'We've just got to keep going': Indiana hands Michigan its second straight convincing defeat
Bloomington, Ind. — If Michigan reached bottom after losing as three-touchdown favorites to Michigan State last week, the Wolverines managed to find another level of low.
For the second consecutive week in this abbreviated season, Michigan was outplayed and outcoached, and lost decisively, this time at No. 13 Indiana, 38-21, at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Wolverines, ranked No. 23, are now 1-2. Indiana (3-0) had not beaten Michigan since 1987.
The Hoosiers, with their highest ranking since that 1987 season after upsetting Penn State in the opener and beating Rutgers a week ago, thoroughly dismantled Michigan’s defense, as Michael Penix threw for a career-best 342 yards and had three touchdowns.
“It’s not good,” Michigan linebacker Michael Barrett said of the team’s mood after the second loss. “We’re all competitive. No one likes to lose. We just know we have to come out and keep building. We have to keep building on those steps and get better.”
Indiana took advantage of Michigan’s inexperienced corners and also benefited from the loss of Wolverines defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, who left the game early with an apparent right ankle injury. Michigan also lost starting end Kwity Paye to injury late in the third quarter. It was another penalty-riddled performance by the Wolverines, who had eight penalties for 89 yards, including two with IU in third-and-long situations for first downs.
Michigan finished with 357 yards, including 13 rushing, and was 3-of-11 on third down.
Jim Harbaugh, in his sixth season as head coach, reiterated several times during his postgame news conference that this team has talent and the players are still learning.
“I love coaching these guys, I love this team,” Harbaugh said. “They’re talented, they’re strong, they play hard. Preparation is really good. We’re seeing it in practice what guys are capable of doing, then getting into the game and making those game plays, trusting their technique, their fundamentals, their talent, their innate abilities, translate that into the game plays. We’re learning.
“Speed that up as much as possible and feel like we’re gonna get there. We’re playing good teams every week and we have to get there faster. As a coach, you have to live every play with these guys. You know they have it in them. Making that connection to doing it. Trusting themselves, trusting their abilities.”
Indiana built a 31-14 lead with just more than four minutes left in the third quarter, but at the start of the fourth, Michigan’s offense, playing behind a revamped line with both tackles — Ryan Hayes and Jalen Mayfield — out with injury, showed some signs of life.
Michigan pulled to 31-21 on a 21-yard pass from Joe Milton to Ronnie Bell, who led the team with five catches for 132 yards. On the Wolverines’ next possession, quarterback Joe Milton, in his third start, was intercepted by Jaylin Williams, who returned it 36 yards, setting up Indiana’s dagger score. The Hoosiers built a 38-21 lead with 8:40 left on a 2-yard run by Stevie Scott.
The Wolverines reached the IU 35-yard line, but after taking a sack, Milton had his second interception of the game with 5:05 left.
Milton was 18-of-34 for 344 yards. He had touchdown passes to Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson and Bell.
“(He’s) playing his third game, he’s getting a lot put on him playing from behind and having to play those kinds of situations,” Harbaugh said of Milton.
He also got no help from the running game, considered the strength of the offense entering the season. Michigan obviously had to rely on its pass game in catch-up, but finished the game with 13 rushing yards on 18 carries — 0.7 per carry. That includes the three sacks of Milton for 20 yards.
“We started off slow, we started picking it up,” Milton said. “They played a hell of a game defensive-wise. We’ve just got to start fast.”
The Wolverines had significant changes on the offensive line because of the injuries to the starting tackles. Karsen Barnhart filled in at left tackle, and freshman Zak Zinter was inserted at right guard for Andrew Stueber who moved to right tackle. Is that reason enough for a run game that couldn’t get going? Hassan Haskins led the team with 19 yards on six carries.
“The run game we have to make some improvements, no question about it,” Harbaugh said. “The offensive line was very much reshuffled. I thought guys did extremely well. All the things — slow start, playing from behind, having some passes dropped, forcing some things toward the end, all those things (need to be fixed).”
The way Michigan started the game looked a lot like the previous week in the loss to Michigan State. The Hoosiers led 24-7 at halftime and made clear early they had no problem moving the ball in the air against Michigan’s defense with its inexperienced cornerbacks.
Indiana had 294 yards, including 254 passing. Penix was 22-of-32 with touchdowns of 13, 24 and 1 yard. The Hoosiers took the lead first, as MSU did the week before, and Michigan tied the score, but Indiana scored 17 straight points.
The Wolverines got little going on offense the first half and mustered 111 yards, including 15 rushing — that total took a hit when Milton was sacked for a 13-yard loss on their final series of the half. Michigan was 0-of-6 on third down, while IU was an efficient 5-of-8. The Wolverines had four three-and-outs in seven possessions.
Michigan players echoed Harbaugh after the game, saying they will keep working.
“The mood is we’ve got to keep going,” Milton said after the game. “We understand what we did was wrong offensively and defensively. We’ve just got to keep going.”