Bloomington, Ind. — It certainly wasn’t always pretty, but Michigan found a way to survive Indiana.
The Wolverines needed two overtimes and relied on quarterback Jake Rudock, who threw six touchdowns, and consecutive big plays by defensive back Delano Hill, including the pass breakup on fourth down to end the game, to lift Michigan to a 48-41 victory at Indiana on Saturday.
Michigan is now 17-1 at Memorial Stadium but was dangerously close to its first loss here since 1987. The Wolverines are 8-2, 5-1 in the Big Ten, with remaining games at Penn State and the regular-season finale against Ohio State at home. Indiana is 4-6 and 0-6.
“It’s like that Clint Eastwood movie, ‘The Good, The bad, (and) the Ugly,' there was some of all of it today,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Our guys found a way to win, as good a win as you’ll ever have.”
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, whose team has yet to win a game in the Big Ten this season, said his team played hard in the loss.
“We’re not a bad team,” Wilson said. “But we’re not good enough, because the real stat is we’re 0-1 this week. And we need to get 1-0 next week. It ain’t about stats and running — it just wasn’t enough.”
Jake Rudock had six TD passes against Indiana, a single-game Michigan record.
Rudock was 32-of-46 for 440 yards and a school-record six touchdowns — no Michigan quarterback has had more than four in a game — and an interception. The graduate transfer has thrown for 777 yards the last two games. Jehu Chesson tied a program record with four touchdown receptions, tying Derrick Alexander, who had four against Minnesota in 1992. He had 207 yards receiving, and Jake Butt and Amara Darboh each accounted for a touchdown reception. Darboh scored on a 25-yard pass for the final score of the game.
UM coach Jim Harbaugh discusses the win in two overtimes against the Hoosiers.
And while Michigan’s defense struggled to stop Indiana the whole game, it was Hill’s two plays at the end that preserved the victory. Hill tackled Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld at the 2-yard line, saving a touchdown, and then on the final fourth-down play, Sudfeld threw to Mitchell Paige at the end zone, but Hill broke up the pass.
“I was trying to keep my eyes on my man,” Hill said. “As he looked for the ball, I looked, and I seen the ball was coming, and I had to try to get it out. I was happy. I knew we won the game.”
Harbaugh said he knew Hill would be targeted.
“Saw the quarterback look over to his slot and he had what he wanted, he had the matchup he wanted on Delano Hill,” Harbaugh said. “He looked back at it and knew that’s where he was going. Delano really contested it the whole way. It looked like he was going to slap it away. Really happy for Delano Hill and all of us.”
This game was billed as strength vs. strength. Michigan entered with the Big Ten’s top-rated defense, also ranked No. 2 nationally, while Indiana leads the league in total offense. Indiana was efficient offensively, but the Wolverines not only struggled on defense, they had 13 penalties, allowed a special teams score, and a poor snap led to a missed a field goal.
Indiana carved Michigan’s defense, which was without nose tackle Ryan Glasgow, who was injured in the Rutgers game a week earlier and is expected to be lost for the rest of the season, Harbaugh said after the game. Glasgow’s absence was profound, and Michigan moved Henry Poggi and Tom Strobel to the defensive side against Indiana for extra bodies.
Hoosiers tailback Jordan Howard gauged a Michigan defense that entered the game ranked third nationally against the run, allowing an average 80.6 yards. But Howard rushed for 238 yards on 35 carries, and had two touchdowns. His first score gave Indiana a 34-27 lead with 2:52 left in regulation. Indiana ran all eight plays of the drive, and Howard scored on a 24-yard run.
Howard also scored Indiana’s only touchdown in overtime.
“We’re beat up, we’re getting tired, we’re running low on manpower in spots, and it showed,” Harbaugh said. “We played like it at times. There were blocks, we must have liked them so much we weren’t getting off them, and that showed up a lot in the game. Find a way, find one stop, (defensive coordinator D.J.) coach Durkin kept saying that, and we found it.
“It looked like we were playing like we were undermanned. We were tired. It was over 100 (actually 89) plays offensively. We’re going to have to suck it up.”
Rudock’s poise, in spite of the one interception, kept Michigan alive. He had two critical third-down runs in the first half and finished with 64 of Michigan’s 141 rushing yards.
After starting two seasons at Iowa, Rudock transferred to Michigan, and clearly took until the Rutgers game before he looked as though he had settled into the offense. Rudock, who was knocked out of the Minnesota game two weeks ago late in the third quarter, has thrown for career-bests the last two games.
“Jake doesn’t play the way he does, we don’t have a chance,” Harbaugh said. “I still go back to that one — he is unflappable. He just does not flinch, does not matter what the situation is. He talks, he gives feedback, he’s exactly the same all the time. He’s got ice water in his veins.”