Sunday, September 11, 2011

Michigan's Miracle Describes the Wildest Night at Big House


It wasn't enough, obviously, for Notre Dame to survive in a signature event under the lights at Michigan Stadium, where the yellow pom-poms fluttered in the stands as a delirious crowd erupted on a night that Michigan rallied at the Big House. What we desire, no doubt, are breathtaking comebacks by two storied programs aiming to restore proverbial football identities.

We ask for a pair of rival programs to clash in a national scene and like witnessing history in college football. The core responsibility new Michigan coach Brady Hoke has -- stepping into a demanding job in collegiate sports and accepting the challenge to revitalize a deprived program -- could actually be a heavy burden and much tension but also cater to his resume in healing Michigan of its anguish.

Hoke has taken on a role with expectations larger than the average athletic department and has become the successor of the lousy head coach before him, after the university finally constituted a clean-house mandate, purging traces of Rich Rodriguez and an era of post-scandals along with mediocrity.

So now we look to star quarterback Denard Robinson and Hoke as an antidote for Michigan during a moment of rebuilding a decayed football program. Could this have been the turning point?? How good are the Wolverines?? It took Michigan a long time to recapture relevance nationally and it may take a long time for the school to expunge the deficiencies and downfalls in recent memory.

By a glaring gauge -- the one university expected to be ranked among one of the best football programs in the nation -- the magnitude of Michigan athletics has returned to precedence in the Big Ten conference with the exception of Robinson filling in nicely at the hardest position in a team sport. When he connected with his wideout Roy Roundtree for the game-winner, the unthinkable happened.

He had tossed the ball like he was playing catch in his backyard and Roundtree leaped for a 16-yard touchdown pass, and stormed to the end zone with two seconds left to lift Michigan to a meaningful victory. It capped one of the most thrilling, amazing finishes of the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry, so incredible that we'll be talking about this instant classic for ages.

There was unseemly no passiveness in the end. There was a hard-nose fight. Robinson simply led a comeback on the wild, feverish night and Michigan scored 28 points in the fourth quarter alone, including two touchdowns in the final 72 seconds, to stun the Irish 35-31 Saturday night. It all ended from Robinson's heroics, it all ended from his explosiveness and vibrancy, faster than mostly every quarterback in his conference.

More amazingly, the Wolverines won the contest with a total of 80 yards in three plays and two touchdowns in the final 72 seconds. The boys in blue piled four touchdowns in the fourth quarter. It was never pretty or Michigan's greatest game, but as we all know the Wolverines survived and came alive when it mattered after trailing for much of the night.

The hero, a week after Michigan was doubted coming into this rivalry, was Robinson and his reliable wide receivers he depended on greatly. It's just a matter of time before Michigan is dominant again, but as we all know it probably won't be this season. It doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense to define the Wolverines as one of the best teams in the nation this season.

Not to take anything away from the breathtaking comeback of the coolest night in the Big House as fans erupted a heart-pounding, pom-pom swinging night, but Michigan wasn't so great and couldn't score points on the scoreboard.

In the inaugural night game of school history, Robinson showcased his speed and mobility to lead the Wolverines in the final minutes. Even though Michigan has never lost a home game at night, and even though Robinson seemed rather impressive, he and his teammates still are a working progress. There's no telling whether or not Michigan is a fluke or legit. It should surprise no one, then, that Michigan isn't as scary as last decade when the program qualified for bowl games.

And, right about now, the Wolverines are descent but not stacked to win a national championship, after entering the last minute of the third quarter with seven points and not a single offensive series longer than four plays. Fortunately, realistically, the Irish had a chance to win and blow it in an unforeseen fourth quarter collapse.

The last 2:16 showed how much Michigan embodies Robinson the way Desmond Howard once stood as a factor within an illustrious program. Because he is solely responsible for the renewal of a newborn football culture in Ann Arbor, he partly accounted for Michigan amassing 138 yards and two touchdowns on merely eight plays. What's even harder to realize is that the Wolverines trailed 24-21 late and took over at its 42 before forging a miracle five plays later.

And it was Robinson finding Vincent Smith dashing through Notre Dame defenders for a 21-yard touchdown with only 1:12 left. It never took long for the Irish to answer by rapidly driving to Michigan's 29, and then shortly after Tommy Rees delivered to an uncovered Theo Riddick for a 29-yard touchdown with 30 seconds remaining.

The Wolverines had finally finished a grueling, miraculous turn around once Robinson threw a nifty rainbow pass to Jeremy Gallon and he indeed reeled in and then darted across the field to dust by Irish defenders. He'd then have no place to run and step out of bounds at the Irish's 16-yard line.

That left Michigan with eight seconds to pull off the miracle and the team certainly prevailed to stun Notre Dame. That's when Robinson dropped back and released it into the end zone to Roundtree, even after he was getting abused by the Irish's Gary Gray. But he'd somehow broken away from Gray and pulled in the game-winning touchdown with two seconds left on a well-executed pass Robinson lofted for one of the sweetest wins in school history.

It was another huge victory for Hoke and Michigan, now 2-0 and victorious in a night game at home, excelling beyond all expectations -- seeking a BCS bowl appearance. It could be a confident booster and Hoke has even proven he is one of the sterling defensive minds in the nation, already uplifting the culture in Michigan and bringing a different feel. But, as we know it, the game could have benefited and went in the favor of Notre Dame.

This was anyone's game -- until Robinson's athleticism outshined the Irish near the end, finishing with 446 yards on total offense against Notre Dame after obtaining more than 500 against the same team a year ago. It's probably fair to say Robinson is truly a Michigan Man in the Big House, and make no mistake he's the face of the Wolverines if he chooses to stay in school, just as much as Hoke is the voice of reason and inspiration for a rejuvenated program.

The three interceptions he had thrown were eclipsed by his incredible turnaround, and no matter how many early miscues he accounted for, he still managed to keep his composure and urge in the closing minutes.

Every time late in the game, he made wise decisions, he defied greatness and he was too fast and potent but had trouble with his accuracy. Whenever he counts on a miracle, then he writes a miraculous chapter of Michigan's historic convention.

And so the lights were on in the Big House. And this time, by now, every Michigan fan is uttering "GO BLUE!!!"

Let's just wait and see.