan 39, Indiana 14

Michigan wasn’t looking past Indiana.

There were rumblings about this being a “trap” game for the Wolverines, because Ohio State awaited next week.

Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson reinforced those ideas after a win at Michigan State, making a comment about the “big one” his team was focused on, which he made clear wasn’t Indiana.

But all the talk and speculation proved worthless. Michigan showed up to play Saturday at Memorial Stadium, especially Patterson. He tied a school record for passing touchdowns in regulation time with five. That number just so happened to tie Jake Rudock’s performance at IU in 2015.

So the Hoosiers’ drought against the Wolverines, which dates back to 1987, only continued this year. IU has lost 24 straight games to the Wolverines.

Defense still has a way to go.

IU’s effort at Penn State showed signs of growth. On first and second downs, the Hoosiers were stout. It was just on third downs where they suffered fractures.

But against Michigan, productive downs for IU’s defense were fewer. An elite quarterback and tall, athletic receivers, like Nico Collins, consistently burned the Hoosiers deep. Blitzes rarely moved Patterson off his spot.

Of course, that’s not out of the ordinary against a talented Michigan team. The Wolverines are averaging 41.5 points per contest in their last four. They put defenses in a bind.

IU just hasn’t reached a point where it can regularly put offenses in similarly fraught positions.

IU coach Tom Allen was even asked after the game if he would like to see a day where the Hoosiers don’t have to send a blitz to create pressure. Of course, he would. But IU just isn’t there yet with its front four.

Whether it’s recruiting, or developing the players currently in the program, the Hoosiers need more of a pass rush in games like this. And while the secondary was in some difficult one-on-one battles, Allen wasn’t giving them a pass, either. Both the front and back ends have to be better.

Patterson produced an average completion of 18.3 yards against the Hoosiers. He was sacked twice and hurried once.

Breaking point with injuries.

It’s obviously hard to play without your leading receiver, Whop Philyor.

It gets that much harder when his initial replacement, Ty Fryfogle, is in and out of the game with injuries.

It gets even more difficult when the Hoosiers’ offset to the passing game, running back Stevie Scott, is banged up.

This is not to say Michigan wouldn’t have won this game if all three players were healthy. The Wolverines’ line was, for the most part, winning at the point of attack. But 14 points is a steep drop from the Hoosiers’ 33-point-per-game average coming in, and it’s hard not to wonder how much those players could have made a difference on critical plays.

And when freshman left tackle Matt Bedford went down on the same play as Scott, it put into perspective how truly depleted the Hoosiers’ offense had become. Already without their starting quarterback out of camp (Michael Penix Jr.), they were also missing their leading receiver (Philyor), top blocker (Coy Cronk), and top rusher (Scott).

This may be a deeper team than in years past, but, at some point, there is a limit to what’s tolerable.

Have they reached that point? The long-term status of Bedford and Scott will factor into that. Philyor’s potential return versus Purdue could be a boost, as well.

Bucket is ideally placed.

Speaking of the Purdue game, it couldn’t come at a better time.

After tough losses to No. 9 Penn State and No. 12 Michigan, the Hoosiers could use a rivalry game to reset their focus heading into the postseason.

Allen and his players said as much. Forget about this one and move on.

What’s next?

Purdue, 12 p.m. Saturday, in West Lafayette

This will be a battle of the No. 1 and No. 2 passing offenses in the Big Ten.

While the Hoosiers are led by an experienced backup, the Boilermakers have had to turn to a former walk-on, Aidan O’Connell, behind center. Purdue is already missing star receiver Rondale Moore.

But the Boilermakers do still have one of the brightest young stars in the Big Ten, freshman receiver David Bell. The Indy native leads the conference in receptions per game (7), ahead of Philyor (6.1).

Bell is only behind the Minnesota duo of Tyler Johnson (1,025) and Rashod Bateman (1,023) in receiving yards (899).

Purdue also has one of the conference’s young defensive stars in freshman defensive end George Karlaftis, who is third in the conference in tackles for loss (17).