Plagued by injuries, hosting the fourth-ranked team in the country and fresh off a miserable loss to Nebraska, Indiana was primed to be embarrassed on homecoming day against Michigan — until it didn’t.
The Hoosiers were down several key players — most notably their best player, senior linebacker Cam Jones. He suffered a long-term foot injury against Nebraska, dealing a fatal blow to Indiana’s defense. However, that didn’t stop the defense from playing its best.
Still, the Hoosiers didn’t look so good on the opening drive, and it seemed like a long afternoon was underway. Michigan junior running back Blake Corum broke off a 50-yard run and eventually scored. It looked like the Wolverines were on their way to touchdown after touchdown.
But credit should be given where it’s due. Indiana’s defense was outstanding the rest of the first half and most of the game.
While it ultimately allowed 31 points, the Hoosier defense kept the game within reach. The stats may not show it, but this was the best Indiana’s defense has played all season.
It’s the other side of the ball that prevented Indiana from pulling off the unthinkable: the offense. The Hoosiers struggled to move the ball, especially in the second half, showing flashbacks of Indiana’s 2021 team.
It was all too familiar — a defense that carried its team as best they could while a lackluster offense did little to help.
However, a few parts of the offense played relatively well. Junior quarterback Connor Bazelak threw for 203 yards with a touchdown and an interception, making only a few errors. Freshman running back Jaylin Lucas made several explosive plays out of the backfield.
But it’s hard to gain yards and score when no one blocks the defense. And just when Indiana needed it most, the offensive line presented its worst performance of the season.
Bazelak was sacked seven — yes, seven — times by the Wolverines, with four additional quarterback hurries allowed. Michigan finished with a total of 10 tackles for loss.
It’s truly impressive the game stayed as close as it did for as long as it did, especially considering the caliber of this Michigan team. The Hoosiers kept the score within two touchdowns until three minutes remained. So, what went wrong?
Simply put, the offense disappeared in the second half. Indiana totaled 29 yards in the half, including negative 12 yards in the fourth quarter. Yes, you read that right. Negative.
Looking at the game as a whole, there are a lot of positives for Indiana to take from it. The Hoosiers showed heart, grit and the ability to compete with one of the nation’s best teams.
But the major concern with the offensive line is so glaring that it single-handedly overshadows the positives. Combined with a few other issues, such as team health, missed tackles and a still-absent run game, it makes it difficult to see how Indiana could’ve won today or how it will do so in the future.
Changes are necessary if Indiana wants to improve moving forward. Whether those decisions will be made is uncertain.