exHAIL: The improbable in Evanston

Posted on Posted in Michigan Football

In a game that was dominated by regulation field goals, one kick – and one power-slide – salvaged what could’ve been a disastrous night in Evanston for the Wolverines.

With less than 10 seconds left in the game seemingly melting away before our eyes and Michigan trailing by three, the special teams rushed out on the field to attempt a 44-yard field goal desperation attempt. With a second to spare, Gibbons boots one home and the game is headed to overtime.

In a long line of dramatic Gibbons kicks, this one at least began to salvage what is left of the month of November.

Michigan would eventually win the game after three overtimes. A game most thought that the Wolverines had no business winning yesterday. With all the rosiness and cheerfulness aside, the Wolverines were lucky to win this game.

The Michigan team that out-manned Northwestern in overtime was not the same team we saw in regulation. If anyone on the Northwestern defense could catch a football, albeit soggy conditions had something to do with it, this game could be drastically different. 

Keeping a team in the game by not capitalizing on turnover chances will add up over time. 

For the Wildcats, their defense dropped at least four sure interceptions. One of which was an easy pick-six. In a game that did not see a touchdown until overtime, I’m sure Northwestern would want a do-over.

Michigan fans saw a brief look into the future Saturday when highly-touted and seldom-used freshman running backs Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith saw significant playing time. Green finished with a respectable 79 yards on 19 carries and Smith finished with 41 yards on eight carries.

It was also encouraging to see the amount of yards per play both running backs were able to average. Green finished with a 4.1 yards-per average with a longest of 23 whereas Smith finished with 5.1 yards-per average with a longest of 16. Significantly higher than what fifth-year senior Fitzgerald Toussaint has been able to manage as of late. 

Though considering Northwestern is a battered team and can be much better than their record indicates, these stats should be taken with a grain of salt.

With the freshman tandem, Michigan finally got out of the rushing funk and finished with positive yardage. Even though Toussaint did not play, it doesn’t mean the running game is completely fixed. However, it is encouraging. 

According to Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, Toussaint was injured for most of the week and did not see enough practice time to play. Considering Toussaint is a senior and has been around the block a few times, it is a strange explanation as to why he could not play.

Another bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season is that the Wolverines welcomed another receiver into their prestigious 1000 yard receiving club. Jeremy Gallon, the first Michigan receiver with a 1000 yard season since Mario Manningham, finished yesterdays contest with 11 catches for 115 yards. Although Gallon dropped one of the easier potential game-winning touchdown passes he might have seen in his career in the second overtime, all is forgiven.

With Saturday wrapped up and in the record books, the Wolverines hope the magic continues for the next two weeks as tough match-ups against Iowa and Ohio State are looming. Though winning the next two games do nothing for their conference championship aspirations, finishing the season on a high note could take the bitter taste most of this season has brought upon on.

One thing is for certain, the boot of Gibbons brought up the spirits of a locker room and University that desperately needed it. At least for one night, Michigan can “exHAIL” to the victors, valiant.
Derek Devine
Institutional voice of Alma College during the day, Michigan fanatic at night. Taking TBHR to the next level one post at a time.