For two teams that entered the extra period with the same 20 points apiece, IU and No. 17 Michigan couldn’t have looked more different in overtime Saturday.
After furiously rallying to tie the game as regulation expired, the Hoosiers won the coin toss. They chose to defend first, ideally giving themselves the chance to hold Michigan and win the game outright on IU’s first offensive possession.
But like the game itself, Michigan junior running back Karan Higdon slipped out of IU’s grasp on the first play of overtime to score the touchdown that ultimately gave the Wolverines a 27-20 win.
IU still had its own chance to respond to Michigan’s touchdown, but that gut punch of a run left most Hoosiers, including senior linebacker Tegray Scales, dazed and confused.
“I’m like, ‘what happened?’” Scales said. “I thought we had him in the backfield. I still don’t know what happened. I think he ran into somebody or we missed a tackle or something.”
It was actually a combination of the two, but all that really mattered was freshman Peyton Ramsey would have to quarterback IU to its third-straight scoring drive against the top-ranked defense in the country.
After Michigan was called for pass interference – the Wolverines’ 16th penalty of the day – and Ramsey scrambled for nine yards, IU was set up with the ball on the three-yard line.
That’s where the trouble began.
“When you get that close to the goal line, you really — as crazy as it sounds, it can be very challenging,” IU Coach Tom Allen said.
To combat that challenge, Allen and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord first tried to bust in a couple of runs with freshman running back Morgan Ellison. Two carries made for zero yards, though, and so the Hoosiers turned back to Ramsey from there.
Ramsey rolled out left on a second down pass play and appeared to have junior receiver J-Shun Harris open as both ran toward the left pylon, but the throw from Ramsey came too late. An unsuccessful quarterback run brought up fourth down, where Ramsey yet again rolled left but found no one.
The ball was unceremoniously intercepted by Michigan, and IU let yet another upset chance go for naught.
If the entire offensive sequence seemed a bit repetitive, Allen essentially said it was for a reason. The coach said he didn’t want his young quarterback to have to sit in the pocket too long against the Wolverines’ aggressive defense.
“You try to punch it in there with running the football a couple of times, and then take a couple throws to try to move the pocket,” Allen said. “You can't sit back there.”
Ramsey said he had an option to run or throw on the final play, but with the pressure bearing down on him as it had throughout most of the day, he decided to give his receivers a chance at a catch rather than face a guaranteed sack.
It was a potentially demoralizing overtime period for a team that had stormed back from down 10 points with less than four minutes to go. But Allen was anything but demoralized when speaking after the game. The first-year coach was fired up, and said the loss to the Wolverines will only create more resolve for his team.
“Not going to sit here and feel sorry for anybody,” Allen said. “I'll take responsibility for whatever didn't happen. I love these players. Love these coaches. And they fought."
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