How has Michigan football survived both games at Indiana under Jim Harbaugh?

Wolverines set to face best Indiana team in decades

Peyton Ramsey #3 of the Indiana Hoosiers tries to avoid the rush of David Long #22 and Brad Robbins #3 of the Michigan Wolverines during the game at Memorial Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Peyton Ramsey #3 of the Indiana Hoosiers tries to avoid the rush of David Long #22 and Brad Robbins #3 of the Michigan Wolverines during the game at Memorial Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Three overtimes, 75 points and two goal line stands: That’s what it took for Michigan football to survive its first two trips to Indiana under Jim Harbaugh.

Bloomington has been a house of horrors for the Wolverines, who have barely survived against bad Indiana teams. So what will happen against perhaps the best Indiana team since 1993?

Michigan has won 23 straight games in the series, dating back to 1988. The Hoosiers have lost 38 of 39 meetings since 1967. But while most of those games were blowouts in Michigan’s favor, Indiana has been on the brink of ending the streak the last several years.

Double overtime win

The greatest scare came during Harbaugh’s first season, when Michigan was ranked No. 14 in the country as it marched into Bloomington. The Wolverines got off to a fast start, scoring touchdowns on three of their first four drives and building a 21-9 lead.

That’s when everything started falling apart.

Michigan allowed a touchdown just before halftime, then another immediately after the break on a punt return. Kenny Allen missed a 42-yard field goal on the next drive, and after Indiana took the lead with a field goal of its own, Jake Rudock threw an interception.

The teams went back and forth throughout the second half until Michigan found itself down seven points with the ball on the one-yard line and 11 seconds remaining. Sione Houma couldn’t punch it in on two tries and Drake Johnson lost four yards to set up fourth down with six seconds left.

Michigan needed a touchdown to extend the game. An offense that thrice couldn’t scored from the one-yard line needed five yards on one play. In that moment, Memorial Stadium must have sounded as loud as the Horseshoe.

But Rudock came through, hitting Jehu Chesson in between two defenders with a pass rusher in his face. Allen drilled a nerve-racking extra point to force overtime.

Michigan allowed a quick touchdown in OT but answered with two touchdowns on three plays to take the lead in double overtime.

The Hoosiers marched easily down inside the five-yard line with a chance to tie the game, but the Wolverines stuffed Jordan Howard and Nate Sudfeld on second and third downs to force an incomplete pass that ended the game.

Even that final play was dramatic, as Mitchell Paige caught the ball but had it dislodged on a big hit by Delano Hill.

There were so many chances for Michigan to lose the game, especially on fourth down at the end of regulation, but somehow, Harbaugh escaped with a win.

Regulation collapse

The 2017 rematch in Bloomington had a much different feel, but an eerily similar ending.

Michigan controlled most of the game, scoring on its first three drives to take a 13-0 lead. Even when the Hoosiers pulled within three points in the second half, Michigan’s defense forced five straight three-and-out punts to maintain control of the game.

Karan Higdon broke free for a 59-yard touchdown run with 10:25 left in the game, giving Michigan a 10-point lead. Two possessions later, Lavert Hill picked off a pass from Peyton Ramsey for what looked to be the game-sealing play.

Karan Higdon #22 of the Michigan Wolverines runs for a touchdown during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

But it was Michigan vs. Indiana in Bloomington, so we should have known better.

Michigan’s offense went three-and-out and Indiana called timeout with 4:19 remaining. The biggest play of the game was J-Shun Harris II returning Brad Robbins’ punt 53 yards to the 20-yard line. Indiana scored less than a minute later to pull within three.

The offense went three-and-out again and gave the ball back to Indiana at its own 30-yard line with 1:05 left on the clock. Ramsey completed passes to Simmie Cobbs Jr., Luke Timian and Cobbs again to get to the 28-yard line. Griffin Oakes hit a 46-yard field goal as time expired to send it into overtime.

Ten-point leads rarely vanish so quickly.

Like in the 2015 meeting, Michigan had no trouble scoring in overtime. Higdon took the first hand-off 25 yards for a touchdown and put the game in the hands of the defense.

Three plays later, Indiana had first and goal inside the two-yard line. A stuffed hand-off, an incomplete pass and a failed quarterback run set up fourth and goal from the four-yard line, and Ramsey was forced to float a pass into a sea of Michigan defenders. It was picked off by Tyree Kinnel to end the game.

Home games

Even the home games against Indiana have been difficult for Michigan under Harbaugh.

In 2016, a Michigan team that had just been upset by Iowa trailed Indiana 10-6 with under five minutes left in the third quarter. The third-ranked Wolverines settled for a 20-10 win.

The Hoosiers took a 17-15 lead into halftime last year before Michigan ultimately took over for good in the third quarter. It was a one-possession game with three minutes remaining before Jake Moody put it out of reach with a 29-yard field goal. Michigan won 31-20 as a 28-point favorite.

This season

None of the Indiana teams that pushed Michigan the last four years finished with winning records, going a combined 22-28. This year’s team will buck that trend.

Tom Allen has his team sitting at 7-3 with two games remaining. The Hoosiers have lost to the best three teams on their schedule -- Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State -- but were competitive in two of those games on the road.

Indiana is playing its best football right now, winning four of its last five games -- the lone defeat being a seven-point loss at Penn State.

Quarterback Peyton Ramsey #12 of the Indiana Hoosiers passes against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 26, 2019 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Getty Images)

The Hoosiers have been dominant at home. Other than a loss to Ohio State, Indiana is 4-0 at Memorial Stadium, beating Eastern Illinois, Connecticut, Rutgers and Northwestern by a combined score of 159-6. Those are bad teams, but Indiana is doing what it’s supposed to against weak opponents.

Indiana’s performance at Penn State last week showed this team is for real. The Hoosiers outgained the Nittany Lions 462-371 in total yardage and likely would have won the game if not for two lost fumbles.

Michigan’s season will ultimately be judged on what happens against Ohio State, but the players should know by now that they can’t overlook Indiana. This edition of the Hoosiers is actually good enough to close the deal, so Michigan had better be ready.

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