Entering its homecoming matchup with No. 4 Michigan, the Indiana defense faced a tough task of stopping junior running back Blake Corum and the rest of the Wolverine rushing attack. The big story before the game even started was the losses of senior linebacker Cam Jones and senior defensive back Jaylin Williams to injury.
“We had some guys out, guys stepped up and played their hearts out,” head coach Tom Allen said postgame. “It’s tough.”
Through its first five games, Indiana’s defense withheld pressure and created chaos for opposing quarterbacks. Despite the good performances in past weeks, against Michigan it was unable to generate any such rush.
However, the Hoosier defense has struggled all season against the run. In the first half on Saturday though, the defense held the Wolverines in check to allow just 10 points.
Without team captain Cam Jones, Indiana relied on other players to step up and make plays. Senior linebacker Aaron Casey was tasked with picking up a large portion of Cam Jones normal duties in the middle of the defense. Casey has been a consistent impact player for the team all season and performed well in Jones’ absence.
“You lose your best player; he is playing at a high level,” Allen said. “It is a big loss missing his presence.”
The third quarter opened with a three and out from Indiana which gave way to a long and efficient Michigan scoring drive. After the strong first half defensively, Indiana was gashed in the passing game as Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy found his man time after time, culminating in a touchdown pass to receiver Cornelius Johnson.
A lack of offense early in the second half allowed Michigan to find its legs. The Wolverines received a good punt return from Henning, who got an extra 15 yards from a penalty when he was hit late out of bounds. Michigan was in striking distance when McCarthy was intercepted by Indiana senior safety Devon Matthews on a tipped pass in the endzone, saving the Hoosiers from surrendering another touchdown. Again, the defense got a short break as the offense went three and out.
As the fourth quarter got underway, the Michigan offense took the field attempting to make it a two-score game. A pair of false start penalties backed up the Wolverine offense, forcing a punt.
As the fourth quarter progressed, injury sidelined two more Indiana defenders — senior cornerback Tiawan Mullen and senior linebacker Bradley Jennings Jr. Taking advantage of the shorthanded Indiana defense, Michigan fed Corum in the fourth quarter as they protected the lead and drained the clock.
With 9:43 to go in the game, McCarthy found his tight end Luke Schoonmaker for a touchdown to put Michigan up 24-10.
“Our kids played hard,” Allen said. “We had a chance to get them to third and longs and had a couple communication mistakes, but I thought our defense fought hard.”