In the first prime time game in Michigan tradition, the Wolverines made history.
Give the moon her money's worth.
That brief sentence might as well have been the pregame talk in the Wolverines locker room tonight. It was all the Michigan team needed to hear in a 35-31 victory that will be not soon be forgotten by those who saw it.
Maybe those were the actual inspirational words Brady Hoke used on his team during his halftime speech. In the first night game ever played at the Big House, Michigan came up bigger than ever.
I'll admit it. With a 7-0 Notre Dame lead and Michigan punting the ball, I walked away from the game. I came back. 14-0 Irish.
I turned the game off, only to turn in back on. When David Ruffer drilled his 38-yard field goal with 1:40 left in the first half, I sent a text message to my little cousin (who is a sophomore at Michigan and witnessed this epic duel live) that read verbatim: "Well, I'm going to a steak restaurant, gonna eat some red meat, drink a whiskey, and hope they look better in the 2nd half!!"
Boy, did they.
TJ Jones reeled in a 15-yard TD pass in the third to put the Irish up 24-7, and as the fourth quarter began this game appeared over. Then, miraculously, Michigan wiped the sleep from its eyes and woke up.
Six seconds into the fourth, Denard Robinson punched in a one-yard touchdown. Less than five minutes later he found Jeremy Gallon for a 14-yard score. With 1:12 remaining in the game Vincent Smith grabbed an isolated screen pass, tiptoed the sidelines into the end zone, and a stadium exclaimed a singular word—"HAIL!"
The collective Wolverine nation sighed in relief. Truthfully, I stood on a bar stool pumped my fist, and promised my fiance I'd devote all of my attention to her for the remainder of the night. That proved to be a lie.
The Wolverine defense allowed yet another score with only 30 seconds left on the clock. I glanced out the window at the moon and she appeared satisfied despite my personal disappointment. The stars would talk about this game for light years to come. Both the literal sky stars and the gridiron greats of years past would remember this game. Rocket Ismael and Desmond Howard would forfeit all their collegiate accolades to have played in this singular game.
I requested my check and prepared to venture home.
But the moon requested an encore; she wanted more. With only 23 seconds left, Robinson hit Gallon again for a 64-yard revival all the way to Notre Dame's 16-yard line. My fiance fidgeted in her seat and in a happier-than-expected tone exclaimed "well, they at least came to play, baby!"
Roundtree hauled in the go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing play. Wolverine nation howled at the moon, as she (glowing) appreciatively smiled down on us.
This hopefully won't be the biggest win in Brody Hoke's UM career. To everyone around Ann Arbor—hell, the country for that matter—he appears every bit of a true Michigan Man. Did Rich Rodriguez ever jump up to touch the banner as he jogged onto the field? I firmly believe Hoke will turn things around for the Wolverines.
It won't happen overnight. Coach Hoke needs time to get get his recruits onto the field; obviously this broken defense is far from fixed. In one "a-maize and blue" night, though, hope has been restored. Michigan will be the biggest story in college football this weekend. Rich Rod's Michigan teams never even had the biggest weekend in the Big Ten.
Three things will endear Brady Hoke to the University of Michigan and its fans. Beat Notre Dame. Defeat Ohio State. And in a grand marketing ploy, win over the moon. He's already crossed two off the list.