Indiana's bid at beating Michigan in football for just the 10th time in school history came down to a wrestling match.
Moments after hobbled Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier put the Wolverines on top 36-33 with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Martavious Odoms, Michigan cornerback Donovan Warren out-muscled Damarlo Belcher for a Ben Chappell pass on IU's ensuing offensive play. Warren's interception pinned the 31st defeat on Indiana in its last 32 encounters with Michigan.
The 23rd-ranked Wolverines remained unbeaten at 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten, while Indiana dropped to 3-1 and 0-1.
The late pick wasn't without a degree on controversy. Chappell's pass was directed at IU wide receiver Damarlo Belcher, and both players landed on the ground clutching the ball at the Indiana 30 with 2:14 remaining. While "dual possession" is supposed to be awarded to the offensive player by rule, it was Warren who emerged from the duel with the ball.
The officials on the field ruled it an interception, and instant replay officials refused to overturn the call.
IU Coach Bill Lynch was livid on the field following the ruling, and continued to berate the officials during the game's final two minutes following the interception. But by the time the game had ended, an obviously disappointed Lynch avoided too harsh a critique of the game-deciding call.
"On the sidelines it looked like a simultaneous catch to me," Lynch said. "After that, they reviewed it and that was the determination they came up with."
It was a disappointing outcome for an Indiana team that out-gained Michigan 467-372, including a 197-149 edge on the ground. Ben Chappell completed 18-of-29 throws for 270 yards, while Darius Willis added 152 rushing yards on 16 carries, including an 85-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter that put Indiana on top 33-29.
"That shows the kind of player Darius is – he's a big strong back with breakaway speed," Lynch said. "He made a big play that until very late looked like it might be the game winner."
While plenty will point at the officials' call as the reason for Indiana's 16th straight loss at "The Big House," Lynch's team was also done in by an inability to take advantage of a slew of opportunities in the red zone.
Indiana made five trips inside the Michigan 20-yard line but came away with a touchdown only once. Indiana had to settle for Nick Freeland field goals on the other four occasions, preventing the Hoosiers from opening more of a cushion.
Two of those opportunities were set up by takeaways by the IU defense. Defensive tackle Nick Sliger intercepted an ill-advised Forcier throw at the Michigan 31 in the second quarter, and two drives later Chris Adkins forced a Denard Robinson fumble that Jammie Kirlew returned to the Michigan 21. But on both occasions IU's drive stalled inside the Michigan 15.
Those missed opportunities helped keep the game close, and Michigan took advantage late. After taking over of the Michigan 48-yard line with 5:32 remaining, Forcier capped Michigan's game-winning drive with a perfectly thrown pass to Odoms, who had slipped behind IU safety Nick Polk for the game-ahead touchdown.
It all added up to a game that was both a confidence-booster and a heartbreaker for Lynch's team.
"The attitude of our kids, they came up here with the idea of winning a football game," Lynch said. "that shows the character of the team and how they feel for each other. They felt they could come up here and win the ball game.
"They're very disappointed and it hurts, and that's what you want. If it doesn't hurt it doesn't mean enough."
Indiana – Willis 16-152, Doss 3-41, Burgess 8-13, McCray 1-1, Evans 2-1, Chappell 3-(-11). Totals 33-197. Michigan – Brown 11-83, Minor 12-50, Robinson 11-24, Forcier 10-15, Shaw 2-5, TEAM 4-(-28). Totals 50-149.
Indiana – Chappell 38-21-1 270. Michigan – Forcier 21-11-1 184, Robinson 3-2-0 39. Totals 24-13-1 223.
Indiana – Doss 5-104, Turner 5-48, Dedmond 4-35, Belcher 3-39, Willis 3-27, Evans 1-17. Michigan – Odoms 3-40, Kel. Grady 3-24, Kev. Grady 2-18, Brown 1-61, Koger 1-36, Roundtree 1-35, Savoy 1-8, Hemingway 1-1.
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