Brutal. Just absolutely, positively brutal.
When Northwestern led by double digits against Michigan, the cynicists in all of us expected an eventual loss. We'd all seen this movie before: it plays on the insides of our eyelids.. When Northwestern picked up a first down with under two minutes and opposition unable to stop the clock, those cynicists had admitted their error, packed up their bags and gone home for the day. They punted to give Michigan the ball with 18 seconds and a chance for some desperation heaves.
Of course, Devin Gardner's pass to Roy Roundtree was tipped, hung in the air for probably less than a quarter-second, but basically three millenia, and found its way into Roundtree's hands to put Michigan in field goal range, tie the game up, and eventually win in overtime. Northwestern played Russian Roulette with a 1,000 barrel revolver and a single bullet, and yet here we are, sweeping their brains off the floor. We looked around and said "you can't be serious!", and whoever "you" is, he wanked aggressively and confirmed to us that he was. He was and remains completely serious, and every second we are closer to dying is his new favorite second.
Lost in the overwhelming suckstorm of emotion surrounding Northwestern's 38-31 overtime loss is that the No. 24 Wildcats went out and played a damn good game on Saturday. NU took it to one of the best teams in the Big Ten offensively and lost by in large because a second-string cornerback playing due to injury deflected a pass in such a manner that the guy he was trying to deflect it from somehow managed to catch it. They needed a miracle. Of course, they got one.
Let's break stuff down:
- Since it needs to be said: really encouraging day from the offense. Venric Mark officially churns out 100-yard games in his sleep, and Trevor Siemian played perfectly - his only incompletion was a deep pass on a go route that hit Tony Jones in the hands. His back shoulder out route to Cam Dickerson for the touchdown at the end of the first half was perfect - had me quoting Jason Street about the same route: "you're a good quarterback, opposing defenses will respect you. But you make THIS throw, opposing defenses will FEAR you." I don't think the fact that he was better than Kain Colter takes away from the way the pair had played of late, but good to see. This was by far the best offensive performance any team besides Alabama had against Michigan, so that's nice.
- It's pretty clear that without Nick VanHoose, Northwestern's secondary is blasted. Michigan picked on Demetrius Dugar just like Syracuse did in the opener, and it worked with ridiculous ease, with the exception of the one poorly thrown ball that Dugar picked off.
- We have to make sure not to forget about excited Pat Fitzgerald celebrating a penalty.
- Now we must talk about the last two minutes of the game and overtime. Note: Northwestern still has not won in overtime in a very, very long time, and it hurts quite a bit.
- First off, good decision by Pat Fitzgerald to go for it on fourth-and-short. Great one, in fact. Last week Mark Dantonio punted to win, and his team lost. Even if you don't pick it up, it was the smart call. I've literally never seen a spot that close, but it went Northwestern's way after some bad calls earlier. Then, the playcalling was milquetoast, but I ain't gonna be mad. You have to milk (milque?) the clock. Northwestern probably might have been able to pick up the first down with a pass, but I think the smart decision was to run instead of risking a stopped clock.
- Then, the punt. It probably could have been better, but it took a pretty long amount of time off the clock. Brandon Williams has been great all year. No qualms.
- Then, uh, the hail mary. I hope MountainTiger breaks this play down. I can't fathom how when you're rushing three guys - already a problem - your cornerback ends up in single coverage on the one guy going deep. Shouldn't there be multiple, multiple, multiple people back there with eight in coverage? The smart play would have been for Daniel Jones to just deck Roundtree. Pass interference isn't a spot foul. It would've given Michigan the ball around the 50 with eight seconds to go instead. He still managed to make a play on the ball.
- Let's just take a moment to examine how ridiculous this all was. Michigan needed everything - everything! - to go right, and it did. The odds were so improbably low of this working out. We can whine and moan about things Northwestern should have done better in the last two minutes, so we will. But they really gave Michigan only the tiniest sliver of opportunity, but they pounced on it.
- Then OT was a mess. No chance of getting a stop, and...
- The play on fourth down with the game on the line was a dive up the middle to Tyris Jones. I just don't know, guys. In overtime, it never really felt like Northwestern had a shot after the cosmic balltap provided by the end of regulation, but they definitely didn't play like they had one.
I think that about wraps it up. In other news, I predicted Michigan 38, Northwestern 31. This is how King Midas felt when he tried to eat, but all his food turned to gold.