Sat Nov 06 04:03pm EDT
Michigan 67, Illinois 65 (Triple Overtime). If for some reason you were kidnapped by maniac who forced you at gunpoint to make sense of Michigan's roller-coaster season in 12 words or less, you'd probably settle for something like this: The offense is unstoppable. The defense is horrible. Denard Robinson got hurt.
If you hadn't seen a single one of the Wolverines' first eight games, that would pretty much bring you up to speed coming into today, except for one minor detail: Against a string of respectable competition over the last month, you could also add "Wolverines lose."
So you could almost feel the churning dread in Michigan Stadium as they watched a must-win game take that template and turn the amp up to eleven. The offense was beyond unstoppable: The Wolverines struck for a touchdown on the first snap of the game and finished with one of the most absurd stat lines in school history, 67 points on 678 yards (418 passing) with six plays covering at least 30 yards. The defense was so horrible it allowed Illinois to score twice on the same simple fullback wheel call – once in the fourth quarter and again in the second overtime, with no Wolverine defender in sight on either occasion. Robinson left the game with yet another vague injury, leaving it to Tate Forcier to lead the offense to the tying touchdown in the final two minutes of regulation and three straight TD in overtime, the last topped by a mandatory two-point conversion that accounted for the final margin.
The afternoon played out like a four-hour circus grotesquerie of everything Michigan fans have seen, heard, felt, smelt, cheered or swore at over the last two months. The only real difference was that this show had a happy ending, which has the potential to change everything.
For starters, the 12-game conference losing streak to teams that aren't Indiana is over. With that, the Wolverines hit six wins for the year, which virtually guarantees Rich Rodriguez's third season in Ann Arbor is going to end with his first bowl game. And with one more victory – next week's trip to Purdue has been circled in red as a must-win for weeks – Michigan will secure its first winning season since 2007, likely securing Rodriguez's return for 2011 in the process.
It doesn't change the fact that defensive coordinator Greg Robinson is a dead coach walking. The seal on GERG's upcoming pink slip should read "65 points to Illinois." But the odds that Rodriguez will be delivered one of his own just plummeted, and may approach zero next week if he can just figure out how to make sure his offense touches the ball last against the Boilermakers.