A whole lot had to go right for Indiana to keep its postseason bowl hopes alive when it ventured into Michigan Stadium Saturday in need of a win.
Instead, everything went wrong.
Aided by Indiana penalties, missed tackles, turnovers and special team gaffes, Michigan scored 41 unanswered first-half points to turn a 7-0 Indiana lead into a 41-7 laugher at halftime, and Michigan cruised to a 41-14 win in front of more than 110,000 in Ann Arbor.
The loss was Indiana's fifth straight and officially eliminated Indiana (4-6/1-6) from postseason contention. Michigan (7-3/5-2), meanwhile, kept its slim Big Ten title hopes alive with its most lopsided win over Indiana since 2000, when Coach Lloyd Carr's team hammered Indiana, 58-0.
"We didn't play well enough," said Terry Hoeppner. "I feel bad for our seniors."
Playing without an injured James Hardy and a suspended James Bailey, Indiana jumped to a 7-0 lead on the game's opening drive, capped by a 42-yard touchdown pass from Blake Powers to Jahkeen Gilmore. But Michigan immediately answered back with a touchdown of its own, and then did so again…and again…and again…and again…and again…
Michigan's first score was set up by a 47-yard kickoff return by Steve Breaston, one of a handful of big plays turned in by the senior. Breaston had 203 all-purpose yards in the first two quarters, returning three punts for 80 yards, rushing two times for 30 yards, and catching three passes for 46 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown with :23 remaining in the half. It was the last of six first-half touchdowns for a Michigan team that had eclipsed the 40-point barrier only once this year – in a 55-0 win over Eastern Michigan.
Breaston's plays on special teams helped the Wolverines start five of their first six drives in Indiana territory. Michigan's average starting field position on its eight first half drives was the Indiana 41.
"The errors in kicking game really hurt us badly," said Hoeppner. "It gave them incredible field position in the first half. You play on a short field like that – I felt for our defense. They were up against it the entire first half."
In an effort to settle down Blake Powers after a second-quarter interception Hoeppner turned the offense over to Graeme McFarland for two drives, but McFarland went 0-for-3 passing, Indiana went three-and-out twice, and Michigan's assault continued.
The only thing that eventually halted the Wolverines was Coach Lloyd Carr. With the game comfortably in hand at halftime and a big game against Ohio State looming next weekend, Carr emptied his bench in the second half.
Despite playing only one half, Wolverine quarterback Chad Henne still finished with 174 passing yards on 17-of-24 passing and three touchdowns. Tailback Kevin Grady, meanwhile, finished with 14 first-half carries for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Blake Powers, meanwhile, finished 10-of-19 for 112 yards with one interception and one touchdown. McFarland, meanwhile, played the fourth quarter and finished 3-of-11 for 35 yards, including a late seven-yard touchdown to Brandon Walker-Roby.
Hoeppner said afterwards that the his decision to play McFarland was to try to give the junior a chance to heat up and get on the field, but Powers will be back under center when IU hosts Purdue next weekend.
"Blake Powers is still our quarterback, but I wanted to get Graeme some playing time because he deserved it," said Hoeppner.
Indiana managed only nine first downs and 196 yards of total offense against the Wolverines.
Indiana will finish its 2005 season next Saturday when it hosts Purdue (4-6/2-5) at 1 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
"This will be my first bucket game coming up, and I'l be very demanding this week," said Hoeppner. "I want it for the seniors."
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