BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Nestled underneath the west side of Indiana University's Memorial Stadium is a spacious room covered in photos commemorating the handful of bowl games the football program has been a part of.
In terms of historical relevance, it cannot compete with anything displayed inside of Notre Dame Stadium, just about four hours to the north. But to this year's Michigan team, there wasn't much difference between playing at South Bend last month and playing here Saturday.
Like that win over the Irish, UM pieced together a touchdown drive on its final possession to win in spite of a crummy defensive effort. And once again, Denard Robinson had his handprints all over it, including on the game winner, in the No. 19 Wolverines' 42-35 win to open the Big Ten season.
“Once again, we were in a tough situation like [against] Notre Dame,” said Roy Roundtree, who scored a touchdown and exceeded 100 receiving yards for the second week. “Once we saw how much time we had on the clock we said, OK, we're back at it again.”
The final drive began with 1:15 left on the clock and immediately after IU tied the game for the fifth time on a fourth-down touchdown. With two timeouts left, Robinson opened the drive with three straight runs, of 8, 17, and 2 yards. The plan might have been odd if he weren't so explosive.
“We don't consider any run with Denard conservative,” coach Rich Rodriguez said.
The game's biggest turning point was next. Robinson heaved a pass down the home sideline, getting crushed by a defender in the process, and Junior Hemingway came down with it at the 4 in front of IU corner Richard Council. A play later, Robinson dashed in for the winner.
“When Indiana scored, we looked at the clock and it said a minute, 15 [seconds],” said Hemingway, who had 129 yards and a TD. “We said that's too much time.”
With Robinson, it usually is. He padded his Heisman Trophy portfolio with 217 yards on the ground and 277 passing yards on 10 of 16 completions. He rushed for two scores, including a 72-yarder in the first quarter, threw for three more, and eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in three carries. Of UM's 574 yards, Robinson had a hand in 494.
So, given such an electrifying performance, why was the game so close? The answer — once again — was a porous defense. IU (3-1, 0-1) shredded the Wolverines for 568 yards, and in disparagements that should never yield a loss, possessed the football for 41:17 to UM's 18:13, ran 98 plays to UM's 45, and recorded 35 first downs — 20 more than UM.
“Wow, stats are interesting, huh,” Rodriguez said. “I don't like seeing that.”
The Hoosiers led once, 7-0, after their first drive.
IU's Ben Chappell attempted 64 passes and completed 45 for 480 yards — the highest total a UM defense allowed. Tandon Doss was Chappell's best buddy, catching 15 balls for 221 but never scoring. Darius Willis, who tied the game at 35-35 with a 19-yard TD catch on fourth down, accumulated 112 combined yards.
Despite playing smaller schools Massachusetts and Bowling Green, UM is allowing more than 25 points and 433 yards per contest.
“We just have to play harder, have to have more focus,” nose tackle Mike Martin said. “We do have a young defense, but guys are learning each week and getting better. ….”
IU had just two plays on its last drive and gained eight yards.
Ironically, once UM's defense began playing well, forcing punts on four of five IU second-half possessions, its offense began sputtering. Almost 21 game minutes came and went between Vincent Smith's 56-yard TD run with 6:10 left in the third and Robinson's game winner. Two drives in that span ended when UM couldn't convert on fourth down and the other on a punt.
“We certainly know we have to play a lot better,” Rodriguez said. “But guys kept their poise and made a play when we had to at the end.”
Contact Ryan Autullo at:firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6160.