Bloomington, Ind. — As the Michigan players entered the halftime locker room tied at 10 with Indiana, receiver Ronnie Bell said there was a calm among the players and communication was at peak performance.
No one panicked.
“I don’t think there was any deer in the headlights,” Bell said.
Michigan scored 21 unanswered points in the second half, while the Hoosiers punted on five of six second-half drives — they turned the ball over on downs on their last possession — as the No. 4 Wolverines remained undefeated with a 31-10 victory on Saturday.
Michigan (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) has won 12 of its last 13 meetings with Indiana.
BOX SCORE: No. 4 Michigan 31, Indiana 10
“Everything started clicking for us,” sophomore quarterback JJ McCarthy said. “We felt like we could move the ball on them the whole game, especially the first half, but it wasn’t clicking. We weren’t in a rhythm. Once we got into the rhythm in the second half, it was over.”
McCarthy completed 28-of-36 passes for 304 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Bell led the team with 11 catches for 121 yards and tight end Luke Schoonmaker had nine catches for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Cornelius Johnson added four catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns, while Blake Corum had 25 carries for 124 yards and a touchdown.
Just as Michigan did last week at Iowa in its Big Ten road opener, it started the game with a touchdown drive, highlighted by Corum’s 50-yard run and 1-yard rushing score.
“It looked like they over-pursued and gave me a cutback lane,” Corum said of the long run. “I could have scored. I think I did score. Good play.”
The Wolverines endured an emotionally charged moment with 4:54 left in the first quarter when running backs coach Mike Hart collapsed on the sideline. He was taken from the Memorial Stadium field on a motorized cart and is in stable condition at a local hospital, according to Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. He was spending the night for observation.
It seemed the players had a lapse after the incident. Harbaugh spoke to Hart at halftime. Hart asked him to relay the message he was fine and to not focus on him.
Michigan did look refocused on its first series after the break, driving 98 yards on 11 plays. Johnson scored his first touchdown on a 29-yard pass from McCarthy.
“That was probably the most exciting drive of the game,” said Bell, who had a 14-yard reception on third down to keep the drive alive. “Everybody was excited about that because to us, we communicated that’s a chance for us to make a statement right here. We knew we could move the ball. We knew we could score and everybody answered the bell and we drove down the field and scored.”
McCarthy said they knew, backed up, they needed to get something going.
“We need to score, we need to get the ball moving, that’s everything we want,” McCarthy said. “That’s just the way we like it. The fact we got big third downs there, that just sparked the rhythm for the rest of the half.”
The offensive players said that drive galvanized them.
“We knew we weren’t playing up to the level we could be playing at in the first half, besides the first drive,” Corum said. “Indiana, they came out firing. But that first drive (in the second half), we knew what we had to do. We finally clicked.
“Everyone was doing their job and not focusing on trying to make the big play, just playing as a team. When we play as a team, it’s hard to stop us. That second half, that first drive, we started playing as a team on both sides of the ball and kept going.”
Michigan had a chance to score on its next possession but McCarthy’s pass in the end zone to Bell ricocheted off his hands and was intercepted. The Wolverines added two fourth-quarter scores.
Meanwhile, the defense made things impossible for the Hoosiers in the second half. The Wolverines had seven sacks, all from different players, including one from Mike Morris, who leads the team with five this season.
Indiana, which had 193 yards of offense in the first half, was held to 29 in the second half and minus-11 rushing. The Hoosiers were 1-for-7 on third down after halftime.
Bell said the second-half defense was “scary,” then figured out a better description.
“Relentless, that’s the word,” Bell said.
“Yes, that’s the word,” McCarthy, sitting to his left, confirmed.
Jaylen Harrell, who had a sack, said the second-half focus was simple.
“We were trying to impose our will,” Harrell said.
In the end, that’s exactly what Michigan did to secure the win.