ANN ARBOR — Field goals, Andrew Maxwell declared in so many words, aren’t going to win football games.
In the wake of Michigan’s 12-10 win over Michigan State, Brendan Gibbons and the Michigan football team would beg to differ with the Spartans’ quarterback.
Gibbons kicked a 38-yard field goal with five seconds left in regulation, polishing off a game in which the two teams combined for five field goals and only one touchdown — Paul Lang’s two-yard catch for Michigan State in the third quarter. Thus drawing more attention to Gibbons.
“My job on the team is to put three points on the board or one point on the board,” Gibbons said, “and I’ll be excited if my number is called.”
Saturday at Michigan Stadium, Gibbons’ third field goal ended Michigan’s four-game losing streak to the Spartans, which was becoming one of college football’s more dubious punchlines. While Gibbons was diplomatic in discussing the win, Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs provided more emotion on the Wolverines’ first win over Michigan State since 2007.
“We were desperate for a win,” Kovacs said. “It was an intense game, it was a physical game. It was a dogfight. It was intense.”
Furthermore, Gibbons’ kick helped the Wolverines throw a wrench into Michigan State’s Big Ten title hopes, as the Spartans have lost three of their last four games — all conference losses in which 21 of their 42 points have come on seven field goals.
“We need to turn our field goals in the red zone into touchdowns,” said Maxwell, who finished 21 of 34 passing with one interception for 192 yards and a touchdown. “Field goals don’t win you many football games.”
Saturday’s win was the first time in nearly 17 years Michigan had won a game without scoring a touchdown — the last instance came on Nov. 11, 1995, when Michigan defeated Purdue 5-0 at Michigan Stadium.
Michigan (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten Conference) took a 6-0 lead into halftime on a pair of second-quarter field goals — Gibbons’ 24-yard kick less than five minutes in and Matt Wile’s 48-yard kick with 1:07 left in the half.
Lang’s third-quarter touchdown gave Michigan State (4-4, 1-3) a 7-6 lead before Gibbons kicked his second field goal, a 21-yard chip shot early in the fourth quarter, to give the lead back to Michigan.
The Spartans (4-4, 1-3) took a 10-9 lead with 5:48 left in regulation on Dan Conroy’s 19-yard field goal, ending a drive that the Spartans extended on a punt fake, when Mike Sadler’s 26-yard rush on fourth-and-9 placed the Spartans at their own 49.
“That got them some hope, got them into the game,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “But the one thing we told the defense, ‘keep them to a field goal here, then good things can happen for us.’ ”
Five plays into its final drive, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (14-29-1, 163 yards) found Drew Dileo for a 20-yard completion on second-and-11 to put the Wolverines at the 21. After Robinson spiked the ball, and after the Spartans called a timeout in an attempt to ice the kicker, Gibbons lined up for the field goal.
“There were no flashbacks,” Gibbons said, referring to his game-winning kick against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl - in which he famously declared that he thought about brunette women as he lined up for the kick. “It’s a new game, a new season. Coach trusted me to go out and win the game for the seniors.”
Taylor Lewan, who was blocking on the field goal attempt, heard defensive end Craig Roh shouting from the sidelines.
“Nothing gets by you,” Lewan said, recalling Roh’s words. “I told him, ‘I block, that’s what I do.’ I was confident the whole time.”
As Gibbons lined up for the kick, receiver Roy Roundtree told his teammates on the sidelines not to rush the field.
Hoke didn’t watch. Instead, he said he looked at the fans standing behind the north end zone of Michigan Stadium — and gauged their reaction when Gibbons’ kick sailed through the goalposts.
That final drive, Hoke said, was a testament to the confidence of his team.
“I don’t think anyone on our sideline thought the game was over,” Hoke said.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.