Notebook: Young secondary gets torched by Chappell and experienced Indiana wideouts

BY RYAN KARTJE
Daily Sports Editor
Published October 2, 2010

BLOOMINGTON — After Michigan’s 42-35 victory over Indiana — a win that yielded the second-most total yards in Michigan’s history — Hoosier quarterback Ben Chappell was exhausted.

And rightfully so. The Big Ten’s passing leader had torched the Wolverines’ secondary for 480 yards on 45-of-64 passing — all three of which were Indiana school records.

But the record-setting performance may say more for the young, struggling Michigan secondary than it does for Chappell.

“They’ve got a fifth-year senior quarterback and some veteran wideouts that did a nice job and made some nice catches,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said after the game. “A few times it was a true freshman getting worked on a little bit. Other than a few times that they went after the rookies, I have to watch the film to see what happened.”

Chappell’s favorite target on Saturday, junior Tandon Doss, played a huge part in harassing the Wolverines’ young corners, grabbing 15 receptions for 221 yards — both career highs. His counterpart on the other side of the field, junior Damarlo Belcher, also had his way, notching 91 yards and a second quarter touchdown that tied the game going into the half.

“They have a lot of young guys in their secondary,” Doss said. “So we exposed them a lot ... Obviously they won, but they left the middle of the field open a lot.”

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez has talked about his young corners’ development, insisting that guys like freshmen Terrence Talbott, Courtney Avery, Cullen Christian and Carvin Johnson would get playing time in Big Ten season.

But many of those young guys struggled on Saturday. So did more established veterans in the secondary like senior James Rogers and sophomore J.T. Floyd, allowing receivers like Doss and Belcher to have too much of a pocket on man-to-man coverage. Then, when the Hoosiers’ wideouts cut across the middle of the field, the Michigan's corners were often too far behind, resulting in an 11-of-19 mark on third downs for Indiana.

"I’m not concerned," secondary coach Tony Gibson said. "It’s a lot easier to fix it when you win. I thought our kids, you know, we didn't have many stops but we came up big when we had to a few times in the second half. We just have a lot of work to do."

THIRD DOWN TROUBLE: It was exactly those late-down conversions that gave Michigan fits all game long.

In addition to finishing 11-of-19 on third downs, the Hoosiers also were 2-of-4 on fourth down, including a late conversion to Darius Willis, which tied the game at 35 with 1:15 left on the clock.

Indiana coach Bill Lynch said that the team had been working a lot on converting third downs, and it’s showed this year. Doss echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“We worked on that a lot,” Doss said. “Every day in practice we’ve been trying to get third-down conversions, especially in the red zone."

Despite the Hoosiers’ extensive practice, Rodriguez said the amount of conversions was unacceptable.

“(There were) way too many,” Rodriguez said. “It was a little bit their execution … and some of it was probably us making some mistakes.”

LATE PENALTY: As quarterback Denard Robinson leapt into the end zone for the Wolverines’ final, game-winning touchdown, not everything on the play had gone as Rodriguez would have hoped.

Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Taylor Lewan — who got his second start in place of junior Mark Huyge — committed a personal foul penalty, which gave the Hoosiers better field position to try to tie the game.

When Lewan ran off the field, Rodriguez chastised him for the potentially costly penalty, but Lewan didn’t see the situation the same way the referees did.

“What happened there was just a miscommunication. Denard scored. I was trying to get over to him. I was stepping over the guy, and he grabbed my foot. They said I was trying to step on him.”