The following is the next in a series of fictional game stories predicting the outcome of Michigan’s 2017 football season.
Body Slamming the Badgers
Vicious hit sparks Wolverines to upset
Madison, Wisc. – The Wolverines looked lackluster, and in need of a spark in the third quarter on Saturday night. Staring down the barrel of consecutive losses for the first time since Jim Harbaugh took over.
Somebody needed to make a play, and that somebody turned out to be Rashan Gary.
A blown blocking assignment by Wisconsin gave Gary a free shot at quarterback Alex Hornibrook, which he took full advantage of with what could end up being the hit of the year in college football. The full force of Gary’s blow didn’t just knock Hornibrook clean off the ground, but out of the game.
That turned the tide, and Michigan rode the momentum shift to a 20-17 upset victory in front of a rowdy crowd at Camp Randall Stadium.
Both teams now have identical 9-2 records. The 15th-ranked Wolverines were eliminated from Big Ten title contention, but did record their first win in Madison since 2001. No. 9 Wisconsin still controls its own destiny in the West Division.
“(Gary’s hit) was the momentum-shifter without a doubt,” said Harbaugh, who got his first road win against a ranked opponent at Michigan. “But give credit to our offense, which put together a couple of solid touchdown drives after that, too.”
The Wolverines trailed, 17-6, prior to Gary’s huge hit. It seemed as if Gary didn’t just put the Badgers to sleep, but woke up the sleepy Michigan offense with his mighty blow. Wilton Speight led two consecutive touchdown drives, and then the Michigan running game ran out the clock on the game’s final possession.
“I really think this is a big win for our program,” said Speight, who was a combined 7-for-9 on Michigan’s two touchdown drives in the second half. “Even with our veteran unit last year, we couldn’t get that big, statement win on the road. Given how young we are this year, you don’t know you can do it until you do. Now we know we can do it.”
As for the Badgers, they’re not so sure the Gary hit was a clean one.
“We’ll send the film to the league office for clarification, because it certainly looked to us like (Gary) led with the crown of his helmet,” Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst said. “We hope Alex will be good to go next week.”
Targeting wasn’t called on the field following Gary’s big hit, but the replay booth decided to review it before agreeing with the original call.
From there the Badger offense bogged down, never really threatened again, and didn’t look at all like the team that had dominated the game up until that point in time.
Meanwhile, Michigan’s two scoring drives were both culminated by Ty Isaac touchdowns. The first on a screen pass from Speight, and the second was a 3-yard scamper on a toss sweep. Sometimes the forgotten man in Michigan’s backfield this year, Isaac came up big when the Wolverines needed him most.
“Coach is always telling us to be ready because you’re just a play away from being needed,” Isaac said. “When Chris (Evans) tweaked his ankle a bit, I knew I was gonna get the call and I was ready.”
Harbaugh said he could tell Isaac was going to have a big game by the way he practiced throughout the week.
“Some of our guys were down after last week’s loss, but this was Ty’s best week of practice of the season,” Harbaugh said. “His energy really stood out, which you get that with seniors this time of year. The clock is ticking, and they know they’re running out of time to make their mark.”
Michigan will next host second-ranked Ohio State in their annual rivalry game next week. The Buckeyes and top-ranked Alabama are the final two undefeateds remaining. Wisconsin also plays a rivalry game next week on the road at Minnesota, with a berth in Indianapolis and the Big Ten title game on the line.