Michigan prevails in in overtime 38-31

Wolverines keep faint Rose Bowl hopes alive in win over Northwestern

11/11/2012
BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Michigan wide receiver Roy Roundtree turns to rush after making a reception. Roundtree had five catches for 139 yards.
Michigan wide receiver Roy Roundtree turns to rush after making a reception. Roundtree had five catches for 139 yards.

ANN ARBOR — With one prop­erly de­flected pass in the fi­nal min­utes of reg­u­la­tion, the Mich­i­gan foot­ball team gained new life.

With one fi­nal tackle in over­time, the Wol­v­er­ines ended any threat and any hope of an up­set that North­west­ern har­bored Satur­day af­ter­noon at Mich­i­gan Sta­dium.

Min­utes af­ter quar­ter­back Devin Gard­ner scored on a one-yard touch­down run in over­time, Mich­i­gan line­backer Kenny Demens tack­led North­west­ern tail­back Tyris Jones on fourth-and-2 to pol­ish off Mich­i­gan’s 38-31 win over North­west­ern.

Stop­ping Jones wasn’t strictly a mat­ter of busi­ness for Demens. The fi­nal play also brought a cer­tain sense of re­demp­tion.

“To make that play, I felt so proud of my­self, but not for me,” said Demens, who had nine tack­les, in­clud­ing two for a loss. “For my team. We didn’t play as well as we wanted to so to come up and make a play at the end, and fin­ish strong as we did, it means a lot.”

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner tries to evade Northwestern linebacker David Nwabuisi.
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner tries to evade Northwestern linebacker David Nwabuisi.

Mich­i­gan (7-3, 5-1 Big Ten) trailed by 10 points in the third quar­ter and prior to Fitz­ger­ald Tous­saint’s 28-yard touch­down, al­lowed North­west­ern to score those 10 points on a pair of 10-play drives that to­taled 128 yards.

Yet with­out Roy Round­tree’s 53-yard, high­light-reel catch in the fi­nal sec­onds of reg­u­la­tion, fol­lowed by Bren­dan Gib­bons’ 26-yard field goal, the Wol­v­er­ines might not be con­sid­er­ing their Rose Bowl pos­si­bil­i­ties — which still have some sort of pulse, de­spite Ne­braska’s 32-23 win over Penn State in Lin­coln, Neb.

Mich­i­gan’s win elim­i­nated Mich­i­gan State from earn­ing a share of the Leg­ends Divi­sion cham­pi­on­ship, and with two games left in the reg­u­lar sea­son, Mich­i­gan and Ne­braska are tied for the Leg­ends Divi­sion lead. Ne­braska holds the tie­breaker by vir­tue of its Oct. 20 win over the Wol­v­er­ines.

But, as the Wol­v­er­ines have said since that loss, they can only con­trol what is in their realm. That rang true late in the fourth quar­ter Satur­day when Round­tree and North­west­ern cor­ner­back Daniel Jones leaped to play a pass from Gard­ner. Round­tree caught and cra­dled the ric­o­chet and landed at the North­west­ern 9; two plays later, Gib­bons’ field goal sent the game to over­time.

Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs breaks up a pass intended for Northwestern tight end Dan Vitale.
Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs breaks up a pass intended for Northwestern tight end Dan Vitale.

“He just put it up there for me,” said Round­tree, who led all re­ceiv­ers with five catches for 139 yards. “I told him all game, ‘Just put it up there for me and I’ll go get it for you.’ I tipped it in the air, to my­self, and it came down, and there were no re­views.”

Round­tree later ad­mit­ted that he wasn’t sure whether the pass was tipped in the air by a North­west­ern de­fender, but he and Gard­ner cred­ited their team’s poise un­der pres­sure.

“There’s no op­tion not to score,” Gard­ner said of the fi­nal sec­onds of reg­u­la­tion. “This team worked way too hard to get to this point to not be able to score.”

Gard­ner’s touch­down run and Demens’ tackle ended a game in which Mich­i­gan led only twice in reg­u­la­tion. Tho­mas Rawls’ one-yard run gave the Wol­v­er­ines a 14-7 lead with 6 min­utes, 17 sec­onds left in the sec­ond quar­ter, be­fore North­west­ern tied the game on Cameron Dick­er­son’s 19-yard touch­down catch with 25 sec­onds left in the first half.

With 3:57 left in the third quar­ter, North­west­ern took a 24-14 lead on Dan Vi­tale’s 23-yard touch­down re­cep­tion and Jeff Budzien’s 37-yard field goal, but Mich­i­gan cut North­west­ern's lead to 24-21 on Tous­saint's touch­down two min­utes later. With 8:45 left in the fourth, the Wol­v­er­ines took a 28-24 lead when Gard­ner (16 for 29, 286 yards, two touch­downs, one in­ter­cep­tion) con­nected with Devin Funch­ess for an eight-yard touch­down.

But af­ter Tony Jones gave North­west­ern a 31-28 lead with less than four min­utes left, the Wild­cats couldn’t run out the clock. The Wild­cats reached the Mich­i­gan 39 on their fi­nal drive of reg­u­la­tion, but punted af­ter tak­ing a de­lay-of-game pen­alty, and on Mich­i­gan’s en­su­ing play, Gard­ner threw a deep — and game-chang­ing — pass to Round­tree.

“We got into a slug­fest and ended up one play short,” said North­west­ern coach Pat Fitz­ger­ald, whose team has squan­dered a sec­ond-half lead in three of its last five Big Ten games. “That’s hap­pened three times to us. The re­al­ity is, we’re a dom­i­nant foot­ball team. We’ve just got to find a way to make that one more play.”

In over­time, Mich­i­gan safety Jor­dan Kovacs said his team’s game plan was suc­cinct. The Wol­v­er­ines wasted lit­tle time — nine com­bined plays — ex­e­cut­ing that strat­egy.

“Let’s get a stop, win this game and let’s go home,” Kovacs said.

Con­tact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@the­blade.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twit­ter @RLen­ziBlade.