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Michigan powers through turbulent day in 31-10 win against Indiana

The Wolverines dragged a victory out of one of the most aggressively Big Ten games this season.

Michigan v Indiana Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

While the notion Saturday’s contest between the Michigan Wolverines and the Indiana Hoosiers would be a trap game was certainly tossed around as a possibility, it seemed to be more tongue in cheek than a serious prediction as the week went on.

With the help of a heap of bizarre penalties and questionable offensive playcalling, that notion ended up being a little truer than expected. Despite the chaos, Michigan ultimately kept its record spotless — defeating Indiana, 31-10.

Michigan’s good fortune on its scripted drives continued at the start of Saturday, with a 77-yard barn burner that saw each of the five plays carry a gain of yardage. The crown jewel of the drive came from — who else — Blake Corum, who managed to make no less than four Hoosier defenders miss en route to a 50-yard run that set up the first points of the game.

While their own first drive was less successful, the Hoosiers eventually responded on their second drive. After a pass interference call on 3rd and 1 gave a fresh set of downs, quarterback Connor Bazelak made a pair of back-footed throws to find the end zone and tie the score at 7-7.

Shortly after the following kickoff, a frightening situation developed as run game coordinator Mike Hart collapsed on the field, necessitating a delay of the game as he was tended to by medical personnel. Per Michigan color commentator Jon Jansen, Hart was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.

Understandably, the tone of the day shifted completely following the emergency, and it reflected in the Wolverines’ offensive play. Despite gaining 47 yards in four plays, Michigan was stymied on the far end of the red zone, resulting in a 44-yard field goal from Jake Moody.

Indiana’s answer was marred with controversy; a frankly bizarre sequence of penalties on the Wolverines propelled the Hoosiers down the field, however what looked to be a touchdown pass to take the lead was waived off a late flag for an illegal pick. Indiana would be forced to settle for a field goal, once again evening the score.

From there, the rest of the first half could, at best, be described as an absolute quagmire.

After a back-and-forth of quick drives was capped with a Rod Moore interception, the Wolverines made a drive to the red zone that sputtered to a halt at the Hoosiers’ 8-yard line. Normally, this would’ve been an easy three points for Jake Moody. But Saturday was far from normal.

The resulting drive for Indiana felt like a mirror version of what was just seen — the Hoosiers drove down the field, got within 10 yards of the end zone, and decided to attempt a field goal. This time, it was Mike Morris’ turn to make the points saving play.

This sequence was ultimately the closest either team got to the end zone to close the half, as Michigan was unable to convert a fourth-and-two and the Hoosiers ran out of clock.

Halftime gave the Wolverines time to adjust not just schematically, but emotionally as well. Per FOX’s Jenny Taft, the team was able to speak to Mike Hart from the hospital, and head coach Jim Harbaugh gave his players a new goal — win it for Hart.

The message was heard loud and clear, as on their opening drive of the second half what looked to be a three-and-out from the endzone became a 98-yard march of a drive that was capped with a 29-yard toss to Cornelius Johnson for a touchdown.

After an easy three-and-out was followed up by a sizeable punt return by A.J Henning, it seemed the woes of the first half were behind Michigan.

Indiana had other plans. What would’ve been a pass to take a two score lead was broken up by linebacker Bradley Jennings Jr, and cornerback Devon Matthews grabbed it out of the air to result in a costly first pick of the season for J.J. McCarthy.

Just as they had been against Iowa, the Wolverines’ defense was called on to protect the lead heading into the fourth quarter, and they did just that — stuffing an eight play drive following the interception before forcing a quick three-and-out on the heels of an Eyabi Okie sack on the next Hoosier drive.

With the lead still only at one score however, the offense needed a drive to pad the lead. Enter Luke Schoonmaker.

With a pair of tremendous catches, the senior tight end finally pushed the lead to a comfortable one for Michigan, and from there the game seemed settled. That assumption was confirmed on the next Wolverines’ drive — a 10-play, 60-yard sequence that pushed the margin to three scores.

On the day, J.J. McCarthy completed 28-of-36 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns. Ronnie Bell led the receivers with 11 catches for 124 yards, while Corum had another 100+ yard day on 25 attempts. Defensively, Michael Barrett and Junior Colson tied for the team lead in tackles.

Michigan returns home next week, when it plays Penn State in the annual maize out game.