Hold on, this article is under further review.
The Michigan Wolverines played from behind for the first time this season, took Nebraska’s best shots in the second half and escaped Lincoln with a 32-29 victory.
John U. Bacon often refers to mowing the grass during bad Michigan games. While the Nebraska game was far from a “go mow the grass” game, it was undoubtedly a chain-smoking, “NOT NOW, HONEY” experience of a football game.
Both teams endured dubious officiating and the closing quarter could have raised the pulses of the deceased.
The Wolverines remain undefeated on the season, and these are three things we learned from Michigan’s nail-biter at Memorial Stadium.
What will happen when the Wolverines finally trail this season?
A question every member of the fanbase wondered and in their heart of hearts, feared the answer. And of course they couldn’t experience trailing 3-0 in the first quarter. No.
Nebraska overcame a 13-point deficit, forced Cade McNamara’s first interception of the season and seized a 22-19 lead just before the start of the fourth quarter. Coupled with a hostile road environment and a team riding a tidal wave of momentum, Michigan had its back, and season, against the wall.
The Wolverines responded with a Randy Marsh wheelbarrow-toting, 10 play, 75-yard touchdown drive that included 52 of those yards on the ground. Despite playing five different players at guard, Michigan was still able to rely upon its physicality.
Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis did not worry about balance, nor did he worry about spreading the ball around. Gattis focused on production and dominance from his offensive line and two workhorse running backs.
We learned the offense can carry the load and respond to adversity by doing what they do best: running the damn ball.
Michigan’s D Stepped Up When it Mattered Most
After a dominant first half from the defense and a 13-point lead, this game felt in-hand. However, Scott Frost and Adrian Martinez would not go gentle into that good night.
Frost, seemingly coaching for his job every week, went deep into his play calling bag with constant misdirection and tendency-breaking plays. Even his gamesmanship of utilizing late substitutions near the goal line on a critical third down was all done to give his team an advantage.
Frost called one of the best halves of his career and Martinez was in complete control of the offense. The Cornhuskers had scored touchdowns on three straight possessions and had the ball with three minutes to go in a tie game.
Not to trigger anyone, but remember Iowa in 2016? I know my therapist is sick of hearing about it. Although a completely different style of game, the end of this felt eerily similar with defeat looming in the air.
But this Mike Macdonald defense again proved they are the epitome of “bend don’t break.” Two weeks ago against Rutgers, after allowing two consecutive scoring drives, the Wolverines finished the game by forcing a missed field goal, a turnover on downs and a fumble, on the final three possessions.
On the next possession, senior Brad Hawkins had the play of his Michigan career by forcing a fumble, recovering it and setting Jake Moody up for the go-ahead field goal. Still, time remained for more Martinez magic.
Five plays later, Dax Hill is standing over Nebraska receiver Samori Toure and the Michigan offense is preparing for victory formation.
For the second time this season, when it mattered the most, the Michigan defense proved up to the task.
Can Moody be Money in the Clutch Again?
Moody is no stranger at handling the bulk of Michigan’s scoring. As a freshman in 2018, Moody went 6-for-6 on kicks against Indiana and Michigan won by 11. He is also no stranger to pressure kicks.
In 2019, he connected from 43 yards in the second overtime against Army with what proved to be the game-winner. This kick came in relief of the inconsistent Quinn Nordin and what felt like a never-ending kicker controversy.
Now, firmly the starter, Moody has been excellent this season. However, in his one other high pressure opportunity with 1:49 remaining in the fourth quarter and a chance to ice the game against Rutgers, Moody missed from 47 yards; his only miss of 2021.
On Saturday, Moody proved he is worthy of his nickname ‘Money’ and can thrive under pressure. Moody connected from 31 yards to tie the game with three minutes remaining and from 39 yards with 1:24 remaining to win the game for the Wolverines.
A confident kicking game has been nonexistent under Jim Harbaugh and if there is any indicator this season truly is different, this could be one of the most important signs.
Step 1: hit the smelling salts; Step 2: win the game. That’s what Money Moody does.
After review, Michigan is 6-0.