ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jeremy Gallon kept trying to say the right things — that the only thing that mattered was that Michigan had beaten Indiana and the Wolverines were now 6-1.
Finally, though, the lessons he’s learned at Michigan slipped for a second.
“No,” he said with a laugh. “I never believed I could do that.”
At the end of Michigan’s wild 63-47 victory, Gallon’s stat line might have been the most ridiculous thing in a box score packed with silliness. He caught 14 passes for a Big Ten-record 369 yards and two touchdowns. He broke Roy Roundtree’s school record midway through the third quarter and had passed Chris Daniel of Purdue’s conference mark before the end of the period.
Yet, with the Wolverines needing a big play in the fourth, Devin Gardner found Gallon wide open for another 26 yards.
“I think they were so focused on stopping Devin Funchess that they kind of forgot about me,” Gallon said. “I don’t really know how to explain it. I was just running my routes and trying to make plays, and Devin kept finding me.”
After moving to wide receiver, Funchess’ combination of size and speed has become a tough matchup for Big Ten defenses, and the Hoosiers did everything they could to take him out of the game. He only caught four passes, but that meant Gallon was open time after time.
“Jeremy is only 5-8,” Gardner said, before correcting himself after a stage-whispered conversation with his diminutive receiver. “Sorry, that’s 5-9. He’s not a big guy, but he has all the skills of a big wide receiver and he plays hard. He’s always working to get open and make blocks.”
Gallon’s day helped Gardner and the team add their names to the record books as well. Gardner set team marks with 503 yards passing and 584 yards of total offense, while he matched the school record with five combined touchdowns. Michigan’s 751 yards of total offense was also a record.
All that came just a week after Michigan’s offensive line was humiliated in a quadruple-overtime loss at Penn State — a performance so bad that Brady Hoke changed both starting guards for the Indiana game. He had to make another move when one of the new starters, Joey Burzynski, left with an leg injury, bringing true freshman Kyle Bosch into the lineup.
It worked, though, as Gardner was only sacked twice on 31 pass attempts.
“I felt like the offensive line protected me so well that I had all the time I needed to read the defense and wait for someone to get open,” he said. “The way they stepped up — the way the whole offense stepped up — shows the kind of leadership we have on this time. We knew we needed to bounce back big after the Penn State game, and we did.”
They needed to recover from the loss in Happy Valley, but they also had to bail out a defense that looked completely lost against Indiana’s high-tempo offense. The Hoosiers scored eight times — six touchdowns and two field goals — and their longest scoring drive lasted a little more than two minutes. They had four drives of at least 70 yards, all lasting fewer than two minutes.
“I know that you need to be able to play defense if you want to win championships,” Hoke said, shaking his head. “The offense was great, but there were too many breakdowns on defense. For the second week in a row, we had balls thrown over our heads and we weren’t able to make the plays. That’s something you have to do.”
Raymon Taylor got beaten badly for an early touchdown pass, then had a easy pick-six bounce off his hands and right to an Indiana receiver, and freshman Channing Stribling struggled again, but it was safety Thomas Gordon who made the two big defensive plays Michigan needed. Gordon intercepted a pair of passes in the fourth quarter, allowing Michigan just enough breathing room to run out the clock.
“We were frustrated about giving so many points, so we needed to make some plays and help out the offense at least a little,” Gordon said. “Indiana has an explosive offense, but we had to do something. Our offense had been carrying us all game, and we had to do our job.”
Gordon said that the defense had prepared for Indiana’s high-speed offense during the week, but found it nearly impossible.
“You try to simulate that tempo in practice, but you don’t have anyone that’s used to playing at that speed, plus you can’t even really get the feel of game speed in practice,” he said. “They just got away from us with their tempo — we weren’t getting our calls made fast enough to be ready.”
The Wolverines now have a bye before playing against Michigan State’s decidedly low-tempo offense in two weeks. Hoke plans on using the extra practice time to make sure Michigan’s defense doesn’t melt down and let the Spartans finally get on an offensive roll.
“We had these three games between byes, and now we’ve got to get ready for the meat of our schedule,” he said. “I just hope this offense shows up in East Lansing with a different defense.”