It wasn’t pretty in the first half but it didn’t need to be, as a second-half rally helped Michigan cruise to a 31-10 victory over Indiana on Saturday to stay undefeated and set up a top-10 showdown in Ann Arbor against Penn State.
Here are three final thoughts from the victory as the page is ready to be turned to the Nittany Lions.
You can’t face much more adversity than the Wolverines faced in the first half
Sure, you could make the argument that there could be other ways that Michigan could face adversity, especially with it reflecting on the scoreboard.
However, in the case of losing a position coach to a medical emergency, that will impact anyone. It has a ripple effect throughout the team. With Mike Hart, fortunately, being OK after collapsing on the field, it was clear that the Wolverines were severely impacted by his loss. You take 17 to 20-year-old kids in a sudden and traumatic situation, it’s going to impact how you operate. You could see on the players’ faces what happened on the sidelines was serious and upsetting.
Having to go on to play football after that is no easy task and credit to the players for seeing it through when it would’ve been understandable if the game came second to the overall health of Hart.
Couple that with an Indiana team that was throwing punches in the first half, and you had a recipe for a team that could drop one on the road. Obviously, health and safety far outweigh sports and that was always going to be on the back of their minds, both players and coaches alike.
The team regrouped and rallied in the second half. I thought it was a good idea to have Hart to speak to the team at halftime over the phone. He is incredibly fortunate to be afforded that opportunity to do so. It appeared that it eased the minds of the players coming out of halftime.
Unlike us spectators who received updates via social media and over the broadcast, these players didn’t know the status of their coach. Which makes the situation all the more frightening for all involved.
A speedy recovery to Hart.
It wasn’t pretty but Michigan’s offensive attack was the most balanced it’s been all year
Blake Corum’s 124-yard rushing performance might not have been pretty at times, but the yards he picked up didn’t come easy with the Hoosiers selling out for the run all game. Couple that with J.J. McCarthy’s 300-yard passing day, the first of his U-M career, and you have a balanced offense that took care of business.
The scoreboard and the box score say one thing, while the look test says another. Yes, the Wolverines had times when yards were hard to come by. But the job was done and a victory on the road is never an easy thing to do.
McCarthy threw his first interception of the year, a tipped pass in the endzone. Really the only blemish of the game considering he was bailed out with Ronnie Bell taking a pick out of the defensive backs hands. He picked up yards with his feet, made smart decisions with the football and made winning plays. Again, you can’t ask for much more than that.
Bell finished with 121 yards, Luke Schoonmaker finished with 67 yards and a touchdown, Cornelius Johnson added 58 yards and two touchdowns and Andrel Anthony added 32 yards of his own against one of the worst passing defenses in the country. The wealth was spread and the offense profited.
Michigan’s second-half defense could be a look into the future
The defensive line came to play on Saturday, securing an eye-watering 7 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. While this may or may not have played into it, the Hoosiers fired its offensive line coach one day after the loss.
The defensive line was fantastic.
If the Wolverines can play as well on all three levels, you’re really looking at a dangerous team. It appears that each week, one group, in particular, will have a good game while another group will not.
This week, it was pretty close and you can make the argument the defense played a complete second half, no doubt. The Wolverines allowed only 19 yards rushing when you consider the sack yardage. On top of that Connor Bazelak threw 49 times and completed 25 passes for 203 yards. A pretty good day by the defensive backs.
In the first half, it certainly looked as if things were coming easy for the Hoosiers. Picking up chunk yardage at a big rate.
Things changed in the second half.
If the second half play is any indication of what the potential of the defense will look like down the stretch, we’re talking about an elite defense.