Indiana takes Michigan to 2OT before falling 48-41
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Jordan Howard put Indiana in position for a signature victory.
The Hoosiers just couldn’t finish it off. Again.
This time, Mitchell Paige bobbled a fourth-down pass at the goal line that would have forced a third overtime and Michigan safety Delano Hill knocked the ball away to help the 15th-ranked Wolverines hold on for a 48-41 victory Saturday.
"We’re not a bad team, but we’re not good enough," coach Kevin Wilson said after the Hoosiers lost their sixth straight overall and for the fourth time during that skid to a top 15 team. "It ain’t about stats and running, it just wasn’t enough."
The Hoosiers (4-6, 0-6) didn’t come up short because of Howard, who tied a career high with 35 carries and plowed right through the nation’s third-stingiest run defense for 238 yards and two scores. He also caught a TD pass.
But with Indiana facing fourth-and-goal from the Michigan 2-yard line, Wilson kept Howard on the bench and quarterback Nate Sudfeld stared down Paige just long enough to let Hill read the play perfectly.
The result: Indiana lost its 20th consecutive game in the series, failed to pull off its biggest upset since 2006 and now needs to win its last two on the road to become bowl eligible.
"It is frustrating feeling so close," Sudfeld said. "We’re just close. We just have to figure out a way to win the game."
Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock did.
The fifth-year senior threw one TD pass with two seconds left in regulation and two more on more on back-to-back plays in overtime, then watched excitedly as Michigan came up with a goal-line stand.
"If Jake doesn’t play the way he does, we don’t have a chance," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "All those attributes — talk about his accuracy, talk about his arm strength, talk about his durability, his toughness, he’s intelligent — but I still go back to that one, he is just unflappable. It does not matter what the situation is."
The Wolverines (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten, No. 14 CFP) still have a chance in the East Division after winning their third straight — none more nerve-wracking than this one.
Rudock was brilliant at critical moments.
He threw a dart between two Indiana defenders with two seconds left in regulation for a 5-yard TD pass to Jehu Chesson that set up the tying extra point and silenced a frenzied Indiana crowd that was anticipating its first victory against Michigan since 1987.
After Howard made it 41-34 with a fourth-down plunge in the first overtime, Rudock needed just two plays to tie the score at 41 with a 21-yard TD pass to Jake Butt. On the next play, he gave Michigan the lead for good with an easy 25-yard TD pass to the wide-open Amara Darboh.
All Michigan needed was a stop.
"He made a good play," said Paige, who scored on a 51-yard punt return in the third quarter to become the first Indiana player since 1990 with two punt returns for touchdowns in one season. "I had the ball, ran a decent route (Sudfeld) put it right on me. I’ve just got to make the play."
For the Wolverines, it was a record day.
Rudock finished 33 of 46 with 440 yards and six scores, breaking the previous school record of four. He also kept drives alive with his feet, running seven times for 64 yards.
Chesson finished with a career-best 10 catches for 207 yards and four scores — tying Derrick Alexander’s single-game TD receptions record set in 1992. Darboh wound up with eight catches for 109 yards, and Butt finished with seven for 82 yards.
Sudfeld was 20 of 34 for 220 yards with one TD in his home finale and Simmie Cobbs Jr. caught four passes for 86 yards.
Howard gave the Hoosiers a 34-27 lead when he dragged Michigan defenders into the end zone on 24-yard scoring run, then powered in for a 2-point conversion with 2:52 left in regulation.
That was too much time for Rudock, whose 41-yard pass to Chesson got Michigan to the Indiana 2 with 1:11 left. On fourth-and-goal, Rudock found Chesson in the end zone to force overtime.
And then, in overtime, Rudock won it.
"It’s like that Clint Eastwood movie, ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,’" Harbaugh said. "There was some of all it today. Our guys found a way to win, and it’s as good a win as you’ll ever have."