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Turning Points: Third Punt's the Charm

Oregon State controlled the game early before Michigan found its footing in the second quarter. Then, three punt attempts and some craziness from the probability gods near the end of the first half helped the Wolverines run away with the game.

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With Oregon State making short work of Michigan's defense and Jake Rudock coughing up a fumble three plays later, the Ghost of Michigan Football (recent) Past seemed to have materialized in Ann Arbor on Saturday. This did not feel like Jim Harbaugh's Homecoming. What was meant to be the first of many victories in the Big House instead echoed the lackluster starts that became habit in recent years. The pessimist in me started to imagine what 0-2 would look like. I began to build conspiracy theories: Did Dave Brandon actually use the athletic department's budget to fund the development of those seeds from The Body Snatchers and create a clone of Jim Harbaugh that he's using to, once and for all, destroy Michigan football?

After reading Endzone (side note: Maize n Brew review coming soon), nothing would surprise me if it related to Dave Brandon trying to salvage his image and legacy. When Oregon State returned the favor two plays after Rudock's fumble and Michigan turned it into three points, everything started to feel better. Okay, we got this. But the offense still seemed lost as the Beavers and Wolverines traded punts with an Oregon State turnover on downs sandwiched in the middle.

Then the offense flicked their START switch to ON and put together a spotless trip to the endzone. Rudock completed every pass attempt while De'Veon Smith capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run. With under five minutes left in the half, all I wanted was Michigan to be up heading into the locker room. And after the Wolverines defense forced Oregon State into a punt, this seemed inevitable. Until the actual punt happened:


Whether or not you agree with the way he went about arguing the call, Jim Harbaugh was 100% correct:

If Oregon State had tied the game or scored a go-ahead touchdown following this call, who knows what happens. Maybe Michigan still dominates in the second half or maybe it's close down to the wire. All that's certain is that Michigan fans, players, and coaches are pissed, and the Beavers just received an unwarranted gift.


What a ridiculously lucky bounce this punt took. I couldn't find video of it, but Peppers decided to not field the punt, the ball first made contact with the ground around the 10-yard line, and then proceeded to take a weird sideways path out of bounds at about the two-yard line. Really? First the erroneous flag and now a fortuitous carom to pin Michigan deep and potentially force a safety?


Watching the game live, I didn't realize right away that Oregon State was flagged and forced to re-punt, but the timing of the illegal formation penalty could not have been better. At least we won't be backed up to our own endzone. But before the re-punt, the Ghost of Christmas (recent) Past turned into Michigan's Fairy Godmother - an entity I personally haven't seen in the Big House since Denard Robinson hit Drew Dileo to set up the game-winning field goal against Michigan State in 2012 - and this happened:


From there, you know the rest. De'Veon Smith pounded the ball in to take a 17-7 lead, and the Wolverines never looked back. As they say, the third punt's the charm.