BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The timing seemed right, and even the start was good. But for all that Indiana hoped for on Saturday — a program-defining signature win against No. 12-ranked Michigan for the first time in 32 years — it wasn’t meant to be.
Things fizzled away in many areas for the Hoosiers on Saturday in the 39-14 loss to the Wolverines. The good start — Indiana led 14-7 in the first minute of the second quarter — seemed to come to an abrubt halt in all areas.
Indiana is 7-4 now and back to even in the Big Ten at 4-4. The regular season finale awaits on Saturday at Purdue, with the Old Oaken Bucket at stake.
Here’s how the Hoosiers graded out in my 11th Report Card of the season:
Rushing offense: C-plus
Stevie Scott had 54 yards for the second straight week, this time on just 13 carries for a respectable 4.2-yard average. He got dinged up twice though, and really wasn’t himself. The running game was a non-factor those last three quarters.
The offensive line played a role as well. They were average at best and a few penalties came at the worst possible time. A holding call on an achieved fourth-and-1 run pushed them out of field goal position in the third quarter, and getting points there might have kept Indiana in it. We’re all on injury watch now with Scott, who looked seriously hurt when he left in the fourth quarter.
Passing offense: B-minus
I’ll give Peyton Ramsey props for at least one thing — he’s one tough son of a gun. He took a huge shot to the ribs on Indiana’s second drive and got the wind knocked out of him. But he came right back into the game the next series and led Indiana on a second touchdown drive.
Those two scores in the first three possessions were nice, but the offense pretty much dried up after that. He threw for 84 yards in that first quarter-plus, but only 133 yards the rest of the game with no touchdown passes. It hurt not having Whop Philyor available, and Ty Fryfogle got beat up in this game, too, and missed several plays. Tight end Peyton Hendershot had a nice game, with six catches for 62 yards.
Rush defense: B-plus
Indiana did a good job against the run, allowing only 87 yards rushing for a 3.0-yard-per-carry average. They also did a great job in keeping quarterback Shea Patterson contained in the pocket. He didn’t have any big plays with his feet.
But with his arm ...
Pass defense: D-minus
Indiana’s secondary had its worst game of the season by far, getting torched constantly by Patterson, who threw for 366 yards and five touchdowns. As bad as that sounds, it looked even worse.
Patterson deserves a lot of credit for being deadly accurate, and he was. Michigan has three big receivers all 6-foot-2 to 6-4, and they can run, too. The got a step on Indiana defenders often and Patterson hit them in stride. And he high-pointed a few throws in the end zone that the Hoosiers’ shorter corners couldn’t do anything about. The pass rush wasn’t there, either. Michigan’s line is much improved, and they gave Patterson a pretty clean pocket all day long.
Special teams: B
Not much to say here. There were no kick returns, no punt returns, no field goal attempts. Logan Justus made both extra point tries and Hayden Whitehead had five punts for a 47.2 average.
Can I give the referees and F though for letting Michigan score a touchdown on a kickoff return, even thos return man Giles Jackson WAS LYING ON THE GROUND after a tackle and then got up and kept running anyway? How do a half-dozen guys not see that on the field. Thank God for replay on that one.
Oh, and one other thing. Why does Indiana fair catch every kickoff return? Davis Ellis is an explosive guy. Give him a chance.
Indiana’s aggressive defensive plan bit them in the backside on Saturday. And when they couldn’t get to the quarterback, their corners out on an island in one-on-one coverage couldn’t step up. Execution probably played better role, but scheme was an issue, too,
And what about the offense? That was the first time all year it really went silent on us, at least since the Ohio State game. Indiana scored touchdowns on two of its first three possessions, but then was shut out the rest of the way. I kept expecting a lot of crossing routes against this Michigan defense, but didn’t see many. Anyone who watched the Ohio State film from a year ago knows they can’t defend them.
The crowd of 43,671 for a huge Big Ten game like this is really disappointing to me. I know it’s November and it was cold — and rainy all morning — but it’s embarrassing that a school like Indiana can’t get better support.
I’m not going to rail too hard, because Indiana has to rely on tens or thousands of fans to walk up to get a sellout, because the season ticket fan base is so small. So I’ll let Saturday slide, but I really hope season ticket sales for 2020 grow astronomically. This Indiana team is fun to watch. And there is no better gameday experience than college football, with the tailgating and all. I sure hope it’s better next year.