Bloomington, Ind. — With an absent pass game, Michigan went to the ground and let Karan Higdon carry the day offensively.
But in the end, in the first overtime, Michigan relied on its defense, as it has all season, and Tyree Kinnel intercepted a pass in the end zone to finish the game.
Higdon had three rushing touchdowns, a 12-yarder, a 59-yard untouched run in the fourth quarter and he bumped outside for a 25-yard run on the first play of overtime to help lift Michigan 27-20 on Saturday afternoon before 52,929 at Memorial Stadium.
Quinn Nordin had field goals of 40 and 38 yards in the first half for the Wolverines and has now made 10 straight.
Michigan, ranked 17th after dropping 10 spots following the loss to Michigan State last week, is now 5-1, 2-1 Big Ten. The Wolverines have won 22 straight against Indiana. The Hoosiers last beat the Wolverines in 1987.
"The effort is really there and it was last week,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “There were mistakes made. We just gotta grow from it and get them corrected. We knew what we were in for today. We knew we were in for a football fight. Last time we were down here it went to double overtime. This time it goes to overtime. Indiana has a veteran ballclub and played very well, as they always do.”
John O’Korn made his second start at quarterback for the Wolverines, replacing the injured Wilton Speight, and was 10-of-20 for 58 yards. Michigan ran for 271 yards and Higdon had 25 carries for 200 yards. The Wolverines had 329 yards of offense.
Harbaugh said establishing and relying on the run was the game plan heading into Indiana.
“Yeah, it was going to be more run-heavy,” Harbaugh said. “What we thought we could move the ball and be successful. We wanted to play that kind of a ball game. We ran the isolations, we ran the powers, we ran the counters. We mixed some passes. We weren’t afraid to throw the ball or anything. It’s not that type of thing. It was part of the plan.”
Never part of the plan are penalties, but that stood out for the Wolverines. They had a program-record 16 penalties for 141 yards breaking the previous record of 15 against UCLA in 1981. Michigan had 11 first-half penalties, including three against the defense on one play.
Michigan’s defense, ranked No. 1 nationally, won the game with Kinnel’s interception in the end zone, but after a rough start when Michigan got a pass interference on the first play and IU quarterback Peyton Ramsey rushed for nine yards to the Michigan 3-yard line, Morgan Ellison gained two yards to the UM 1.
Ellison then lost two on the next play when he was hit by Rashan Gary. After an incompletion, Ramsey lost another yard when he was hit by Gary and Noah Furbush and then threw the interception.
“You get that close to the goal line, you really — as crazy as it sounds — it can be very challenging, especially as good as they are in their front,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “They are bringing saw pressure, which is both edges, and really just kind of playing Cover O, man, and just kind of daring you to win the one-on-ones. Weren’t able to win those, unfortunately.”
Gary said the defense wanted to make the play to end the game.
“During that last drive, we’re like, ‘The game’s on us,’” said Gary, who had seven tackles, including a sack. “So you know we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do is play solid defense like we’ve been doing for the past couple games. Everybody had a chip on their shoulder at that point, everybody was hyped up. Everybody was ready to go. Chase (Winovich) got that pressure, I was like, ‘Go get ‘em, Chase, go get ‘em’. He got that pressure, and the QB had nowhere to throw it. Great coverage. It was great getting this win.”
Michigan had some breathing room with about 10 minutes left in the game when Higdon, behind solid blocking, gave Michigan a 20-10 with the 59-yard touchdown run up the middle. Lavert Hill grabbed an interception with just less than six minutes left, and the objective was to burn the clock, but Michigan, again, could not generate any offense.
Freshman punter Brad Robbins was supposed to kick it to the opposite boundary, but instead, J-Shun Harris gave the Hoosiers outstanding field position on a 53-yard return. Indiana went 20 yards in six plays, and Whop Philyor scored on an eight-yard reception with 3:27 left in the game. Suddenly, it was a 20-17 game.
The Hoosiers then made an onside kick that deflected off the hand of Michigan receiver Kekoa Crawford into the hands of IU’s Simmie Cobbs, who kept his left foot inbounds. Officials reviewed the play and determined Cobbs did not have control of the catch while inbounds, giving Michigan the ball with 3:25 left.
“He had a foot inbounds with the ball and he had it controlled,” Allen said. “They didn’t see it that way.”
Michigan could not get a first down and with 1:11 punted.
Indiana used the final 1:05 to drive 42 yards on six plays, including a game-tying 46-yard field goal by Griffin Oakes, making it 20-20.
This was the first of back-to-back road games. Michigan travels to No. 3 Penn State next Saturday for a night game.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Harbaugh said. “We’re very humble about this. We move on to a big game next week, but this was a big game for our team. Mistakes were made, but it’s something we can really grow from.”