Deja vu for Michigan Wolverines in 10-9 win over Wildcats


It was almost fitting that the Michigan Wolverines won a football game on a missed two-point conversion in the final seconds Saturday (Nov. 8) at Northwestern.

Less than a year ago U-M failed on a two-point try, losing to arch-rival Ohio State  in an identical situation.

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This time, a three-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian to Tony Jones brought the Wildcats within one—10-9—with :03 on the clock.

A simple extra point would have sent the game into overtime, but Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald elected to become an instant hero by going for two instead.

Decision made in advance

Like Ohio State did a season ago, Michigan called a time out to set the stage for the crucial play.

As Siemian rolled right, Michigan DE Frank Clark pressured him into stumbling to the ground and Michigan left the field with a victory.

"“I made that decision with six minutes left in the game” said Fitzgerald during his post-game press conference. “…We didn’t score a lot of points, so I felt like I’ll take a one-play opportunity. You know, three yards, one play, try to go win a football game. Being aggressive.”"

While the win might have been one of the ugliest  in recent memory, it was still a “W” for the Wolverines, who are now just one victory shy of a post-season bowl berth.

Hoke still under fire?

Before hosting Maryland in two weeks (Nov. 22), Michigan (5-5, 3-3 Big Ten) will spend the bye week mending its wounds and contemplating the future of head coach Brady Hoke.

Despite winning the last two games, Michigan is no closer to contending for the Big Ten title than it was when Hoke took over in 2011.

In comparison, Michigan State drubbed Michigan 35-11 Oct. 25, and Ohio State won convincing at Michigan State Saturday night, 49-37.

Nov 8, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and wife Shelley Meyer celebrate after defeating the Michigan State Spartans 49-37 at Spartan Stadium. Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Granted, Michigan’s pass rush was impressive the last two games and the front seven has been solid against the run.

But lets face it, Northwestern and Indiana are not Michigan State and Ohio State.

Nothing special about Michigan

Just two weeks ago, the defending Big Ten champion Spartans posted 219 yards rushing, 227 yards passing and 35 points against Michigan’s defenders.

The defense is ranked 4th in the Big Ten in rushing defense (115.7 yards per game) and 5th in total defense (304.9). These numbers might be good, but Michigan fans are accustomed to much better.

You can even make a case that the defense wasn’t special at all in the final quarter. With 14 minutes remaining, the Wolverines had allowed no points and just 90 total yards.

From that point on, Northwestern’s mainly-passing attack netted 169 yards, including a 95-yard drive for a field goal and a 74-yard drive for the almost-tying touchdown. Michigan played very conservatively down the stretch, and it almost blew up in defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s face.

Offense in decline

On the other side of the ball, Hoke figured he could improve last year’s offense by bringing in highly-regarded OC Doug Nussmeier from Alabama. After nine games a year ago, Michigan averaged 385 yards per game.

This year, going into Saturday’s game, Michigan averaged 330 yards per game, tied for last in the Big Ten with Northwestern (3-6, 2-4 Big Ten).

The Wolverines are also 12th in scoring (21.9 points-per-game).

“I think we’re still not getting in the end zone like we’d like to,” Hoke said afterwards. “That’s something that we’ve got to continue to work on and continue to get better at.”

Michigan misses Rich Rodriguez’ players

Sure, the offensive line is missing Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield;  Fitz Toussaint is missing from the backfield, and Jeremy Gallon is no longer catching passes.

Which also means there are more of Hoke’s players in the lineup, and that’s certainly a gauge of how his overall program is going.

Even if the Wolverines defeat Maryland and go into the Horseshoe with a three-game winning streak, they’ll still be huge underdogs, and will be hard-pressed to pull off an upset.

Unless something magical happens in Columbus, new Michigan president Mark Schlissel, the Board of Regents and interim athletic director Jim Hackett will most likely be making some phone calls, maybe a few to San Francisco or a few to Baton Rouge.

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