BLOOMINGTON — Michigan may not have turned the ball over, but the Wolverines have certainly held themselves back.
In the first half alone, the No. 17 Michigan football team (1-1 Big Ten, 4-1 overall) was called for 11 penalties, totaling 98 yards. While that is already a high figure on its own, the timing of the flags has been even more costly for the Wolverines, who hold a 13-3 lead over Indiana (0-2, 3-2) at the break.
Michigan could have had a touchdown in the first quarter, after fifth-year senior tackle Maurice Hurst blocked a 51-yard field goal attempt and sophomore cornerback Lavert Hill returned it 35 yards to the Hoosiers’ 27-yard line.
But the Wolverines wasted their gifted field position. Junior running back Karan Higdon rushed for a 10-yard gain, but it was negated by a holding penalty. Immediately afterward, the offensive line was called for a false start. Suddenly, Michigan was backed up to Indiana’s 42-yard line.
Though Higdon then rushed for 22 yards on consecutive carries, the Wolverines had to settle for a 38-yard field goal on 4th-and-3 from redshirt freshman kicker Quinn Nordin — his second of the game after Michigan’s offense stalled in the red zone.
Higdon eventually found his way into the end zone, as the most costly penalty of the half went against the Hoosiers. After fifth-year senior quarterback John O’Korn evaded pressure and completed a 17-yard pass on 3rd-and-7 over two defenders, he had to scramble on the next play.
There to meet him was Indiana linebacker Tegray Scales. Scales lowered his helmet and made contact with O’Korn’s head, and though the targeting call was reversed, the late hit penalty moved the Wolverines to the Hoosiers’ 28-yard line.
Higdon took care of the rest with a 16-yard rush up the middle and then a 12-yard touchdown run to the outside to put Michigan up 13-0.
The defense wasn’t immune to the penalty woes, either. Before Hill returned the blocked field goal, he thought he had an interception. But instead, the officials flagged him for defensive pass interference. That launched a sequence of miscues for the Wolverines, who were then called for offsides and an illegal substitution.
And at the end of the half, the defense was called for three penalties on one play alone. The Hoosiers chose to accept the roughing the passer call on Hurst, leading to a 32-yard field goal from kicker Griffin Oakes to put Indiana on the board.