Michigan and Northwestern are no strangers, having met 74 times over the past 125 years. The Maize and Blue hold the upper hand historically (.784 winning percentage) and in recent years as well (five straight wins). Though little geographic distance separates the two schools, the gap on the football field is substantial.
Thanks to the ever-changing Big Ten scheduling, the two sides have not met since 2015 and will not meet again until 2021. The Wolverines may be thankful for this infrequency, as more often than not, the Wildcats have provided a steep challenge. On the flip side, this has made for some highly entertaining games for fans.
2011: Michigan 42, Northwestern 24 (Evanston)
The No. 12 Wolverines entered halftime down 10 points thanks to three interceptions by Denard Robinson. Four unanswered touchdowns in the second half, however, gave Michigan the victory to keep it undefeated on the season. Robinson ended the game with 337 passing yards and 117 rushing yards to go with four total touchdowns.
Junior Hemingway did not find the end zone but did haul in five passes for 124 yards against the Wildcats. Jeremy Gallon and Steve Watson were the recipients of Robinson’s touchdown throws, while Michael Shaw and Devin Gardner rushed for scores in the come-from-behind win.
2012: Michigan 38, Northwestern 31 (Ann Arbor)
Michigan was without Robinson due to injury, so Gardner found himself in a back-and-forth battle with No. 24 Northwestern. The Wildcats took the lead with less than four minutes left in the game, but a Gardner prayer to Roy Roundtree with eight seconds left was somehow brought in after a fortunate deflection, leading to a game-tying field goal as time expired.
Gardner threw for two touchdowns and ran for two as well, including the game-winning score in overtime. Roundtree had 139 total yards, and Fitzgerald Toussaint and Devin Funchess found the scoresheet via passes from Gardner. The Wolverines won the game on a Northwestern 4th-and-2 run from the 17-yard line, which went nowhere.
2013: Michigan 27, Northwestern 19 (Evanston)
For the second year in a row, the two teams went to overtime. Regulation was full of field goals, with none bigger than Brendan Gibbons’s 44-yarder as the clock hit zero to send the game to extra periods. Gardner hit Gallon in the middle of the field with 10 seconds remaining, causing a frantic charge of the field goal unit onto the field with the clock still running. Holder Drew Dileo sprinted from the other side of the field and slid into place, just in time to catch the snap.
Three overtime periods resulted in much more scoring than in regulation, including a Gardner touchdown pass to Jake Butt and a five-yard run. Gallon had a big day, bringing in 10 catches for 115 yards, although he did not find the end zone. The Wolverines finally got the win after Thomas Gordon picked off Trevor Siemian in triple overtime.
2014: Michigan 10, Northwestern 9 (Evanston)
After two exciting games that game down to the wire, 2014 brought a similarly tight game that was much less glamorous. With the game infamously tied 0-0 at halftime, Michigan scored the first points of the game halfway through the third quarter and held on to win as Northwestern unsuccessfully went for two with three seconds remaining.
Gardner had an awful afternoon, completing less than 50 percent of his passes while throwing a pair of interceptions without any touchdowns. De’Veon Smith carried the load for the Wolverines, tallying 121 yards on 18 touches and the team’s only score. The biggest play of the game came from Frank Clark on the two-point attempt, whose rush of Siemian led to a quick sack.
2015: Michigan 38, Northwestern 0 (Ann Arbor)
The game started with a Jehu Chesson kickoff return for a touchdown and ended with an absolute smackdown of No. 13 Northwestern, as No. 18 Michigan completed its impressive third-straight shutout. Unlike the previous three seasons, this matchup was never close, with Michigan leading 28-0 by half.
Jake Rudock had an efficient day, going 17-for-23 for 179 yards and a rushing touchdown. Derrick Green and Drake Johnson both found the end zone as well, and the Wolverines held Northwestern to just 38 yards on the ground and a 2-for-13 third down conversion rate. Jourdan Lewis also came to play, ripping the ball away from a receiver on his way to a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown.