Ann Arbor — All the talk in recent weeks has been about Michigan’s offensive woes.
But after a high-scoring, pinball game against up-tempo, pass-happy Indiana, the Wolverines’ defense will now face serious scrutiny.
Unranked Michigan looked like a team that erased all its offensive problems in a 63-47 victory over Indiana on Saturday. Michigan set a school record for total offense with 751 yards.
Indiana, which entered the game as the Big Ten’s most prolific passing offense, had 572 yards, including 410 passing. Three of the Hoosiers’ touchdowns came on big pass plays of 59, 33 and 67 yards.
“A lot of frustration. Sick feeling. That kind of thing,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke, a former defensive line coach, said of his reaction to the Wolverines allowing so many yards and points. “We’ve got to play better. You don’t win championships without playing defense, and we didn’t play very good defense today.”
But the Wolverines played very good offense, bouncing back from a four-overtime loss at Penn State a week ago. They are now 6-1, 2-1 Big Ten with a bye next week. They then will have a tough five-game stretch beginning with a game against rival Michigan State.
But before all that, there was Michigan-Indiana.
And all those yards and all those points.
Quarterback Devin Gardner and receiver Jeremy Gallon had record-setting performances.
Gardner broke former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson’s single-game record of 502 yards total offense with 584 yards. He was 21-of-29 passing for 503 yards and two touchdowns. Gardner accounted for five touchdowns.
Gallon, meanwhile, set a single-game receiving record with 369 yards on 14 receptions. He had both of Michigan’s receiving touchdowns.
Tailback Fitz Toussaint had four rushing touchdowns, including a 27-yarder for the Wolverines’ final score. That touchdown culminated an 83-yard, six-play drive. Toussaint had 32 carries for 151 yards.
“I just feel like we did a good job of rebounding,” Gardner said, referring to the Penn State loss. “It shows the senior leadership and the leadership on this team that after a tough game last week that we could come out and perform and fight like we did and finish the game.”
Indiana plays two quarterbacks. Tre Roberson threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns and Nate Sudfeld had 122 yards and a touchdown. Each threw an interception — both snatched by Thomas Gordon.
The second half was a game within the game. Michigan outscored Indiana, 35-30. More importantly for the Wolverines, they won the fourth quarter, 21-7, in which Gardner had two of his three rushing touchdowns.
And while the defense overall had issues, it came up with significant stops in the fourth quarter. Michigan had a 49-47 lead when it looked like the Hoosiers got its biggest break since the opening of the second half when they converted a Toussaint fumble into a touchdown.
Gardner, at the Indiana 2-yard line, fumbled the snap, and Indiana recovered.
But Michigan got the break back. Roberson left the game with injury, and Sudfeld’s first pass was intercepted by Gordon, who returned it 30 yards to the Indiana 5. On third-and-six, Gardner had a crazy six-yard run that culminated with him flipping into the end zone for the score and a 56-47 lead.
It was Gordon again who put a stop to the Hoosiers on their next drive. Indiana had reached the U-M 30-yard line when Gordon intercepted Roberson with just less than three minutes left. These were Gordon’s first interceptions of the season.
“We knew we needed a couple stops at the end defensively,” Hoke said. “The stops at the end helped complement the offense. The offense kept moving and bailing us out defensively.”
The first half looked a bit more like what the Wolverines have been trying to find offensively, although it started slowly and Michigan briefly trailed 7-0. Michigan ran some spread elements in an effort to move the ball consistently.
What was the biggest difference? Michigan, back home after losing at Penn State a week earlier, its first loss of the season, didn’t turn the ball over.
Facing one of the Big Ten’s worst defenses, Michigan gained 348 yards.
Toussaint, who had 27 rushing yards against the Nittany Lions, had 56 first-half rushing yards, averaging 4.7 yards a carry. He scored two touchdowns in the half.
But the biggest production came from the passing attack.
Gallon had 170 yards on eight catches and a touchdown. He had a 70 yard reception in the first quarter that helped lead Michigan to its second touchdown of the game.
Gardner, who has struggled with turnovers, played an error-free first half. He was 12-of-18 for 237 yards and had the touchdown to Gallon. Gardner, who had eight carries, also scored a rushing touchdown.
Michigan opened the game with its third different offensive line starting lineup with Joey Burzynski starting at left guard and Erik Magnuson at right guard. Burzynksi replaced Chris Bryant, while Magnuson, recruited as a tackle, replaced Kyle Kalis.
But Burzynski was injured early in the first half and freshman Kyle Bosch played the rest of the half. The bottom line, it was Michigan’s best rushing performance of the season, edging the 242 gained in the season opener against Central Michigan, and the seven touchdowns were a season-best.
“It says something about all those guys,” Hoke said of the offensive line.