One Day Later: Indiana

Now No. 20 Michigan took on the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday afternoon in its Big 10 Opener. Michigan downed the Hoosiers 36-33 on a late Tate Forcier to Martavious Odoms touchdown pass, but the game was much closer than expected. Why did IU hang in the game for so long against the heavily favored U-M.

The Michigan football team hasn't lost to the Indiana Hoosiers in Ann Arbor since before Bo Schembechler roamed the sidelines at Michigan Stadium. The streak continued with a 36-33 Michigan come-from-behind win yesterday afternoon at Michigan Stadium, but, due to a two-quarter offensive dry spell, and a defense that struggled to stop the run for the third straight week, the Wolverines were just one big play away from tasting defeat for the first time of the season and falling to the upstart Hoosiers.

So what went wrong in a game that saw Michigan as 21-point favorites? Why did the Hoosiers, whose previous high in total yardage for the season was 399 yards, rack up 467 yards from scrimmage? How did a team that ran for just 73 yards against Eastern Kentucky go for 197, including a 6.0 average? Why did Ben Chappell go for 270 yards through the air, again close to Indiana's high on the season?

It appears, through the past three games anyways, that the problem all starts up front. In its new defensive scheme, the Maize and Blue have been unable to stop the run out of its base set. As a result, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan and Indiana have all topped the 150 yard mark, most of it coming between the tackles.

When the defense is unable to stop the run, it presents new Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson with just two choices. Maintain the status quo -- and hope the defense improves, or cheat a safety up into the box, typically the strong safety position held by Michael Williams.

No matter the decision made by Robinson, there are bound to be problems in with either scenario. Staying the course while an opposing offense continues to run the ball straight down Michigan's proverbial throat can demoralize a defense. It also keeps the Wolverines high scoring offense off the field, and, as the game progresses late into the second hand, can wear on a defense.

Bringing Williams, or walk on Jordan Kovacs, into the box to neutralize the run opens up the passing game. Neither Boubacar Cissoko nor J.T. Floyd has logged significant minutes at the collegiate level before heading into this season. Each has struggled early on at times. Traditionally with an inexperienced secondary a cover two defense is employed to provide help over the top. However, with a safety cheating into the box, Michigan has been forced into a lot of cover one situations in the early stages of the 2009 season. As a result the Michigan cornerbacks have been placed in an unusually difficult position with a lot of one-on-one play to start the season.

Thus far there have been no teams capable of taking advantage of Michigan's defensive shortcomings. All four Michigan wins have come inside the friendly confines of Michigan Stadium. The next two weeks, though, the Wolverines will be on the road for the first time. With a pair of true freshmen quarterbacks, and a youthful offense penciled in around him to boot, the defense will have to find a way correct its recent miscues -- which have been described as communication mishaps or missed gap assignments after each of the past two weeks -- or they may not be as fortunate.

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