Michigan outlasts IU, 31-20

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Sean McKeon caught the pass at the Indiana 2, but didn’t get any farther than that. Just as the Michigan tight end turned to find the end zone, he found a wall instead.

It was in the form of freshman safety Devon Matthews, a physical up-and-comer on the back end of IU’s defense. Matthews rocked McKeon with a tackle, wrapping him to the ground and denying what could’ve been a quick and easy touchdown for the Wolverines mere seconds before halftime.

As he stood, Matthews waved his arms to signal the play had failed. And it had. Without a timeout, the Wolverines scrambled to the line of scrimmage with four seconds remaining in the half and tried to run a play. They couldn’t.

That allowed Indiana to run into the locker room tunnel with a two-point halftime lead and a jolt of momentum at a venue where such boosts have been hard to find.

Indiana knew it needed to play hard, aggressive and tough against a Michigan squad fighting for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Across the first 30 minutes, the Hoosiers authored arguably their best effort to date.

Sustaining that play through the second half, however, was not to be. IU didn’t execute at the same level, while some costly miscues ultimately prevented the Hoosiers from ending its 51-year drought at the Big House in a 31-20 loss to the No. 4 Wolverines.

“We didn’t come out and lay an egg in the second half, by any means,” IU coach Tom Allen said.

No the Hoosiers (5-6, 2-6) didn’t “lay an egg” in the second half. They wrestled with the same hurdle they’ve yet to cross — finishing. During the buildup to this game, IU’s penultimate contest of the regular season, Allen spoke openly about believing this team was equipped to end its skid against Michigan (10-1, 8-0), which has now defeated Indiana in 23 consecutive meetings overall.

Such belief seemed untethered to reality, considering IU’s maddening inconsistency this season. But for a sizable portion of Saturday’s game, the Hoosiers played to Allen’s belief.

The Hoosiers finished with 385 total yards, the most surrendered by the Wolverines top-ranked defense this season. IU’s 190 rushing yards and 195 passing yards were the second-most allowed by Michigan this season.

IU held three first-half leads, including a 17-15 advantage heading into the break, playing an aggressive style of football that, at the very least, gave it a chance.

Indiana and Michigan each averaged 6.9 yards per play across the first two quarters, with the Hoosiers attempting shots downfield and gashing the Wolverines on the ground with the backfield duo of quarterback Peyton Ramsey and running back Stevie Scott.

“That’s kind of the way you have to take down these teams, these highly-ranked teams,” receiver Nick Westbrook said. “You just got to attack them. They always say the best way to beat a shark is to punch it right in the nose. So, you just got to be aggressive and try to get out front from the start. You’ve seen it happen with other teams where they just keep attacking and keep just being really aggressive and that’s how they get it done. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do it tonight.”

The poise and performance that propelled Indiana to its strong first half couldn’t be fully replicated in the second.

Michigan retook the lead for good on its first offensive possession of the second half, going 67 yards in 11 plays and capping the drive on an outside zone run by Karan Higdon that gave the Wolverines a 22-17 advantage.

Then, midway through the period, Indiana was in the process of driving deep into Michigan territory when a series of events knocked the momentum from the Hoosiers’ possession.

A 19-yard run by Scott took IU to the Michigan 29, giving the Hoosiers an opportunity to take yet another shot at the end zone. But after the whistle, right guard Simon Stepaniak shoved defensive lineman Kwity Paye in the back, drawing an unsportsmanlike flag.

The penalty killed the drive and Michigan answered with field goals on its next two possessions to extend its lead to 28-17.

“Simon’s being aggressive,” Allen said. “I didn’t think it was a cheap shot. I just thought he was being physical. We teach our guys to play to the whistle. It was very poor timing. It hurt us, for sure. But I just thought he was being a mean, nasty player. We want our guys to be tough suckers as they play this game. Just was a little bit late, apparently.”

In between the two Michigan field goals, a fake punt call for Marcelino Ball on fourth-and-10 at midfield picked up only three yards.

Allen was trying to stay aggressive. Doing so only took the Hoosiers so far.

“If it’s fourth-and-short, they’re going to be in what we call punt safe, which they leave their defense on the field and you’re not going to have a chance of converting it,” Allen said. “We felt that was our best chance. I felt like we needed to steal a possession throughout the game and that was an opportune time. Obviously didn’t work out, so it doesn’t look like as great of a decision.”

Indiana managed a 36-yard field goal by Logan Justus midway through the fourth quarter to shave its deficit to eight points, but wouldn’t get any closer. Now, the Hoosiers have one more chance to clinch bowl eligibility in next week’s Old Oaken Bucket game against Purdue.

“We came here today and talked about getting No. 6 today and being able to hit a couple milestones with the fact that we haven’t won here in a long, long time and to get bowl eligible,” Allen said. “So we fought for that.”

Indeed, Indiana fought as hard as it had all season. It was aggressive on offense, while subscribing to the bend-don’t break philosophy that worked against Maryland a week earlier. Michigan was forced to settle for three first-half field goals, while Indiana took the shots it needed.

First, IU had to establish a running game, and Ramsey and Scott ran effectively enough to keep Michigan’s aggressive, man-press defense honest.

The backfield duo rushed for chunk gains in the process, particularly on IU’s first scoring drive. A 35-yard off-tackle run by Scott was followed by a 29-yard third-down scramble by Ramsey, whose elusive open-field running set up an easy touchdown for Scott. The IU freshman found an open lane from 13 yards out to give IU an early 7-3 lead.

Meanwhile, Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson overthrew a bunch of balls early, struggling to harness his powerful arm. Eventually, Patterson started connecting on his deep throws, and he hit wide-open tight end Nick Eubanks up the middle on a 41-yard touchdown connection that gave the Wolverines a 15-10 advantage with 4:46 left in the half.

Rather than attempt to kill the clock, Indiana remained aggressive on its next drive. A 41-yard pass from Ramsey to Nick Westbrook pushed IU to the Michigan 8, before Ramsey found the end zone on a seven-yard scoring pass to Ty Fryfogle. The play put Indiana back in front, 17-15 with 1:33 left in the half.

Indiana once again got the stop it needed before the intermission, when Matthews brought down McKeon well short of the end zone. The play sent Allen into a frenzy, as he jumped along the IU sideline celebrating what could be considered IU’s best half of the season.

But one very good half won’t win a Big Ten game in Ann Arbor. Now the Hoosiers have one chance left to extend their season.

“Went toe-to-toe with them and it was a one-possession game in the fourth quarter,” Allen said. “That’s really all you can ask for. You just have to find a way to finish these out. Proud of our kids’ fight.”

23 comments

  1. First game of this season I was proud. Had they played like this earlier in the year they would have already won 6 games. Would be surprised if they don’t beat Purdue, which is tanking.

  2. The story of this game was that one team made adjustments at half and one team failed to adjust to the adjustments. At least we were not embarrassed on national TV.

    Michigan is overrated!

    1. Po, unfortunately that has been the case all year long. At Debord’s age one would think he would’ve figured that out, oh lets say, arounnd 1990. Has to go. I was encouraged at the player’s aggressive attitude. And yes, Step needs to wise up.

  3. Stepaniak did not make the hit mentioned in the summary. However, Stepaniak has been called for unsportsmanlike conduct at least four times this season. He may be good but he has killed good possessions several times. At least 4 and maybe more.

  4. I like to see IU’s players have a little nasty in them. But it has to be smart-nasty, not stupid-nasty. Unsportsmanlike penalties are just stupid.

    In High School, if anyone on our team threw a punch or otherwise delivered a cheep shot after the whistle, regardless of the provocation, he would run the stadium steps, in full pads, while yelling out some mantra, during the entire next practice. Running those steps for the entire two-hour practice without stopping was serious punishment, and if you ever witnessed a teammate doing it, you’d think twice before ever committing an unsportsmanlike penalty.

    1. Indeed, PO, I was saying to myself Stepaniak should be running steps all day Monday. And Allen knows a late hit (more like idiotic shove) when he sees one. Not criticizing players in public is one thing, but sticking up for egregious stupidity is another.

  5. I just think other teams are better at halftime adjustments. The Minny debacle will end up costing us a bowl game. Proud of the effort tonight. I think Michigan would get beat 45-10 by Alabama and would get beat by ND and Clemson as well. Plus, OSU is in UMs head so they may come up short.

  6. When we are playing the underdog and leading at halftime what can we do but say “keep doing what we are doing”. The favorite figures things out and underdogs by their nature just isn’t capable of changing course with what they’ve got.

  7. Valiant effort by Ramsey….but his arm is obviously too weak to get us over the hump. Just not enough big play opportunities. Jump balls and some accurate passes kept a few drives alive, but there is rarely any real zing on his passes.
    Shockingly, we had Michigan on their heels in stretches of the game. Our line blocked exceptionally well. But we just don’t have a qb who can make those one or two big throws to the end zone that can be the true momentum jolts to get a team over the top.

    Moving kickoffs to protect players from injury on returns is all part of making the game safer …I suppose. Then again, with cheap shots and targeting, I’m not sure if you’re really making things much different. What you are doing is taking one of the few shots a true underdog has at winning a game. A great kickoff return could be an equalizer ….One speedster and a couple great blocks and suddenly you’re back in a game.
    Watching our kick return guy take the knee on nearly all kicks become such little reward after holding Michigan to field goals…Sure seems like a cut to the Achilles for the upset gods. Football is being tempered down to a warm sitz bath…The chances for upsets dwindle when you take away the big play potential of kickoffs/kick returns. And when you don’t have a big arm qb, you need some chances in other areas.
    Let’s just make it flag football….Keep in mind, you can still have brutal head targeting in flag football. Taking the kick return specialist almost completely out of the game is just another way to stack the odds for the “favorite” with the most roster depth, power, and overall size.

    1. Cam’s hit wasn’t really a targeting especially if you see it in slo-mo as he didn’t hit the guy in the neck or shoulders and hit him with forearms and his facemask. The officials called it because he was knocked out despite seeing Cam coming in just a few steps. The Detriot paper called it a blindside hit which it wasn’t as the paper was just playing up to UM fans. No wonder the MSM is called fake news as they distort issues even in sport stories.

      H4H, I hope if his knee is healthy, the coaches see that Penix is far better than Ramsey’s arm because throwing 40 yds to complete the passes isn’t arm strength. Penix showed that he gets the passes to the receivers much quicker giving them time to run short routes and have more room to run because DBs and LBs have to drop far deeper than they do with Ramsey. We saw that with the UM game when Ramsey was under 50% and couldn’t get the ball to the receivers. Ramsey played well the first half but struggled the second half. I am impressed with Ramsey courage and determination but his talent isn’t enough to overcome better teams. Hopefully both Hale and Westbrook come back next year to play and have Penix as the QB.

  8. And even with the relatively deep kicks(most being caught right around the goal line by our kick returner), should there have been the one or two surprise occasions when our return guy gambled and brought the ball out for a run at it?
    I understand …it’s a big gamble. But when you don’t have a big arm qb, winning seems to require a bit more risk-taking than the obvious go-for-it on 4th down calls.
    Also very little razzle-dazzle….Kick returns…punt returns…big throws…a trick play….not always running on 1st down. Just don’t see winning as an underdog when you limit the big play opportunities. It’s almost like we’re playing for the “moral victory” …Playing to keep the score close and respectable…and the jobs safe. Playing to “belong” ….Playing for acceptance. IT’S BORING! A LOSS IS A LOSS.
    We live vicariously through our sports teams….It would be nice if once in a blue moon we simply tried everything in the books to win the most beautiful prom date…Get inventive rather than get handsome. Get clever instead of attempting to out-thug the thug…Make the opportunity seem like an opportunity instead of just being satisfied with being on the same dance floor with her……while Michigan once again whisks her away into the lime-lit night. Sweet dreams, boring loser…Sweet dreams.

  9. Just curious…. Where are all of the Brohm is the second coming of Knute Rockne folks now? 5-6 IU vs 5-6 Purdue next week. In Bloomington no less. I give IU a 50/50 chance, if not more.

    1. Purdue pulled off a couple big wins but also had a couple bad losses.

      While Purdue may end up with a better squad there is little daylight between the results posted by Brohm and Allen.

      1. They defeated OSU. That would be “breakthrough” in Tom Allen’s world …even @ Bloomington and in a down year for the Buckeyes.

        v13- You’ve gotta play smarter football than to shove a guy into the field long after a play is dead. Stepaniak killed a great run by Scott. He killed the chances of really keeping pressure on Michigan. Points were erased because of his lack of discipline.
        To take cheap shots(even in retaliation for something missed against a Michigan player on an earlier play) doesn’t show aggressiveness. It only proves a lack of self-control….which proves weakness of character and costliness to our chances. Underdogs win via precision and minimizing the very foolish mistakes. Loose cannons are not precision. Most would see that as typical IU Football…along with the typical shooting ourselves in the foot.
        I think you’re a bit too invested in Allen. I know you really like the man but credibility suffers when you are painting blatant cheap shots and foolish penalties with rose-colored glasses.

  10. Gotta as an underdog with the lead at halftime have in your game plan some wrinkles the opponent has no preparation for. They adjust at halftime for what you just showed them. You have to make some things look different from the 1st half. DeBord gets an F for that in nearly every game he has been at IU. He just doesn’t have that flexibility in him. The timing for those kinds of adjustments to be made was never more perfect than yesterday against Meatchicken. Ongoing lost opportunities. Also I have very little criticism for Simon Stepaniak. He was amped up the whole game. About the only time I’ve seen an attacking, mean aggressiveness out of a IU OLman in 2 seasons. Wish like hell 4-5 others would reach that temperature. That kinda attitude can be directed and worked with for positive results. Will see if Hiller knows how to make that happen. Well coached game by Tom Allen. Can’t say anything close to that about Harbaugh’s offense. Brown’s D is stout and fast.
    POTMFB!!!!!!!!!

  11. Good effort and stretches of excellent play, especially first half. But maintaining/extending high level of play means being creative enough to anticipate opponent’s adjustments and make your own accordingly. We didn’t do that, nor have we done that all season coming out of the half. I appreciate the aggressive attitude of the fake punt and the late hit on Stepaniak, but both were really poor decisions. Fortunately we got the INT to negate the result of the fake punt fiasco.

    Why haven’t we seen that level of effort/execution/focus more consistently? We’d be bowl eligible already. Ramsey looked good/played very well. I am giving him praise because I have criticized him at points – deservedly so I think. But this was one of his best games in his career IMO.

    Play like that at home next week and we should get win #6. But can we produce a similar, high-level performance a second straight week? Our track record says best moderate expectations.

  12. Next Saturday’s I U and Purdue football game will be an important game for both teams, which team wins their sixth game and the answer, whether Brohm is staying at Purdue.

  13. It was good to see IU have the fight to battle #4 UM and not just go along willing to compete with them. There were things teams like UM get away with that others don’t IE egregious holding by OL and DBs. Two issues about Stepaniak’s plays: the push in the back downfield was stupid on his part, the play on the DE wasn’t a punishing hit but Stepaniak just covering up a player that is described as never stopping on plays. Prior to that play, that DE had stepped on Stepaniak’s leg after the play just stomping on it for no reason other than to be intimidating.

    Cam’s play that was called targeting was a BS call that happened only because the UM played went down and stayed down. Rewatching the play and in slowmotion it was clear he didn’t contact the neck or head area of the UM player. He also made a picture purfect hit using his forearms with his facemask in the middle of the player’s chest. I try not to second guess the doctors on the field but it was clear with their treatment they didn’t fear spinal injury as removed the helmet and shoulder pads of Edwards; a no no with any spinal injuries.

    I really like seeing IU players playing like they did as it is tough to put fight into a team and far easier to control the level of fight. One thing IU has been missing over the years is the fight on the field to challenge better opponents. IU has tried to out play teams but not be more physical than those teams.

    The first half was probably the best half of IUFB we have seen in a very long time based on the quality of the opponent. IU did things to UM’ defense other teams haven’t been able to do this year. It is just a shame IU’s offense and defense talent and maturity haven’t meshed up but I think those days are coming in another year or two.

  14. I’m beginning to wonder about the “quality of the opponent”…

    Guess we’ll find out if/when the elite team from the BigTen enters the bowl championship series. If Michigan loses at OSU, the BigTen may not be represented.

    I counted 43 bowls this year…If flies were bowls it would be The Amityville Horror….Sooooo many bowls.
    The Redbox Bowl is actually on the list. You can return your favorite dispensed team in this bowl to any Redbox bowl location at no extra cost to your terrible football program.

  15. OakieHoosier, no one is saying Brohm is the second coming of Rockne. But he did produce a winning season, beat IU and then win a bowl game in his first year as Purdue’s head coach. And this year, his team beat two top-20 ranked teams, Boston College in Boston and OSU. They didn’t just beat OSU, they destroyed OSU. And if you look at his losses this season, you’d notice they were in most of those games to the end. So, in relative terms, when was the last time an IU coach produced such results during their first two seasons? Regardless of who wins next week, Brohm has been successful in his first two seasons at Purdue. The attendance at Purdue’s home games tell you everything you need to know about how Purdue fans regard their football coach. Can we Hoosier fans say the same thing?Give credit where credit is due.

  16. Ramsey deserves credit for playing a good game yesterday, but that does not change the fact that he’s just not good enough to carry IU’s offense to Big Ten victories. He appears to be competent at everything, but not great at anything. He’s a good runner, but not good enough to take over a game. He’s an accurate passer (mostly on short routes) but does not have the arm strength to slice up a defensive backfield. And I’m not sure, but I thought I watched him bail out of the pocket early on several occasions yesterday, suggesting that he’s not anticipating his receivers getting open. But what concerns me most about Ramsey is that he seems very, very cautious! To be fair, that could be a function of how he’s been coached, or the play-calling. But when you play against a superior team, you need to take some risks down field, especially when your offense is past mid field. You need to turn your quarterback loose to make some plays because you’ve got nothing to loose when you’re playing a team like MI at the Big House. If you throw a ball that is intercepted inside the ten yard line, that’s the same, if not better than executing a really good punt.

    Ramsey’s a gutsy, hard-working young man, but I’m just not sure IU will produce a winning season with him as our quarterback.

  17. Coach Allen’s freshmen players show his staff is improving the quality of players on the roster. LB Miller got in for the first time this year and stuck the RB on a 3rd down. McFaddin and Miller are going to be very good or better LBs as they mature. They are already as fast as Scales and Covington were as seniors and I hope they continue to develop over the next few years. Monster came in and with UM ready to score at the end of the half he flew up sticking the player not letting him move forward which ran the clock out. Williams has played this year at corner and done very well for a freshman showing his speed when needing to recover on a receiver. Head has played and taken on roles most freshmen DE can’t do IE cover receivers up the field.

    On offense Taylor has shown he is capable at playing this level of football in the times he has been in. Scott has excelled as a RB and Walker has shown flashes of being a very good B1G RB. Bjorson has played at TE and shown he can play a bigger role in the future.

    The 2019 class has the potential to be even better than the 2018 class which bodes well for the future of IUFB. I am still concerned about getting enough OL and a QB in this class especially if Williams an LB from Andrean and Bell a WR from WC sign. Even with a quality QB coming in IU will still be very thin at QB and if we don’t bring one in IU will be very thin.

Comments are closed.