Sunday, November 15, 2015


Find the target, hit the target.  Precision Rudock passing leads to a banner day for Chesson.  (Photo by Bryan Fuller)
Popular history books, or at least a certain genre of them, make a living on people who survive seemingly insurmountable odds and survive to recount the story.  There's a logic to this that makes sense.  The old nautical saying "Dead men tell no tales" applies.  We don't know how well someone fought, even unto death, unless someone else can emerge on the other side to tell the circumstances.

In three of Michigan's last four games, the ending has been in doubt up to and including the final play.  The Michigan State game, well, you know.  The goal line stand in Minnesota.  But the double whammy of the game tying touchdown (see photo above) where Jake Rudock found Jehu Chesson for a fourth time hitting paydirt (and then Kenny Allen slipped an extra point through after another bad long snap.  Because, you know, maybe that play where the long snapper got bowled over and it wasn't called has had a lingering effect on the Michigan season more than we could have expected.)  One more quick kickoff and Michigan was off to overtime against #TEAMCHAOS.

One of the hardest parts about being a head football coach, on any level I suppose, but certainly a Power 5 head coach or an NFL head coach, is knowing that you are going to make choices that will not work and thus will be second guessed.  After an opening overtime played at the student section end where IU gashed Michigan's depleted and exhausted defensive line with run play after run play and UAB transfer Jordan Howard leaped in to the end zone (after a replay that showed Michigan had actually stopped Howard short of the goal line on third down.)  Michigan then went two plays, a quick run then a Jake Butt 21 yard TD forced the second overtime.  Michigan then realized that they held air superiority and dropped a beautiful 25 yard dime into a bucket to Amara Darboh to put Michigan up and force Indiana to match the touchdown.

It did not look too reassuring when Jordan Howard broke for 17 on the first play down to the Michigan 8, forcing goal to go.  But, Michigan has been great with their backs against the wall this year.  Howard went for 3 on first down, then no gain on second.  Now facing 3rd and goal to go from the five, Indiana set up and  Michigan smartly called a late timeout.  Indiana showed pass, then, given a chance to think about it, got Sudfeld scramble to the two and one last play.  Then Indiana called timeout to think about it and outsmarted themselves.  Discounting a punt and a field goal attempt, Indiana had called 20 consecutive run plays for 159 yards, two touchdowns, and a field goal.  It was working.  So yes, Durkin and the Michigan defense were probably expecting run, but they never sold out to buy into it.  Delano Hill stuck on his man, fought him tooth and nail, broke up the pass, and Michigan survived 48-41 and walked out of Bloomington with their 20 game winning streak against Indiana intact.

Kevin Wilson had to know people would ask questions about why he chose, with the game on the line, to abandon the run that had been working so well.  He had in his mind, more than likely, a belief that Michigan would not be expecting a tendency breaker at that exact moment.  This is entirely fair.  If it had worked, it would have been seen as a particularly keen bit of gamesmanship.  But Indiana now stares at having dropped six conference games, five of which they were close or ahead at the third quarter break.

Michigan, on the other hand, is now 8-2, still in the hunt for the Big Ten East championship, still facing a tough matchup with a stout Penn State defense in Happy Valley next week, but able to tell the tale of survival.  They got out of Bloomington with a win, even when that win seemed highly improbable at best.  Good teams find a way to win games they shouldn't.  Michigan's a good team this year.  Whether good can be upgraded to any higher superlative will be figured out over the course of the remaining three (possibly four, fingers crossed) games.  But for now, sing to the colors that float in the light.

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