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Published: Sunday, 11/13/2005

Michigan looks flawless in dismantling the Hoosiers

ANN ARBOR - An IRS auditor couldn't find fault with No. 21 Michigan's 41-14 Big Ten Conference victory over Indiana yesterday at Michigan Stadium.

Michigan scored touchdowns on three of its first four drives.

The Wolverines missed a field goal on their third possession, but who's counting?

UM produced all of its points and 17 of its 26 first downs with its first-team offense, and senior wideout Steve Breaston accumulated 176 total yards (including kickoff and punt returns) and also caught a touchdown pass before intermission.

Only an Ohio State fan would point out that Garrett Rivas missed the 52-yard field goal try, or that UM failed to score in the red zone on a second-quarter drive.

In fact, UM coach Lloyd Carr's willingness to open up the playbook and his handling of his quarterbacks were the most intriguing elements to yesterday's blowout.

With the annual Ohio State scrum looming here next Saturday, Carr, who normally coaches with a poker face, didn't allow the fear of revealing his hand to the Buckeyes prevent him from displaying some offensive ingenuity.

Game-planning against the overmatched Hoosiers, Carr held nothing back.

He called a pass play on first down at the Indiana 40 with four receivers split wide left. Sophomore quarterback Chad Henne (17 completions for 174 yards and three touchdowns) tossed a lateral to Breaston, who short-hopped a pass back to Henne, who was so open he could have walked into the end zone if the pass had been completed.

"I didn't step into it," said Breaston, who played quarterback in high school.

No matter. Two plays later, backup running back Kevin Grady emerged from a pack of defenders and sprinted 32 yards for a touchdown and a 27-7 lead.

Breaston also scampered on a 30-yard reverse in which he took a handoff from another running back, Jerome Jackson. Breaston snagged an 11-yard touchdown pass for a 41-7 lead right before halftime.

"We are more diversified than at the start of the season," Carr said. "We are trying to find ways to get certain people the football and we certainly had the opportunity to do that today."

Carr also threw a bone to senior backup quarterback Matt Gutierrez and started him in the second half.

Gutierrez, who lost the No. 1 job to Henne a year ago because of injury, attempted 11 passes - equaling his entire 2005 output through the first nine games.

UM (7-3, 5-2) won its fourth straight game with confidence and charisma.

With the Wolverines trailing 7-0, Carr turned Henne loose.

Henne responded by passing for seven yards to Antonio Bass on second-and-eight, 10 yards to Jason Avant on third-and-one and drilling a five-yard laser to tight end Tyler Ecker in the rear of the end zone.

The next time UM had the ball, Henne tossed a 23-yard pass to Breaston and a seven-yard TD pass to Avant.

That was more than enough offense for UM's defense.

After allowing 77 yards on Indiana's first seven plays, UM's defense yielded only 71 yards on the Hoosiers' remaining 28 plays in the first half and just 210 total yards.

"We played with more intensity and more desire after the first drive," senior linebacker Dave Harris said.

Indiana couldn't stop Henne, Breaston, Avant and a convoy of running backs that didn't include sophomore Mike Hart (sidelined with an ankle injury). And the Hoosiers were powerless to move the football with any consistency.

Once UM's offense kicked in, a tie game became a rout.

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