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Indiana was once again close, but not close enough

The Hoosiers continue to be one or two plays away from breaking through.

In what has to be in the top five cases of irony of all time, "Fatal Attraction" was the number one movie at the box office the last time Indiana defeated Michigan.  

And, like it has endured for the last 28 years, the Hoosiers lost in heartbreaking fashion. 

Saturday's 48-41 double-overtime senior day loss to the Wolverines at Memorial Stadium was a reminder of just how close the Hoosiers are, but still not close enough.

"There are zero moral victories," Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said. "This team plays pretty good football, but not quite good enough. They have a knack for coming back, and I think the coaches do a good job of coaching them. I think the leaders are working really hard down the stretch." 

If you're looking to assign blame, look no further than Indiana's defense. 

Michigan needed just 11 plays across its final three drives - two in the first overtime and just one in the second - to pull even and eventually win this game. 

On the go-ahead touchdown by Wolverines wide receiver Amara Darobh, who also had eight catches for 109 yards, a breakdown in communication led to blown coverage and Chesson wide open in the far right side of the south endzone. 

Tight end Jake Butt's 21-yard touchdown catch in the first overtime came on the second play of that drive. 

Both touchdowns were thrown by Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock, who shredded the young Indiana secondary for a career-high 440 passing yards and six touchdowns. He also led the team in rushing with seven carries for 64 yards. 

Another Wolverine also had a career day as well, as Jehu Chesson caught 10 passes for 207 yards and four touchdowns. 

Indiana was down two defensive backs in Andre Brown and Jameel Cook, who were nursing shoulder and suregery-requiring ankle injuries respectively, according to Wilson. But that still doesn't excuse the same pattern of a breakdown the defense has had for the last six games. 

Over the course of those games, Indiana has been outscored 90-28 in the fourth quarter and allowed an average of 341 passing yards per game. 

Offensively, the final play of the game generated flashbacks to Super Bowl 49, when the Seattle Seahawks had second and goal from the 1-yard line and a chance to win the game. 

Wilson, like Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, elected to pass despite having a bruising running back in Howard who had 238 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld's pass to slot receiver Mitchell Paige fell incomplete, much like Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson's pass to wide receiver Ricardo Lockette. 

The Hoosiers, also like the Seahawks, were one play away from breaking through and getting closer to the ultimate goal.  

Finding the solution has proved to be difficult over the last six games, four of which have been decided by eight points or less, for this football team. Fifth-year bandit Zack Shaw said the team has to come together a lot more. 

"We've just got to keep coming out and keep going hard," Shaw. "You just can't let up. You've just got to keep coming out and having that fiery energy. We were in it, you know? We've just got to make those competitive plays and we'll be fine."

Paige, a redshirt junior, played a pivotal role on the most important competitive play.

Already with one punt return for a touchdown on special teams, he lined up in the slot on 4th and goal from the two matched up against Michigan defensive back Delano Hill. 

Sudfeld fired the pass inside to the Guerin Catholic product, who momentarily juggled the catch as he turned around to bring it in before it was batted down to the turf by Hill.  

Solumnly addressing the media after the game, the heartbreak Paige felt was visible. Despite his important contribution in regulation, he was hardest on himself and brutally honest about what has eluded Indiana these last six games, and what it will take for Indiana to get over the hump:

"Plays like the one I didn't make." 


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