Michigan Football: The Soul of The Indiana Game

BLOOMINGTON, IN - OCTOBER 14: Karan Higdon #22 of the Michigan Wolverines runs for a touchdown during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, IN - OCTOBER 14: Karan Higdon #22 of the Michigan Wolverines runs for a touchdown during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Pretty or not, Michigan football got back in the win column against Indiana, and at the end of the day, that’s something to be happy about.

It’s been almost exactly 30 years since Indiana has beaten Michigan. Twenty-one straight games going into the Saturday. What’s more the Wolverines had won 36 of 37 going into that game. And we fans thought we had it bad in the recent stretch against Michigan State and Ohio State.

Related Story: Is Michigan stuck with O'Korn?

In order to break this spell and win big games like this your best players often have to come up big. Indiana’s young quarterback took all the abuse the Michigan defense could dish out.

Maurice Hurst landed on him several times, getting a penalty for it once. David Long hit him on a surprise corner blitz which sent him from the game. But he would be back later—with a new brace on his leg.

Sammie Cobbs Jr., their best offensive player, twice made big plays that were within a whisker of being legit. But one failure to establish position inbounds on a would-be 62-yard reception in which Brandon Watson knocked him out of bounds; and an onside kick recovery that wasn’t because he barely bobbled the ball while going out of bounds in the almost exact same place as the earlier catch kept him just short of fate on this 22nd straight loss to Michigan.

Luke Timian had a big day catching the ball. J-Shun Harris almost broke a punt return late in the game, stopped just in time by Josh Metellus.

This is how it goes when you extend these huge losing streaks: you have times where you get close to breaking it, but just barely end up short. Kinda like what Michigan is going through with its rivals at the moment.

Before this off-season allowed us to build of the hype around the Wolverines—about Brandon Peters and the defense and Tarik Black and Ty Isaac—I had vowed  to leave my Maize colored glasses in the drawer where they await special occasions. This was going to be a down year. We were going to let this team quietly develop, probably lose at least three or four games and be ready to make a move next year. Then the spring game came along and all that stuff was out the window.

This has been an odd year. First we blamed Speight for all the woes, and then we saw why the coaches chose Speight over John O’Korn. I saw one pass from Peters in a game; the way he floated that pass out in the left flat scared me to death. That and the thing Harbaugh already said to the media about Peters needing to take control in the huddle and assert his personality backs up all my faith in the coaching staff that was proven when we finally did get to see O’Korn for steady playing time. This team is a work in progress, especially at the quarterback position. This “Death Star” is not operational yet.

But there were good signs on Saturday. The offensive line looked much improved with the addition of Juwann Bushell-Beaty at right tackle and/or the subtraction of Nolan Ulizio. They seem to have put their inside zone stuff on hold for the moment, in favor of the power running game, which has been a staple of what Harbaugh and Drevno have run forever.

Does that mean Frey has fallen from favor? Not so fast. I think what it means is that the coaching staff has decided they need to simplify the play-calling for the rest of this season and play to the strength of the players they have and not some mythical group of players who do not exist here. At least not in their final form yet.

My Maize colored glasses are back in my drawer—where they belong—for the rest of this year. I hope Michigan wins every game and I expect it will do everything it can to win all the winnable ones. It is important to have a good bowl game and keep momentum with recruits. But the Wolverines aren’t world beaters yet.

Michigan had a team record 16 penalties yesterday. In the heat of the moment this can feel like the refs “jobbing us.”  After watching the game twice I don’t think that’s it. I think the players were a little bit too jacked up. I think they were trying a little too hard to access their inner fire in the belly.

Brock Huard (ABC color man on the game) had an interesting anecdote: He said he was walking around the team before gametime and heard coaches exhorting them with words like “We don’t lose two games at Michigan.” We wanted to see a fire, the coaches wanted to see a fire. The offensive line and Karan Higdon, bless his heart, dug deep and pulled another Indiana win out for their team on a tough day.

Also, Allison Williams (ABC sideline reporter for this game) got an actual halftime interview from Harbaugh on TV. When was the last time you saw that happen?

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This team is a little bit “off-schedule” right now. The chaotic upset in the fanbase has affected them over this past week. They feel our pain, I guarantee it. Maybe it’s time we give them some unconditional love. What do you think? The kind of unconditional love that brings miracles. Like the lyrics in this song from one of my favorite old-time musicals, Carousel:

What’s the use of wond’ring
If he’s good or if he’s bad,
Or if you like the way he wears his hat?
Oh, what’s the use of wond’ring
If he’s good or if he’s bad?
He’s your feller and you love him,
That’s all there is to that.