Sept. 21, 2009
Michigan Weekly Release (9-26-09)
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - In search of the sixth 4-0 start in school history and the first since 1990, the Indiana football team opens conference play at No. 23/22 Michigan (3-0). IU's 110th year of Big Ten football commences with its first trip to Michigan Stadium (106,201) since 2005 on Saturday, Sept. 26. Kickoff is set for noon EDT and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
The Hoosiers moved to 3-0 for the 14th time in school history and the second time in Bill Lynch's three years as head coach with a 38-21 victory at Akron on Sept. 19. Indiana ran for 180 yards, threw for 175 and forced the Zips into four interceptions, including two by senior strong safety Austin Thomas. Senior Ray Fisher returned the opening kickoff 91 yards and the Hoosiers scored 28 straight points after falling behind 14-10 to match last season's win total and lock up their first road triumph since Sept. 29, 2007 (Iowa).
Pam Ward will handle play-by-play duties and she will be joined by analyst Ray Bentley. The game can also be heard on the statewide IU Radio Network with Don Fischer (play-by-play), Pete Compise (analyst) and Joe Smith (pre-game, halftime and post-game) on the call.
Hoosiers Join Coach To Cure MD
Indiana head coach Bill Lynch and the Hoosier coaching staff will join college football coaches across the country in the fight against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The coaches will wear a "Coach to Cure MD" logo patch on Saturday. "Coach to Cure MD" is a national charity project of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA).
The disease is the most common fatal genetic disorder diagnosed during childhood and primarily affects boys across all races and cultures. Currently, there is no cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and limited therapeutic options exist.
Football fans can donate to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research by either going online to www.CoachtoCureMD.org or by texting the word "CURE" to 90999 (a $5 donation will automatically be added to your next phone bill and standard text message rates apply).
Eight Hoosiers hail from Michigan, including Charlie Chapman (South Rockwood/Airport), Jamonne Chester (Detroit/Covenant), Adam Follett (Caledonia/Alma), Darius Johnson (Detroit/Highland Park), Ian Reeves (Ferndale/Ferndale), Terrance Thomas (Detroit/St. Martin De Porres), Terrance Turner (Auburn Hills/West Bloomfield), and Brian Zematis (Bloomfield Hills/Andover).
The Michigan Series
Michigan returns to the Indiana schedule after a two-year absence. U-M leads the overall series, 50-9. The last time the two teams met, the second-ranked Wolverines defeated the Hoosiers, 34-3, on Nov. 11, 2006. Michigan earned a 41-14 triumph the last time the teams faced off in Ann Arbor on Nov. 12, 2005. IU last downed U-M on Oct. 24, 1987, (14-10 in Bloomington) and last won in Ann Arbor on Oct. 21, 1967 (27-20).
Michigan heads into Saturday's game with a 3-0 mark following victories over Western Michigan, Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan. The Wolverines are ranked 23rd in the AP Poll and 22nd in the Coaches' Poll.
U-M leads the Big Ten in scoring offense (38.0) and rush offense (270.7) and ranks second in total offense (439.0). Four Wolverines have over 100 yards on the season led by senior running back Carlos Brown (238, 2 TDs), freshman quarterback Denard Robinson (155, 3), senior running back Brandon Minor (127, 1) and freshman quarterback Tate Forcier (112, 1).
Forcier engineers the Wolverine attack. He has completed 65.2 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and one interception. Forcier is averaging 162.3 yards per game and has a 149.10 passing efficiency.
The Michigan defense is allowing 19.3 points, 123.7 rushing yards, 235.0 passing yards and 358.7 total yards per game. U-M has picked off four passes, recovered three fumbles and collected three sacks.
Junior linebacker Obi Ezeh leads the Wolverines with 24 tackles in addition to one forced fumble and 1.5 tackles for loss. Senior linebacker Stevie Brown has 20 stops, 3.5 TFLs and one forced fumble, while junior cornerback Donovan Warren has 19 tackles and a team-best 13 solos and four pass breakups.
Rich Rodriguez is in his second season at Michigan and owns a 6-12 record. He is 111-71-2 in his 17th overall season with stops at Salem, Glenville State and West Virginia.
Indiana is 3-0 for the 14th time in school history and the second time in head coach Bill Lynch's three seasons. In 2007, the Hoosiers raced out of the gates with three straight wins and finished the regular season 7-5 and earned a postseason trip to the Insight Bowl. Lynch has been a part of five of the 3-0 starts - the two as a head coach and three as an assistant (1993, 1994 and 2005).
Ray Fisher returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown at Akron, the first by an IU player since James Bailey returned one 91 yards against Northwestern in 2007. It is the first time in school history that a Hoosier has returned the opening kickoff for a score and it is the first of Fisher's career. The senior has returned four kicks this season and five in his career.
On The Rise
Through the first quarter of the season the Indiana defense has made significant strides from 2008 and ranks in the top four in the Big Ten in six defensive categories. The Hoosiers share the league lead in turnover margin (+3), rank second in rushing defense (76.0), sacks (9) and opponent third down conversion (29.4), and rank fourth in scoring defense (17.7) and total defense (312.3).
Here is a look at the team's numbers in each category following the 2008 season: turnover margin (even), rushing defense (171.7), sacks (28 - on pace for 36 in 2009), opponent third down conversion (47.0), scoring defense (35.2) and total defense (432.2).
Practice What You Preach
Two of the main focal points during practice leading up to the Akron game focused on cutting penalties and scoring in the red zone. Head coach Bill Lynch brought referees to practice following the team's 13-penalty performance against Western Michigan (21 through the first team games). The team responded with just four penalties at Akron, including zero pre-snap infractions.
IU entered the Akron game with just two red zone touchdowns in eight attempts. In five trips against the Zips, the Hoosiers made their way into the end zone four times and kicked one field goal.
Indiana has only trailed for 5:38 in 180 minutes this season and a huge reason for this is the dominant first quarters the Hoosiers have put together. IU received the ball first at Akron and used 13 plays to go 61 yards, taking up 5:03 and resulting in a 25-yard field goal by Nick Freeland. This came after last week's game-opening 12-play, 76-yard drive that ate up 6:07 vs. Western Michigan. On the season, Indiana has averaged 10.7 plays, 63 yards and 4.3 first downs on its game-opening drives. The Hoosiers had seven first downs all year on their opening drives in 2008.
In the first quarter, IU has outscored its opponents, 22-14, en route to a 53-31 first-half advantage. The Hoosiers have held the ball for 11:14 vs. Eastern Kentucky, 11:20 against Western Michigan and 11:09 at Akron in the opening stanza.
Last season, the Hoosiers finished in the basement of the Big Ten with a time of possession of 26:50. Through the first three games of 2009, that figure has increased to 31:42, which ranks fourth in the conference. Indiana has been able to put together long drives and has converted third downs while forcing its opponents off the field.
IU has had eight drives of 10-plus plays (15 last year) and seven drives of five-plus minutes (four last year). All seven of the five-plus minute drives have taken at least 10 plays.
Indiana converted 10 of its 15 third down opportunities at Akron and has a 46.3 success rate this season. In 2008, IU's total was 10th in the Big Ten (26.7). The Hoosiers have limited their opponents to a 29.4 conversion rate this year (10-of-34), which ranks second in the Big Ten. That number was 46.8 last season and in the bottom of the league.
Let's Get Physical
One of the reasons for the switch to the Pistol offense was to improve in short-yardage situations. After converting 22-of-40 (55.0) third-and-short situations (three yards and less) one season ago, the Hoosiers have shown improvement this season. IU went 7-for-7 in these situations at Akron and are now 11-for-14 on the season (78.6).
Fifth-year senior safety Austin Thomas missed seven games due to injury last year (ankle and ACL)., but he has not shown any lingering effects from the injuries in 2009. He recorded the second two-interception game of his career at Akron. Following a Hoosier fumble at the Zips 31, Thomas collected his first interception and raced 31 yards to the UA 18. Five plays later the Hoosiers scored to make it 24-14. He struck again with his second pick at the IU 35, and he ran it back to the Akron 19-yard line. Indiana scored four plays later to put the game away.
Thomas had two interceptions against Northwestern a season ago, but tore his ACL following his second INT and missed the final four games of the year. He now has five interceptions in his career with the first three coming against Northwestern.
The Woodstock, Ga., native finished 2008 with 41 tackles, 22 solo, and led the team with two interceptions. He is second on the Hoosiers with 212 tackles and 128 solos since the start of the 2006 season (Will Patterson, 216 and 138). In his career, Thomas has seven double-digit tackle games, including a 22-tackle effort at Michigan State in 2007. He also forced a fumble, recorded two tackles for loss and broke up a pass last season.
After matching a school record for fewest interceptions in a season with six in 2008, the Hoosiers almost reached that mark at Akron. The IU defense forced Akron quarterback Matt Rodgers into four second-half interceptions with senior safety Austin Thomas picking off two and junior linebacker Tyler Replogle and sophomore defensive back Andre LaGrone collecting their first career INTs. It marked the first time that Indiana had four interceptions as a team since Nov. 18, 2006, at Purdue.
It's Been A While
Sophomore Max Dedmond caught his first career TD pass in the third quarter at Akron. It was the first touchdown by a Hoosier tight end since Nick Sexton caught a 1-yard pass from Blake Powers against Illinois on Oct. 8, 2005. Dedmond caught two balls in the game and has four receptions this year.