A Maize-Nificent Finish For Michigan! Wolverines Stun Badgers 27-25!

Keith SheltonAnalyst ISeptember 27, 2008

I'll admit it. I very nearly gave up on this team today.

It's not that I didn't expect a slow start for the Wolverines this year, but I did expect noticeable improvement from week to week.

At first, I was getting ready to say that Michigan had finally hit rock bottom. Michigan had a horrible first half, but ended up giving us one of the best games in Michigan history. An instant classic.

It didn't start out that way, though.

After turning the ball over more than a half-dozen times against Notre Dame, I expected Michigan to have learned some ball control.

Instead, the Wolverines gave that dreadful performance a fitting encore. They promptly came out against the ninth-ranked Badgers and turned the ball over five times in the first half. 

Michigan's offense was absolutely dreadful in that first half. Most of their plays resulted in negative yardage.

If there was one bright spot in that first half, it was that Wisconsin was only able to score 19 points off Michigan's five turnovers.

I'll say this. Michigan's defense has to be recognized as one of the top defenses in college football even better than Wisconsin's. It was a monumental task for that Wolverines defense to hold Wisconsin's offense to 19 points in the first half when you factor in the turnovers.

At halftime, I struggled with turning the TV off and getting some chores done. After all, it very well could have been 35-0 at that point. However, my experience as a Detroit Lions fan told me to stick it out.

I don't know what got into this team after the half, but Michigan was completely different. It was Jekyll and Hyde.

The Wolverines defense locked down in the third quarter and held Wisconsin to multiple three-and-outs. Then Threet took it from there.

Steven Threet is the kind of quarterback Michigan deserves. A Michigan fan since birth, Threet played with the passion and determination that a fan of this team can't help but love.

Michigan hadn't had good field position all day, so when Threet started on Michigan's 15-yard line, it was par for the course.

Now, here's where I started noticing a pattern. Remember strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis saying his team would still be running at full speed late in the game? He was right.

Threet led the Wolverines on an 85-yard drive, capping it off with a 26-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Kevin Koger.

Wisconsin got the ball back and promptly went three-and-out. The Badger defense had been on the field a long time during Michigan's last drive and Michigan was happy to take advantage.

Michigan again marched right down the field. Threet was accurate and sharp, and Brandon Minor capped the drive with a 34 yard touchdown run.

The Big House was starting to wake up, and boos turned into cheers. Threet was walking back and forth pumping up the crowd, and you got the feeling that Michigan wasn't losing this game.

Wisconsin quarterback Allen Evridge came right back out and threw an interception to John Thompson, who, with a horde of blockers, ran it all the way back for a touchdown.

Michigan would go for the two-point conversion, but failed. It didn't matter, though. Michigan would take a 20-19 lead and it was pandemonium at the Big House.

Wisconsin's next possession again resulted in a three-and-out, and Michigan's triumphant offense again marched out onto the field with the lead for the first time in the game.

Rodriguez then opened up his playbook and gave us something eye-popping. Threet faked the hand-off to Minor. The cameras followed Minor who was nailed, but then quickly panned to Threet who emerged from the huddle, still with the ball. Threet tore down field for 58 yards before finally being brought down.

Threet would finish the day as Michigan's leading rusher with 91 yards. Who says the big quarterback can't run? Wisconsin's biggest mistake might have been not taking him seriously as a runner.

Sam McGuffie who had a tough day running, would have his best play of the day, scoring on third down for Michigan to take a 27-19 lead.

At this point, Michigan had accomplished the second largest comeback in Michigan history but they still had to win the game.

On Wisconsin's next drive, they were down to business and marched all the way downfield very methodically to Michigan's 4-yard line. Evridge would then fumble the ball after being sacked and Michigan recovered. Game over, right? Not quite.

Michigan would go three-and-out on their next possession as Wisconsin burned all of their timeouts.

Then, Evridge showed what he was made of. The Badgers again marched all the way downfield, as Wisconsin's receivers made some spectacular catches.

Then Wisconsin would do the unthinkable. Evridge in a clutch moment, hit David Gilreath in the end zone to narrow Michigan's lead the 27-25. The Badgers would go for the two-point conversion with 13 seconds left in the game. A successful conversion would surely send the game to overtime.

Evridge dropped back and hit his receiver to complete the conversion...except it was an ineligible receiver and the conversion was called back. On Wisconsin's second attempt, Evridge sailed a pass too high and it failed.

Wisconsin would not say die, and went for a last-ditch onside kick. Michigan would recover though, and this game was finally sealed.

It was one of the most amazing finishes I've witnessed as a Michigan fan, and one of the proudest moments as well. Rich Rodriguez evened his record as Michigan coach to 2-2, got a win over a top-10 opponent, and most importantly, he vindicated himself to the Michigan faithful.

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema would lose for the first time when leading at halftime and Michigan would take home one of their more sweeter victories.

A loss here would have dropped his team to 1-3, and Rodriguez would have been feeling the heat. Talk would have surfaced about Michigan's decreasing chances of keeping their streak of winning seasons intact.

Instead, Rodriguez is the hero and he got the Gatorade bath to prove it.

Although this team still has a lot of growing up to do, especially when it comes to turnovers, I will savor this victory. It could very well be the turning point for this team and it says to the rest of the conference, don't count us out.

Wisconsin was being hailed before the game as the class of the conference. Now, it could be anyone.

Hail to the Victors. There are good times ahead, indeed.


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