Saturday night, the Wolverines took a first step towards making those declarations count. Under the lights at a chilly Michigan Stadium, Michigan (8-1 overall, 5-1 Big Ten), rebounded in stride, besting Indiana (2-7, 0-6), 29-7.
“I thought our offense, special teams (and) defense really came into this game with a good place, a good mindset,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “A lot of energy. I thought they played the whole 60 minutes that way.”
Throughout the week, Michigan preached a “make someone pay” mentality, emphasizing a desire to exact some form of revenge for last Saturday’s loss. This time, redshirt sophomore edge rusher David Ojabo said, “it just happened to be Indiana” standing in the way.
“Moving on from the past, we were just so ready to take the field today,” senior tight end Luke Schoonmaker said. “We were happy with this one.”
It took most of the first quarter, though, for the Wolverines to find their footing. Michigan’s offense languished through the first 15 minutes, perhaps hampered by the absences of two key players. Junior tight end Erick All, the team’s leading receiver, missed the contest with an injury he suffered in the waning minutes of last week’s game; meanwhile, sophomore running back Blake Corum limped off late in the first quarter and never returned, though Harbaugh doesn’t expect the injury to be serious.
The Wolverines still jumped in front early, managing a field goal to close out the first quarter. But that score came on somewhat of a sour note, with all-too familiar red zone struggles plaguing a once-promising drive.
In short order, the offense found its first spark: senior running back Hassan Haskins.
Early in the second quarter, a strip-sack from Ojabo set Michigan’s offense up at Indiana’s 24-yard-line. From there, Haskins merely took care of business.
He rumbled downfield on a 20-yard gain off a check down pass, a play highlighted by yet another one of his trademark hurdles. Then, two plays later, he plunged into the endzone on a 2-yard run.
On the ensuing possession, after the Wolverines’ defense surrendered a 75-yard touchdown drive, Haskins quickly flipped the momentum back in Michigan’s favor. He ripped off a 62-yard run, setting the stage for a 12-yard play-action touchdown pass to Schoonmaker, giving the Wolverines a 10-point halftime advantage.
“He runs so hard, and we don’t expect anything else from him,” Schoonmaker said of Haskins, who finished with 27 carries and 168 rushing yards. “He’s consistent and just a powerhorse. We’re lucky to have him.”
With Corum sidelined, running backs coach Mike Hart told Haskins to “get ready” for what was bound to be a “long battle.”
“I try not to let all the pressure get to me,” Haskins said. “Keep it level-headed, calm and just do what I do best, which is play football.”
Yet, despite Haskins’ best efforts, the offensive momentum stalled after halftime.
Injuries continued to play a factor, piling up on the offensive end. A pair of wide receivers — freshman Andrel Anthony and sophomore A.J. Henning — made trips to the medical tent. Most notably, junior quarterback Cade McNamara, fresh off a career-best performance against Michigan State, missed one drive due to an apparent injury.
With McNamara out, freshman quarterback J.J. McCarthy marshalled the Wolverines 62 yards for a field goal. Later, when McNamara returned, he engineered another field goal-ending drive, giving Michigan a 23-7 lead late in the third quarter.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Wolverines at last put a feisty, upset-minded Hoosiers team to bed. McNamara delivered a 50-yard strike to junior receiver Cornelius Johnson, who shook his defender on a double move; two plays later, Schoonmaker reeled in his second touchdown catch of the game, giving Michigan a healthy 22-point lead.
And, unlike last week, it proved to be one they wouldn’t relinquish.
“As a team, we preach brotherhood, so no matter what happens in the past week, we just know we got each other’s backs,” Ojabo said. “Any time we step onto the field, it’s a great feeling. Obviously, we came out with a win, so an even better feeling. But it’s onto the next. We can’t dwell on the past or the present.”