Gardner leads Michigan to overtime victory over Northwestern

By CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Sports Editor

In a crucial matchup for both the Northwestern Wildcats and Michigan Wolverines at the Big House in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines came out on top in a comeback win in overtime.

Devin Gardner, who started last week over Denard Robinson, did the same again this week. He looked good early, stumbled a bit in the second half, but regrouped and led his team to a 38-31 victory.

PHOTOS: Michigan vs. Northwestern

“We showed a lot of character in this game, we overcame a lot of adversity, offensively and defensively,” said senior captain, Jordan Kovacs. He was awarded the number 11 Legends jersey, formerly worn by the Wistert brothers.

The Wildcats struck first after the Wolverines failed to gain a first down on the first possession of the game. Venric Mark, the leading rusher for Northwestern scored the first touchdown of the day, a three-yard rushing touchdown only seven minutes into the game.

Things weren’t looking good early, but Gardner was able to regroup his offense, and few drives later, found the endzone on a scramble play. An eight yard run tied the game at seven.

The second quarter started with an unfortunate fumble by Fitzgerald Toussaint, who had his best run of the day, 50 yards, but it was forced out and Northwestern recovered.

It seemed as if the fumble would change the momentum of the game, and it did to a certain extent, until Michigan forced a fumble of their own on that following drive.

The Legends ceremony prior to kickoff. Safety Jordan Kovacs was awarded the history #11.

Michigan capitalized and was able to take the lead, but only for a short time. Running backThomas Rawls would find the back of the endzone with a one-yard touchdown run only three minutes into the second quarter.

That lead didn’t last for much longer. Northwestern would respond late in the second quarter, with the momentum heading into halftime.

Taking that momentum from the end of the first half to the second half worked out for the Wildcats. They scored on the very first drive of the third quarter. Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter found Dan Vitale, wide open in the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown reception.

Michigan couldn’t respond on the following drive, and Northwestern would kick a field goal to take a 10 point lead early in the third quarter.

Luckily for the Wolverines, Gardner regained his earlier form and found Toussaint for a 28-yard touchdown reception to cut the lead to just three. The Wolverines saw their chance to take the momentum back and make a stand, and a stand they did make.

They held Northwestern and their quick option offense to a punt early in the fourth quarter and Michigan would get another chance to regain the lead.

They took advantage of that chance and their defense held strong the rest of the way. In a close game, Gardner found freshman tight endDevin Funchess for an eight-yard touchdown reception to take the four point lead.

The following kickoff, many Michigan fans held their breath as they saw the lead slip away. Luckily, a holding call against Northwestern put the ball back near midfield in Wildcat zone.

That lead did slip away later on that drive, as backup quarterback Tyler Siemian came in for Colter after a few plays and found Tony Jones in the end zone for a 31-28 lead.

It looked over when Gardner was intercepted on his first pass attempt after the touchdown. All Northwestern did was hold onto the ball and run a few running plays to run off the clock. The Michigan defense held strong and was able to give the offense one last chance.

With :18 seconds remaining in the game, Gardner found Roy Roundtree on the nine yard line, good for a 53-yard pass, setting up a game tying field goal by Brendan Gibbons.

It was sent into overtime and Michigan had the momentum. “Never a doubt that they (Wolverines) weren’t going to win the football game,” said Head Coach Brady Hoke, when the game was looking bleak with :18 seconds remaining.

The Wolverines only need five plays in overtime to get into the end zone, and who else but Gardner would score the winning touchdown? He ran a one-yard run into the end zone, which he credits all to offensive coordinator Al Borges.

The defense made a stand stopping all four plays the Wildcats threw at them. The win keeps the Wolverines within reach of the B1G 10 Championship. They do need some help from Nebraska, in which they must lose in order to go to the championship game in December.

The Wolverines improve to 7-3 and 5-1 in the B1G 10. Michigan’s final home game will come next week against Iowa. Kickoff is once again at 12:00pm from the Big House. Go Blue!

To read the original post that appeared online only in The Michigan Journal, on Saturday, November 10, 2012, go to www.michiganjournal.org

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