The Jug is home again.
For the second game in a row, a win or loss came down to the final play for the Wolverines. Michigan this time, however, found itself on the other side of fate thanks to a heroic goal line stand.
The bevy of almost interceptions was mind-boggling. Countless times Michigan's secondary would be inches away from turning a heroic throw by Mitch Leidner into a horrible misjudgement. And every time Michigan would be just shy of sending the Gopher QB back to the sideline, that drive would ultimately end in Minnesota points.
Credit the Gophers for not giving up and just playing a like a team with nothing to lose. I'm positive the locker room was very emotional after that game as it was clear the entire program was playing for former coach Jerry Kill who's still very much the heart and soul of this team.
The last play
The lasting image of game will of course be the goal line stand at the end. Why Minnesota decided to sneak the QB into the teeth of the Michigan defensive line, the same D-line that gashed the Gopher interior front all night long is a mystery to me. For all of the good fortune the Gophers seemed to have all night spreading Michigan out and letting luck chart it's course, it ran out with 19 seconds left after Leidner's almost touchdown pass to Drew Wolitarsky that set up Minnesota at the 1-yard line.
Hindsight and all, but I'm sure Claey's would like to have that sequence back. Poor decisions made by the interim coach cost his team the game there.
For Michigan, this win helps assuage the Michigan State loss just a little. To go on the road, at night on Halloween, and play an upstart team like that and come away with a win...that's a huge boost for this team going forward. It's clear that Michigan, at least last night, is heavily flawed in some respects. The running game needs improvement. Defensively, Michigan lost containment on a number of plays and tackling could've been better.
Game MVP: Jabrill Peppers
The brightest spot of the night way the continued play of Jabrill Peppers. It was only a matter of time before he took the rock to the endzone, and it was special to see him to it on offense. His play continued to spark Michigan all night, especially on special teams where he was so close to breaking a couple punt returns loose. And of course his almost pick-6 could've been the cap on a huge night for the redshirt-freshman.
Wilton Speight: Captain Comeback 2.0
When Jake Rudock went down in the 3rd quarter, flashes of Nebraska 2012 started to emerge. But unlike that game when Denard went down and Bellomy was essentially just a warm body taking snaps for the rest of the game, Wilton Speight didn't look all that much better early on. But once he was able to settle down and Harbaugh roughed him up on the sideline a little bit, he was able to drive Michigan down the short field (thanks special teams!) and put Michigan ahead in pretty much a must-score scenario.
For Speight (Jake Rudock's roomate), it was a huge boost to sophomore backup's mentality. For Michigan, it helps to know that the giant chasm once known as Michigan's backup QB situation is not quite as scary as it once was. Harbaugh confirmed after the game that Wilton is indeed Michigan's #2 man under center...replacing Shane Morris. At this point, it's doubtful we'll ever seen Morris take another snap in a game at Michigan...just my hunch.
For Rudock, we're hearing that it was a rib injury, although according to Harbaugh, nothing was broken...but it was clear that Jake was just in too much pain to continue. Speight's vision and arm stregnth was showcased on his dart touchdown to Chesson, and then his mobility and patience was shown on the 2-point conversion to Darboh. Just a huge couple of plays for the backup QB.
Now, Michigan is bowl-eligible and heading into the final month of the season with a lot to play for. Nothing it set in stone with the Big Ten race. And even though Michigan needs some help in order to realize their goal of a Big Ten championship, they're still in the conversation.