If you’ve watched the first few Michigan games this year, you had to expect this was coming at some point. You hoped it would come against Eastern Michigan or Delaware State, giving Michigan a far better chance to overcome it than if it happened against Ohio State or Penn State.
I’m talking about, of course, Michigan’s freshmen quarterbacks playing like freshmen quarterbacks.
It hadn’t happened in the first three weeks, but it happened today against Indiana. Yet Michigan overcame it and still won, in dramatic fashion, 36-33.
Now let’s be clear, Indiana isn’t Penn State. But they’re not Delaware State either. The Hoosiers, 3-0 themselves entering today’s contest, were certainly capable of taking advantage of Tate Forcier’s and Denard Robinson’s mistakes. In a way, they did. But as the score indicates, they didn’t really make Michigan pay.
So when all was said and done, after Forcier led Michigan on the second game-winning touchdown drive of his young career, the Wolverines’ long winning streaks against Indiana were extended. The Hoosiers haven’t won this match-up since 1987 and haven’t won in Ann Arbor since 1967, pre-Bo Schembechler days.
And when Donovan Warren wrestled the ball away from an IU receiver before they hit the ground — at least according to the referees, who reviewed the play and confirmed the suspicious call — to seal the victory, you almost thought Bo might be lending a helping hand from above (or, more likely, screaming at the officials to rule in Michigan’s favor).
Speaking of the legendary coach, today’s win wasn’t exactly 1979, when Bo watched from the sidelines as Michigan’s star wide receiver Anthony Carter hauled in a 45-yard touchdown on the final play of the game to beat the Hoosiers; not nearly as dramatic and certainly not as important.
But it was dramatic and it was important.
A loss would’ve been a bad, bad way to start the Big Ten season. Despite being undefeated, nobody really thought IU was much of a threat (Michigan was a 20-point favorite). Getting upset at home would’ve halted a lot of the momentum Michigan had built up so far this season.
Instead, the Wolverines maintained their positive vibes, coming back from four separate deficits and scoring with 2:29 remaining to go ahead for good. All of this despite a Forcier interception and a Robinson lost fumble.
Robinson made some poor decisions throwing the ball last week against Eastern Michigan, but has been an electrifying runner thus far. Forcier has been better than anyone could’ve anticipated, making smart decisions and never folding in pressure situations.
Today, however, they were both exposed as the freshmen they are, particular Forcier, who tried to flip it to someone wearing blue (not sure who exactly) as he was being tackled. To say the pass was ill-advised would be the understatement of the year. He only completed 11 of 21 passes.
Robinson ran the ball well once again and completed a long pass in the second quarter. However, on Michigan’s next possession he coughed one up into the hands of an IU lineman. At the time it seemed like a real momentum-shifter, as instead of Michigan guaranteeing itself a halftime lead, IU used the great field position to kick a go-ahead field goal.
Here’s the thing, though: Robinson’s fumble, while costly, was the only mistake I noticed from him all game. Forcier, despite the mistakes I’ve already mentioned, still completed more than 50% of his passes, threw for two touchdowns, and ran for another (as well as running in a two-point conversion). Oh, and there’s the game-winning drive I mentioned earlier.
In other words, even though they played more like true freshmen than experienced upperclassmen today, their play was still good enough to get Michigan a win. Credit the Michigan defense for holding Indiana to field goals when touchdowns would’ve likely put the game out of reach. Punts are ideal, but the “bend but don’t break” attitude is always good to see.
Next week, when Michigan travels to East Lansing to take on Michigan State, is going to be a huge test for this young group of Wolverines. Not only is it the first road game of the season, it’s against a rival in what should be a loud stadium.
Freshmen mistakes against the Spartans and I’m not sure Michigan will still be undefeated come next Saturday night.