Michigan QB Devin Gardner (12) about to score a first half touchdown on this 8 yard run. (Image courtesy of John T. Greilick / Detroit News )
The Michigan Wolverines escaped Ann Arbor today with a 38-31 overtime victory over the Northwestern Wildcats and in addition to keeping Brady Hoke’s undefeated home winning streak alive at 13 connective games they remain in the hunt for the Legends Division title.
And they did it with such great late game drama that seems to be the norm for the Wolverines when they play at home under Hoke. What looked like a loss with less then :20 seconds to go in regulation turned into a win in the first OT session thanks to a 1-yard Devin Gardner run and a brilliant defensive stand.
Devin Gardner made his second consecutive start at quarterback for Michigan in place of the still recovering Denard Robinson and had another solid, if not spectacular, day going 16 of 29 for 286 yards passing with two touchdowns and one late and crucial interception to go with one late long amazing completion. Gardner also ran the ball effectively on the ground picking up 47 yards on 9 carriers with two touchdown runs.
But the story of the game was the Wolverine defense both good and bad. And the drama began with Michigan leading 28-24. Northwestern had the ball and was driving. Then thanks to a personal foul penalty called on sophomore defensive end #97 Brennen Beyer with just over 4 minutes to play, the Wildcats were given an automatic first down instead of what would have been 3rd-and-11. On the very next play, back-up quarterback Trevor Siemian completed a 15 yard pass to Tony Jones for the go ahead score.
On the Wolverines next possession with good field position, Gardner threw up a ball intended for tight end Devin Funchess that was picked off by Demetrius Dugar of Northwestern at the Wildcat 22 yard-line.
Northwestern then ran out the clock almost completely out but were forced to punt it away with :27 seconds on the clock. Those seconds were more than enough for Michigan to get the ball and keep the home magic alive.
Jeremy Gallon received the Wildcat punt on the Wolverine 15 yard-line and returned it to the Michigan 38 with :18 seconds left. Then Devin Gardner atoned for his earlier interception by throwing a down-field 53-yard pass to #21 Roy Roundtree who was bumped yet maintained his focus and caught the ball pinning it to his right shoulder before falling to the ground. The Wolverines then rushed down-field and spiked the ball so Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons could tie the game with a 26-yard field goal.
The game went to OT. Northwestern won the toss but elected to start on defense. Michigan then used 5 plays to get into the end zone and capped off the drive with a 1-yard Devin Gardner roll-out bootleg for the score making the score 38-31 with the point-after.
Northwestern was then unable to match the Wolverine score on their only possession of the OT and on four plays were stopped giving Michigan the win.
With the victory the Wolverines are still alive for the Legends Division crown and possible Big Ten championship.
If Penn State is able to beat Nebraska today on the road in Lincoln, the Wolverines would move into sole possession of fist place in the Legends Division.
What a game!