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Published: Sunday, 11/11/2012

MICHIGAN NOTEBOOK:

Wolverines defense comes through when it counts

Clay graduate Kovacs chosen to wear Michigan’s No. 11 jersey to honor 3 different Wisterts

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR — It seemed like the Michigan football team faced the same situation through the course of its 38-31 overtime win against Northwestern. Northwestern would line up on third down, and it would almost inevitably convert to continue a lengthy drive.

But in overtime, the Wildcats couldn’t convert their last third down of the loss. Or their last fourth down, for that matter.

While the Wildcats finished 8 of 16 on third-down conversions — compared to Michigan’s 7 for 10 — Northwestern converted three key third downs on two scoring drives, en route to taking a 24-14 lead on Dan Vitale’s 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kain Colter four minutes into the third, followed by Jeff Budzien’s 34-yard field goal with 3 minutes, 57 seconds left in the third.

The Wildcats couldn’t convert on their only possession of overtime, as Colter took a one-yard loss on third-and-1 at the 16-yard line.

On the final play of overtime, Kenny Demens tackled tailback Tyris Jones on fourth-and-2 at the 17 to end the game.

“They converted, and they were a little more accurate on some of the throws on the seven-routes,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “We need to do a better job in the seam, part of our defense, when they were throwing it. And he [Colter] scrambled at times and either we missed the tackle … or we didn’t force the ball.”

Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs (11) breaks up a pass intended for Northwestern tight end Dan Vitale. Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs (11) breaks up a pass intended for Northwestern tight end Dan Vitale.
AP Enlarge

HONORING THE WISTERTS: Jordan Kovacs will wear uniform No. 11 for the remainder of the season, in honor of former Michigan players Francis, Albert, and Alvin Wistert. Kovacs, a senior safety and a Clay graduate, switched from No. 32 prior to Saturday’s game.

“I’ve worn 32 for quite some time, and I think I’ll always be 32,” Kovacs said. “But I think it’s a great opportunity to recognize our legends. I did a little research on the Wisterts, and I actually had the opportunity to meet Albert yesterday.

“He said that when he was first given 11, he was just so humbled, and he was so excited. He said that he prayed before every game that he put it on, that he’d be worthy enough to wear it. That’s kind of my approach. It’s a huge honor, and I hope I’m worthy enough to wear it.”

The Wisterts shared the No. 11 jersey at Michigan; Francis and Albert Wistert lived in Toledo — Albert was in attendance for Saturday’s game — and the National Football Foundation’s Toledo chapter is named after the Wisterts.

Francis Wistert earned six letters in football and baseball, was a unanimous All-American selection at tackle, and played on Michigan’s 1932 and 1933 national championship teams.

Albert Wistert earned All-American honors in football in 1942 and was an All-Big Ten selection in 1940, 1941, and 1942. He also played nine seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Alvin Wistert was an All-American selection in 1948 and 1949 and helped Michigan win the 1948 national championship.

DENARD UPDATE: When asked about the status of quarterback Denard Robinson, who missed his second straight game because of an ulnar nerve injury in his right arm, Hoke labeled Robinson as “day-to-day.”

If something had happened to Devin Gardner during the win against Northwestern, would Robinson be pulled into quarterback duty?

“Maybe,” Hoke quipped. “He was dressed, wasn’t he?”

Furthermore, the Wolverines dispelled any idea of a quarterback controversy.

“This is Denard’s team,” said Gardner, who passed for at least 230 yards in his second straight game. “And it’s always going to be Denard’s team, until he’s gone. He’s done way too much for two games to change that.”

LARKIN RECOGNIZED: Michigan honored former Cincinnati Reds shortstop and baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, who played baseball for the Wolverines from 1983 to 1985.

COMING HOME? Michigan announced its future homecoming dates at Michigan Stadium: Nov. 1, 2014, against Iowa; Oct. 17, 2015, against Minnesota; and Oct. 15, 2016, against Northwestern.



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