4 Things We Learned: Michigan 27, Indiana 20, OT
1. Indiana wasn’t sharp enough to beat a ranked team.
Early in the second quarter, with Michigan facing third-and-seven at its own 36, IU’s defense was in position for a third-down stop. The Hoosiers had Wolverines quarterback John O’Korn under pressure, but just when it seemed that they could get to O’Korn and kill the drive, they whiffed. First, it was linebacker Chris Covington who missed the sack, then Tegray Scales similarly fell short. O’Korn responded by slinging the ball downfield for a 17-yard gain. Three plays later, the Wolverines were in the end zone. Indiana missed far too many tackles on Saturday, letting a poor Michigan off the hook. The Hoosiers also had at least a couple opportunities to intercept O’Korn, but failed to deliver. One of the most egregious IU plays of the day came on special teams, when Devonte Williams made the puzzling decision to catch a kickoff along the boundary at the 13-yard line, helping Michigan avoid a flag. In a game where IU’s margin for error was slim, the Hoosiers did themselves few favors.
2. The final goal line series left much to be desired.
For an Indiana offense that got virtually no push up front all afternoon, opting for a pair of runs up the middle with the game on the line was absolutely puzzling. That’s to say nothing about twice asking right-handed quarterback Peyton Ramsey to roll left and throw across his body, including on the final play. Indiana wanted to move the pocket to counteract the downhill pressure coming from Michigan’s defensive front. But Ramsey had already demonstrated that he couldn’t make that throw on second down, when he rolled out and missed an open J-Shun Harris in the end zone. It was a tough throw, but it needed to be made. Ramsey’s toss wasn’t close. After an impressive late-game comeback by the IU offense, losing in head-scratching fashion was another gut punch to a program and fan base that has endured an ungodly amount of them. A real shame, indeed.
3. Griffin Oakes is a bona fide weapon once again.
The senior kicker took another step Saturday toward putting a forgettable 2016 season far in the past. Oakes deserves a ton of credit for the bounce-back season he’s enjoying during his final year of eligibility. The 2015 Big Ten Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year Award winner is now 7-for-8 on the season, his lone miss a result of absent protection leading to a blocked attempt during Saturday’s first half. Not only was his 46-yard shot to force overtime a clutch performance, it was a kick Oakes had to boot into the wind. He did so with aplomb.
4. The season is halfway over and IU still has a good shot at seven wins.
Through six games, the ledger is still in Indiana’s favor. The Hoosiers essentially won the games they needed to get and dropped the contests they were penciled to lose. Even so, seven wins remain realistically within reach for this team, with Maryland, Illinois, Rutgers and Purdue all left on the schedule. The Hoosiers are more or less who we thought they’d be — strong on defense, OK on offense and improved on special teams. With Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan now out of the way, the Hoosiers are now poised for a favorable run during the second half.
WHAT’S NEXT: At No. 18 Michigan State, Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Spartan Stadium, ABC.
The Spartans rode their running attack to a 30-27 win at Minnesota on Saturday night, totaling 245 yards on the ground. Quarterback Brian Lewerke, who had been MSU’s leading rusher entering the weekend, finished with merely nine yards on four carries, while completing only nine of his 18 passes for 120 yards with one interception. Michigan State will be looking for revenge after IU claimed the Old Brass Spittoon for the first time since 2006 in last year’s 24-21 overtime win in Bloomington.