No. 14 Michigan hangs on to beat Indiana in 2OT, keep Big Ten title hopes alive
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock kept taking advantage of his opportunities Saturday.
Six times he threw for touchdowns. Twice he saved the Wolverines' conference title hopes.
When he finally saw Michigan's usually stout defense make a goal-line stand in the second overtime, a relieved Rudock finally got to celebrate by singing with his teammates to the people who made the trip to Bloomington.
The fifth-year senior threw one TD pass with two seconds left in regulation and two more on back-to-back plays in overtime, then watched excitedly as Indiana's Mitchell Paige bobbled a pass on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line to help No. 14 Michigan barely fend off Indiana 48-41 in double overtime.
"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) 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 Jordan 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 then was a stop and when Paige bobbled the pass, safety Delano Hill knocked it away.
"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 (Nate 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.
Harbaugh wasn't pleased with his defense, which came into the weekend allowing the fewest points per game in the nation and third-fewest yards rushing per game. It didn't play like it.
Howard ran 35 times for 238 yards and two scores, caught a 7-yard TD pass and became the 11th player in school history to top the 1,000-yard mark in a season.
Sudfeld wound up 20 of 34 for 220 yards with one TD in his home finale and Simmie Cobbs Jr. caught four passes for 86 yards.
It still wasn't enough for Indiana (4-6, 0-6), which has lost six straight, four of those to top-15 teams, and 20 consecutive games in this lopsided series.
"Again we played well, but not good enough," Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson said.
Almost good enough, again.
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 two-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."