Michigan's Braylon Edwards caught eight passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns against Indiana yesterday.
DARRON CUMMINGS / AP Enlarge
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Michigan's Chad Henne and Braylon Edwards played a little pitch-and-catch against Indiana yesterday, leading the 19th-ranked Wolverines to a 35-14 win over the Hoosiers.
Henne, a freshman quarterback, threw for 316 yards, more than any other Michigan quarterback in the 104-year-old series. More than half of those yards went to Edwards, a senior who caught eight passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. The yardage total equaled the most by a Michigan receiver against Indiana, a mark set by Lowell Perry in 1951.
Henne and Edwards hooked up for touchdown passes of 69 and 38 yards in the third quarter, opening up what had been a close game.
The Hoosiers gambled with occasional single coverage on Edwards, a candidate for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver.
"If you are going to play man-to-man, you are not going to stop Braylon Edwards deep - no way," said Henne, whose previous passing high was 240 yards against Notre Dame. "Their corners were good players, but they did not have the speed of Braylon Edwards."
"Chad throws the deep ball exceptionally well," Edwards said. "We just tell Chad, 'Throw the ball deep.' Then it's just up to me to make a play. Chad did exactly what he was supposed to - throw the ball right on the money."
"Braylon is a playmaker," Henne said. "You give him the ball and he will get you YAC yards - 'yards after catch.' Just give him the ball in a wide open area and he will find his way to the end zone."
As instrumental as the big pass plays were to the Michigan victory were two long returns. After Henne threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gonzales to open the scoring, the Wolverines squandered their next two chances on a missed field goal by Garrett Rivas and a fumble by Henne at the goal line.
But after forcing an Indiana punt, Leon Hall caught the kick on the fly and raced 76 yards to the end zone to extend Michigan's lead to 14-0.
After the Hoosiers cut the deficit to 14-7 on a BenJarvus Green-Ellis two-yard run following another Michigan fumble, Grant Mason took the second half kickoff and sprinted 97 yards to the Indiana 3. Although it took the Wolverines four plays to punch it in against a stubborn Indiana defense, they were on their way to a 21-point quarter.
"Without the two kick returns, this is a much different ball game," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "The kicking game was the difference for us."
What Carr didn't like was a sloppy first half that saw two Michigan turnovers, allowing the Hoosiers to hang around.
"I don't like a lot of things we did the first half," the coach said. "If we don't learn how to take care of the football, we are not going to be the kind of football team we would like to be."
Carr tipped his hat to Indiana for playing some inspired football, mixed in with some surprises. The Hoosiers faked their first punt of the day, with punter Tyson Beattie running for 32 yards into Michigan territory. That might have led to the game's first score had the Hoosiers not given 29 of those yards right back on a bad snap in the shotgun formation, taking them out of field-goal range.
"Give Indiana credit," Carr said. "Their kids played awfully hard. They had a very good game plan. The fake punt to start the game was a very good call."
The Hoosiers also came out in a no-huddle offense designed to keep the Wolverines off guard. And by mixing up their pass coverage, the Indiana defenders hoped to confuse the freshman quarterback. But with a playmaker like Edwards to throw to, Henne was able to prosper.
"They put eight in the box," Edwards said. "They weren't doubling any of the receivers, so we knew if we could just throw the ball up top, it would be pretty much one-on-one. Then all the receiver would have to do is make a play."
"I think it is a great thing when you can run well enough to force a team to bring up eight or nine guys," Carr said. "It makes them play a three-deep zone or 'man' with a free safety over the top."
Complementing the Michigan passing game was the running of freshman back Michael Hart, who rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown in his first start.
"Michael earned this start because of the good things he has been doing," Carr said.
The Michigan defense did its part by holding Indiana to 214 total yards - just 61 on the ground.