If you wondered at times Saturday whether the Michigan football team might suffer its second straight upset loss, you can be forgiven. The Wolverines came out leaving something to be desired on offense, and the result was an unexpectedly close 20-10 escape from Indiana.
But they did escape, and they are now just one more win from a Big Ten Championship Game appearance. That one more win is a tall order, but before we get to that, the Daily broke down the good, the bad and the ugly from Michigan’s win over Indiana.
The Michigan defense was near its best Saturday, bailing out an offense that struggled most of the game to put together long drives. The Wolverines posted a whopping 12 tackles for loss, including three sacks, and broke up eight of Indiana’s 30 passes.
They once again fell victim to the big play at times, but those times were few and far between. Lagow completed a 31-yard pass to Luke Timian in the second quarter to set up the Hoosiers’ lone touchdown, and a 37-yard pass to Nick Westbrook set up their third-quarter field goal. Otherwise, Michigan was once again stellar.
By giving up just 10 points and 255 yards, the Wolverines remained the nation’s No. 1 scoring and total defense. They also gave up just 64 yards on the ground, a welcome sight after Iowa’s Akrum Wadley gashed them the week prior.
With Ohio State and Mike Weber next on the schedule, Michigan will be looking for a repeat performance, though the Wolverines can expect the degree of difficulty to go up drastically.
Another encouraging sight came on special teams. After a blistering start to the year that had cooled of late, Michigan altered two punts, with freshman Khaleke Hudson blocking one outright. Redshirt sophomore Jabrill Peppers flashed a couple of nifty returns, and while he didn’t bring any to the house, the sheer reps were probably a boost after teams had kicked away from him in weeks past.
Most importantly, though, was the showing out of Kenny Allen. After struggling briefly in the middle of the season, Allen was perfect again, making both of his field goal attempts against the Hoosiers. He also punted the ball six times, averaging 41.2 yards with three over 50. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh says he feels like his team needs to win two of the three phases (offense, defense, special teams) to win a game, and if the special teams unit can match what it did against Indiana, the Wolverines have a chance to beat anyone.
For as tough a position as redshirt junior quarterback John O’Korn was in this week, it’s hard not to be at least somewhat underwhelmed with his performance. With Wilton Speight out, O’Korn started his first game as a Wolverine and, perhaps understandably, looked out of sorts. He scrambled early and often to avoid pressure, a stark departure from the pocket presence Speight displayed.
If O’Korn uses his legs to extend plays, that’s a benefit. If he is too quick to abandon the plays in favor of taking off running (as he seemed to at times on Saturday), it can slow momentum. He made a potentially game-changing run in the third quarter, but outside of that, his scrambles were not especially fruitful.
While it certainly could have been a matter of first-start jitters or bizarre weather conditions, there is little doubt that Michigan needs improved play from the position to beat the Buckeyes. The Wolverines will go in as underdogs, facing a defense that should provide even more pressure than Indiana.
If Speight still can’t play and O’Korn gets the call again, they’ll need him at his very best to have a shot.
Is it even fair to call that weather ugly? While the playing conditions were far from optimal, seeing the players slide through the snow like penguins was purely joyful. And besides, snow football has an unmatched aesthetic.
This newspaper’s overlords set the framework for these stories, but for today, let’s stick it to them. You can consider this section “the beautiful,” and if I get fired, at least I went out praising the merits of snow football.