BLOOMINGTON – Karan Higdon was the only thing really working for Michigan’s offense. The defense did its part all day for the Wolverines.
Higdon ran 25 yards for a touchdown on the first play of overtime for No. 17 Michigan and Tyree Kinnel intercepted a fourth-down pass in the end zone on the final play as the Wolverines held off Indiana 27-20 on Saturday.
Higdon’s final run was not well blocked. It was supposed to go to the right, but instead he cut back left and ran past a few Indiana defenders who could not change directions quickly enough.
“There was nothing there, and I had to make something happen, so I went the other way, and it was off to the races,” Higdon said.
Michigan avoided a two-game losing streak after it dropped a 14-10 game to Michigan State at home last week.
“The last game left a sour taste,’ Higdon said. “We went to the running game which was good for us all day.”
Higdon finished with 200 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries for Michigan (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) on another day when the Wolverines struggled to sustain drives.
“He was phenomenal,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I don’t know how many yards he got after contact, but those were tough yards. There looked like there would be a tackle for loss or a small gain or no gain, and he would get 4 or 5 yards out of it.”
Higdon’s 59-yard touchdown run with 10:25 remaining in the fourth quarter put Michigan up 20-10.
“He cracked a big one for us, and he didn’t get caught behind the line,” Harbaugh said. “Karan started the game, and we leaned on him heavily. Chris Evans and Ty Isaac both made some good plays, too. But we have a long way to go. We’re not very humble about this. This was a big game for our team.”
Michigan rushed 44 times for 271 yards, and Indiana rushed 29 times for 80 yards against the Big Ten’s leading defense. The Wolverines outgained the Hoosiers 329-278.
A 53-yard punt return by Indiana’s J-Shun Harris set up an 8-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Ramsey to Whop Philyor with 3:27 that cut the lead to three. Griffin Oakes tied it for Indiana (3-3, 0-3) with a 46-yard field goal as regulation time expired.
After Higdon gave Michigan the lead, Ramsey guided Indiana to first-and-goal at the 1. Three plays resulted in a 3 yards lost, setting up fourth-and-goal at the 4. Ramsey rolled left and couldn’t find an open receiver. He threw high into the end zone where Kinnel came down with it.
“I love these players, and our coaches who give so much,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. “They left it all, out there and played a good football team. And we came up just short, so I’m not going to sit here and feel sorry for anybody. I will take responsibility for whatever didn’t happen. It was tough against Michigan for sure. They whipped us up front the last couple of plays.”
Indiana’s losing streak to Michigan is now 22 games, but the last two times the Wolverines have come to Bloomington it has gone to overtime. The Hoosiers have one victory (1987) against Michigan since 1967.
While the Wolverines’ Big Ten-leading defense (220.5 yards a game) is as good as advertised, the offense – led quarterback John O’Korn – remains a work in progress, struggling to make big plays and often finding itself in third-and-long situations. O’Korn was 10 for 20 for 58 yards.
The Hoosiers have lost to three Top 25 opponents — Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan — and against Penn State and Michigan, they fell behind early. Like Michigan, Indiana’s defense is solid but the offense is trying to find consistency, playing two quarterbacks – Peyton Ramsey and Richard Lagow. Ramsey went most of the way, passing for 148 yards.
Indiana visits Michigan State next weekend.