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Top 10 Plays: No. 8 Michigan 36, Cincinnati 14

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We ranked the best 10 highlights from Michigan’s victory over Cincinnati. Hint: the No. 1 spot on the list doesn’t belong to a pick-six.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, we at Maize n Brew will count down Michigan’s best 10 plays from its most recent game. There is no set formula which determines how we choose or rank these plays. The top spot could be awarded to a play consisting of individual brilliance or a simple play that has a significant impact on the outcome of the game. It depends on how we are feeling each week.

There is one set piece of criteria, though: these are Michigan’s top 10 plays, not the game’s. You did not come to this website to watch the opponent’s highlights. You came to watch the best of what the Wolverines have to offer each week. So that’s exactly what we are going to give you.

10. Instant Replay: A Scooper-Pooper (2:36 2Q)

This should have been higher on this list. Because this should have been ruled a catch.

It is understandable why this was initially ruled an incompletion. In real time, the way the football shifts as it approaches Grant Perry makes it seem like it bounced off the turf. However, the review clearly shows that Perry incredibly placed his left palm under the nose of the ball and used both hands to scoop the ball into his chest. It was an amazing catch, one that should have gained 10 yards on a critical 3rd & 5 and would have put Michigan in position to close the first half with a much-needed touchdown.

Instead, Michigan’s drive incorrectly came to a screeching halt.

9. Zach Gentry Flips the Field (5:04 3Q)

There were three chunk play that really flipped the field for Michigan.

In the first quarter, Michigan completely caught Cincinnati off-guard with a jet sweep to Donovan Peoples-Jones, who ran untouched for about 40 yards due to the play design and Kekoa Crawford taking his defender for a ride all the way down the sideline:

The 44-yard gain set up a short Michigan field goal and 17-7 lead.

In the fourth quarter, Michigan ran a toss sweep to Ty Isaac, who galloped down the field for 53 yards thanks to incredible awareness and blocking by tackle Mason Cole:

This also led to a short Michigan field goal and extended the Wolverines’ fourth-quarter advantage to 13 points during a time when the offense had some difficulties.

However, the most important of these three plays occurred in the third quarter when Michigan was really feeling the pressure. Cincinnati had cut Michigan’s lead to three, and the Wolverines could not get anything going. That is, until Zach Gentry happened:

Gentry executed a beautiful post route, persuading his defender to turn the wrong way before breaking across the middle. This provided Gentry the separation he needed to haul in a clean throw from Wilton Speight, and then Gentry flashed his wheels from the spring game by swinging around a Ty Isaac block and up the field for a 36-yard gain. The reception moved Michigan to the Cincinnati 44-yard to kick start a key drive.

But we’ll return to that drive a bit later.

8. Fourth and 8? Go to Speight (11:37 4Q)

With the outcome still in doubt, Jim Harbaugh forwent a 50-yard field goal attempt — well within Quinn Nordin’s range — to seek a first down on 4th & 8. Wilton Speight had his miscues throughout, but on this play, he threw a dart between the safety and corner to Kekoa Crawford up the seam for a 20-yard gain. Although Michigan would not capitalize on this with a touchdown, the conversion allowed the Wolverines to extinguish more time and kick a short field goal to extend the lead to 13 points.

7. Maurice Burst, Jr. (1:48 3Q)

Michigan had just reestablished a two-score lead late in the third quarter when Cincinnati found itself in a 3rd & 1 on its own 34-yard line. The Wolverines could use this moment to make a big stop, get the ball back, and continue to swing the energy in their direction. And that’s exactly what Maurice Hurst, Jr. did. Hurst fired off the snap in an instant and blew back the Bearcats’ left tackle about two yards before storming inside to corral the running back at the line of scrimmage with the assistance of Bryan Mone, Devin Bush, Jr., and Mike McCray. Cincinnati was short of the marker and punted.

6. Yakety Snap (7:00 4Q)

Michigan gets partial credit for standing there. Luke Fickell gets the rest.

5. Kinnel’s Kreative Scoring (7:01 1Q)

This was the highlight of Tyree Kinnel’s career day, during which he recorded a team-high nine tackles, a sack, and this interception. Usually pick-sixes would not be this low, but that’s what happens when it’s not the only one of the game, the interception was more about the throw than the coverage, and the return had little electricity to it. Hayden Moore missed the open pocket of Michigan’s coverage and fired a ball high and behind his intended receiver right to Kinnel, who followed a convoy 28 yards into the end zone. Kinnel magnified Moore’s mistake, but this was more about, well, Moore.

4. Kekoa All Alone-a (12:02 1Q)

Remember when we believed that Michigan would cream Cincinnati? This is why.

It does not get much more perfect than that.

3. Lavert Hill Follows in His Brother’s Footsteps (4:35 4Q)

Michigan sophomore corner Lavert Hill is the younger brother of Delano Hill, the Seattle Seahawks safety who graduated from U-M last season. Delano started his 2016 season with a pick-six in the home opener against Hawaii, so Lavert thought he should follow suit by registering a pick-six of his own in the Wolverines’ 2017 home opener.

And Lavert did it by shutting the door with style. He stepped right in front of Hayden Moore’s ill-advised throw into traffic late in the fourth quarter and sprinted for the other sideline, arcing around Cincinnati’s offense before reaching pay dirt. It gave Michigan a 22-point lead and made the score look less dire than the quality of play did.

2. Khalil Lewis Ain’t No Clifford Franklin (13:31 4Q)

Like the Yakety Snap, Michigan gets little credit for this, but it still was a top Michigan play. Cincinnati hoped to rebound and put the pressure back on Michigan after the Wolverines pushed their lead to double digits. And Cincinnati should have. On 3rd & 12 on the Michigan 42-yard line, Hayden Moore noticed that Khalil Lewis had beaten Khaleke Hudson on the perimeter for a potential touchdown, and before he was swallowed whole by Maurice Hurst, Jr., Moore launched a picture-perfect ball to Lewis. If Lewis caught it, he either scores to cut margin back down to three or sets up the Bearcats inside the five-yard line. Either way, this was about to become a game again.

Instead, the ball plummeted right through Lewis’ hands for a disastrous drop (for the Bearcats, at least) and left Lewis to wish he had some stick ‘um like Clifford Franklin:

1. The Breather (3:09 3Q)

Michigan fans had been holding their breath for a long time, hoping for something — anything — to let them exhale. That something was Grant Perry. The Wolverines could not shake Cincinnati, a team whom they were favored to beat by five touchdowns. The longer that the Bearcats hung around, the more likely it felt Michigan’s younglings would doubt themselves and Cincinnati would spring the massive upset. However, Michigan’s slant-post combo caused Cincinnati’s middle linebacker to step in the wrong direction and Perry to run wide open underneath on the slant. Wilton Speight delivered the ball to him, and then Perry turned on burners, blasting through the Bearcats’ defense for 33 yards before he dove and extended the ball across the goal line. It was the major touchdown Michigan needed to distance itself from Cincinnati.

And for Michigan fans to use their lungs again.