Michigan scored a touchdown on their first possession against Indiana, but by the time halftime rolled around the score was tied at 10-10.
The first half had a very unfortunate occurrence which impacted the Michigan team from an emotional standpoint. Running backs coach Mike Hart had a seizure on the sideline, was taken off the field on a stretcher, and spent the night in a Bloomington hospital. Players on the sideline were visibly distraught, and that type of event is sure to take their mind of the task at hand. Wideout Ronnie Bell called it spooky, J.J. McCarthy called it a shock, but Michigan ended up being able to push through.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh told the team at halftime to win the game for Hart, to play their best half of football of the season, to give it everything they got because it will be needed. The message was received, and the mission was accomplished.
Bell said the team wasn’t like a deer in the headlights at halftime, the team was communicating about what they were seeing and what to correct. Bell said the communication was nuts.
“Everything just started clicking for us,” quarterback J.J. McCarthy said after the game. “We felt like we could move the ball on them the whole game, but in the first half it just wasn’t clicking. We weren’t into a rhythm, and once we got into a rhythm in the second half it was over.”
Michigan played with purpose in the second half on both sides of the ball, inflicting damage on Indiana’s defense and stifling their offense.
Michigan’s offense was 2-of-7 in the first half on third down but improved to 5-of-7 in the second half. McCarthy really picked it up in the second half, he extended drives with his legs and showed the weight of the offense can be put on his shoulders when the running game gets bottled up. McCarthy was 15-of-18 in the second half for 175 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Michigan punted just once in the second half, a reflection of McCarthy’s efficiency and savvy play. McCarthy is showing he can be a game-manager and methodically lead a team down the field to score.
Defensively, the Wolverines were on fire in the second half. The Michigan D had 4 sacks, allowed just 29 yards of total offense, and held the Hoosiers to 1-of-7 on third down. The pass-rush was downright, as Bell would put it, nuts. Even when Michigan wasn’t tallying up sacks, they were pressuring quarterback Connor Bazelak at such a high rate he was just 7-of-18 in the second half after going 18-of-31 in the first half.
Another area where Michigan thoroughly dominated was in time of possession — Michigan had the ball for 21:31 in the second half compared to just 8:29 for Indiana. They were able to wear IU down, outscoring them 21-0 in the second half. By the tail end of the fourth quarter, it was clear the Indiana defense was gassed and running back Blake Corum was able to pick up a string of first downs to churn down the clock. While the first half wasn’t ideal and showed areas in which Michigan must improve before they play undefeated Penn State next Saturday, the second half was encouraging and commendable.
Relentless. Determined. Successful. There are many ways to describe how Michigan played after halftime. Starting strong matters but finishing strong is just as pertinent. The best teams in football have the ability to make adjustments, throwing out parts of the gameplan that aren’t working in favor of something fresh that will do the trick. From an execution and focus standpoint, it was clear Michigan was on a mission.