The first four quarters of this game were brutal. Neither team played well at all. Luckily, 3 overtimes helped this game become a little more exciting. The Michigan football team narrowly defeated Northwestern on Saturday 27-19 in 3 OT’s. The Wolverines improved its record to 7-3, 3-3 in the Big Ten and Northwestern remains winless in the conference at 4-6, and 0-6.
Well, for most of the first four quarters, it was a battle of field position and field goals. Fast forward to late in the fourth quarter, with Michigan down 9-6. Brady Hoke elected to go for a 4th and 2 in the red zone instead of making the easy field goal. Northwestern snuffed out the Devin Gardner keeper and turned it over on downs.
Fortunately for Michigan, they got the ball back with 2:18 with an opportunity to win or tie the game, with no timeouts. Gardner completed a pass short of the sticks on a 3rd and long, forcing the field goal team to rush onto the field. Somehow, everyone got on the field and was set for Brendan Gibbons to make a 44 yard field goal with time expiring. It took Drew Dileo running across the field and sliding into his holder’s position to make this happen. The press box was as loud as I’ve ever heard it after this play. We’re headed to overtime.
Michigan got the ball in the first OT and scored the game’s first touchdown when Gardner found tight end Jake Butt, who one handed the pass, giving Michigan a 16-9 lead. Northwestern answered quickly as Kain Colter scored on a quarterback sneak.
Northwestern made a field goal in the second OT and Michigan matched it.
Michigan got the ball to start the third OT and Gardner capped it off with a 5 yard touchdown run. After the third overtime, teams are forced to go for two. Gardner rolled out to his left and couldn’t find an open receiver and scampered into the end zone, giving Michigan a 27-19 advantage.
Northwestern needed a touchdown and 2 point conversion to force a fourth overtime. A big sack put the Wildcats in a tough position and Thomas Gordon’s interception on a desperation toss to the end zone sealed the much-needed Michigan victory.
Michigan won a football game. It wasn’t pretty at all, but they came out on top against Northwestern for a second straight year in overtime. Northwestern’s woes continued as they remain without a win in the Big Ten.
Michigan’s running game showed some signs of life. In somewhat of a surprise move, Fitzgerald Toussaint didn’t see the field. In his absence, Derrick Green, DeVeon Smith and Justice Hayes played. Green ran well, finishing with 79 yards on 19 carries. Smith went for 41 on 8 carries. Hayes played sparingly and caught a screen pass for 4 yards. Michigan ran for a total of 139 yards, a very welcome sight for Michigan. This game was the first time they ran for positive yards in its last three games.
It was another turnover-free game, despite an overtime scare where Devin Funchess fumbled a ball after catching a pass. Fortunately, it was recovered by the Wolverines.
Matt Wile continues to be a solid punter for Michigan. He averaged 42.5 yards per punt and landed three of them inside the Wildcats’ 20 yard line. This included his punt which bounced near the goalline and Joe Reynolds grabbed it in the air over the endzone and tossing it back to the 1 yard line where it was downed.
This game was just ugly, for the performances on the field and the weather. It was a windy, rainy day in Evanston which probably played into the low-scoring first four quarters.
The running game was vastly improved from the past two weeks, but the play-calling still resulted in some head scratching. There weren’t as many plays for loss, but there were still more than necessary. The call to go for it late in the game and not going for the tying field goal was questioned by many.
Gardner wasn’t sacked seven times this week, but was still brought down behind the line a few times. This is an improvement, but still can be improved.
Colter gave the Michigan defense fits with his feet. He finished with 78 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.
Devin Gardner finished 24 out of 43 (!) passing for 226 yards and a score. Jeremy Gallon caught a game high 10 balls for 115 yards, which put him over 1,000 yards on the season. Funchess hauled in seven passes for 61 yards.
For Northwestern Colter threw just six passes, completing four of them for 26 yards. Trevor Siemian finished 19 out of 28 for 153 yards and an interception. Mike Trumpy ran for 42 yards on 11 carries and Treyvon Green added 30 more yards. Christian Jones led the Wildcats with seven catches for 54 yards.
Gibbons made all four field goals he attempted and Wile missed a 51 yarder early in the game. Northwestern’s Jeff Budzien also finished 4/4 on field goal tries.
James Ross III continued to play well as he led the Wolverines with 13 tackles and a sack. Jibreel Black added another sack for Michigan. Thomas Gordon added seven tackles and the game-sealing interception in the third overtime.
Michigan will gladly take this win, no matter how ugly it was. The road won’t get any easier in its final two games. Next week, they travel to Iowa and then host Ohio State on Nov. 30.
Maybe this win will give Michigan the spark it needs to end the season on a high note. There is still a lot to be improved on before they can win its final two regular season games. Should be an interesting end to the season.