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Posted on Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 6:52 p.m.

After quick turn of events, Michigan defense shuts the door on Ohio State in final seconds

By Nick Baumgardner


Michigan cornerback Courtney Avery celebrates after intercepting a fourth-down pass to clinch the Wolverines' 40-34 victory against Ohio State.

Melanie Maxwell |

The Michigan football team's defense made a stunning turnaround in nearly every statistical category this season.

On Saturday against Ohio State, though, the Wolverine defenders reverted to a few old habits, allowing a handful of big plays that kept the Buckeyes in the game.

But in the final minutes, with a chance to shut the door, the Michigan defense stood up and said no more.

"Defensively, we wish we wouldn't have gave up some things," Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin said. "For it to come down to us, defensively, was something we were going to put on our back and make sure we came through for this team."

After an apparent Fitz Toussaint touchdown run gave Michigan a 10-point lead with roughly two minutes to play, the game appeared to be in the bag.


Michigan senior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen celebrates a sack. Van Bergen on the defense: "We wanted this game to come down to us."

Melanie Maxwell |

Toussaint's touchdown was nullified, however, when an official review determined he came just short of the goal line.

"I swear, we have the most touchdowns called back on review," Michigan senior defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen said. "I don't even like review anymore."

Following the call, Michigan appeared to score again after Denard Robinson entered the end zone on a quarterback keeper, but like the play before, it wasn't to be as a holding penalty wiped out the score. Making matters worse, Michigan was flagged for a personal foul on the play, pushing the ball back to the 26-yard line.

Two plays later, the Wolverines had to settle for a 43-yard field goal from Brendan Gibbons. Meaning the game was still in doubt, and Ohio State had the ball and a chance to win with 1:59 to play.

"Our defense had already made up its mind," Van Bergen said. "We wanted this game to come down to us."

That it did. After being bailed out when Braxton Miller overthrew a wide open DeVier Posey, the Wolverines eventually shut the door on Ohio State when Courtney Avery intercepted a tipped ball.

It wasn't the Michigan defense's finest hour, as the Wolverines gave up 34 points, but it was good enough.

"The aggression and the way we went out and came after their quarterback and jumped routes (at the end), I think we did a great job of that," Van Bergen said.

Players give props to Borges
After misfiring on a crucial fourth down play against Michigan State earlier this season, Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges took considerable heat from the Wolverine fan base.

But in the team's most important game of the year, Borges seemed to push all the right buttons, putting Robinson and the offense in beneficial situations for most of the afternoon.

The playcalling performance prompted senior center David Molk to refer to his offensive coordinator as a "genius."

"He's an offensive genius," Molk said. "I love how he calls plays. You can question some of them, but at the same time, they're absolutely genius when they work.

"I love what he does."

Michigan senior tight end Kevin Koger, who caught the eventual game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, said Borges' call on Michigan's final touchdown wasn't the same play the team ran on fourth down against MSU.

It looked the same, but it wasn't.

And this time, it worked.

"It was a completely different play," Koger said. "It was a great play-call on his part."

Robinson and the record book
With five combined touchdowns and 337 yards of total offense, Robinson again made a move up the Michigan football record book.

With 14 completions, Robinson passed Steve Smith and moved into eighth-place on the school's all-time list with 329. His three touchdown passes gave him 38 for his career, moving him by Todd Collins into sixth-place all-time.

On the ground, Robinson's 170 yards moved him in front of former back Billy Taylor for eighth place all-time. Robinson now has 3,216 yards for his career. With two touchdowns, Robinson brings his career total up to 35, passing Rick Leach for fifth-place all-time.

The game also marked the 14th time Robinson has rushed for 100 yards, the seventh-best total in Michigan history.

Mic'ed up
Referee Bill LeMonnier accidentally left his microphone on after reporting Michigan took a 9-7 lead with a safety in the second quarter on Saturday. Everything LeMonnier said — and everything being said around him — was clearly audible in the Michigan Stadium press box.

That included Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell demanding further explanation/complaining about the holding call in the end zone and the scrum that broke out between the players on the ensuing kickoff.

Despite the back-to-back highly contentious on-field moments, nothing salacious was overheard.

In response to Fickell's complaints — which itself was G-rated — LeMonnier said, "He dragged him down by his face mask, Coach." Surprisingly, no profanity from the players made its way across the mic during the short-lived melee either and LeMonnier kept the peace by shouting, "Stay! Stay!" to the players he was separating.

Safety valve
The Michigan defense was credited with its second safety of the season when Ohio State was called for holding in end zone in the first quarter. Michigan also had a safety against Purdue in Week 8.

Both sacks broke a 7-7 tie.

Prior to the season Michigan hadn't had a safety since 2003.

Odds and ends
The pregame video on the Michigan Stadium video boards featured appearances from several former players, including Tom Brady, Brian Griese, Charles Woodson, Mike Hart and Steve Hutchinson. ... Hart and former standout offensive tackle Jake Long watched the game from the Michigan Stadium press box. ... Michigan basketball legend and College Basketball Hall of Fame honoree Cazzie Russell was honored at the game. ... 2012 Michigan basketball signee Mitch McGary confirmed via Twitter that he was in Ann Arbor for Saturday's game.'s Pete Cunningham contributed to this report.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.


Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 4:38 p.m.

This probably was the most problematic defensive effort since the Notre Dame game but, just like in that game, the "D" came up big when it had to. Good Job, men. A great turnaround on your part!! You and your coaching staff have much to be proud of. Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 6:36 p.m.

I wonder about the scheme. Saw a two-deep defense only a couple of times though, in the stadium, tough to catch it all (at least as a fan). Will watch the DVR in its entirety at some point. But my guess is this: if my observation is correct, Mattison decided that Miller and Herron were more dangerous on the ground, and decided to dare Miller to pass. You are correct that on the 1st TD, whatever the coverage, someone blew their assignment. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 6:18 p.m.

Don't disagree, but a question -- why? Was it a good OSU offense or mental mistakes on the part of Michigan? Or both? The deep coverage on a couple of plays seemed broken. I think I saw one replay that seemed to indicate one of the safeties (Kovacs?) bit on the short route. Lou Holtz on ESPN reviewed that play (or one very similar) and said, "When it doubt, go with the guy going long." Thoughts on where the breakdowns occurred, and speculation as to why?


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

Gotta say I'm going to miss this group of seniors. Talk about a tight group, forged by adversity, who come out to win in the end. This is all that's good about college football. Not always about wins and losses, but more about what you overcome to get there. Kudos to all these young men, you've learned some incredible lessons...

Jim Eng

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:02 p.m.

The viseo shown in the stadium during the official review seemed to confirm the touchdown and definitely did not provide evidence that the on-field call was wrong. I have looked for a photo or video that shows the ball one foot shy of the end zone when Fitz T's knee touched the ground. Where can I find that image?


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

irrefutable - adj., That cannot be refuted or disproved. The review judges seem to have a ... umm ... flexible view of that definition. I fear there is creeping into video review that which has crept into much of our society's adjudication -- choosing to decide not what is, but rather what one believe s it *should* be. What one wishes is not necessarily that same as what is.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

First thing I did when I got home from the game was to fast forward the DVR to watch the play and the instant replay, and I agree with your reading of the replay, Johnnya2. Which means that there was not IRREFUTABLE evidence that the call on the field was wrong, which is the standard for overturning a call by video replay. And clearly the hold was a hold, but the PF was a bogus call, too. B1G refs are the worst in BCS football. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:19 p.m.

The problem is the angle with which the picture is taken. From one angle it appears about a foot short. From the reverse angle it appears in. To me that SCREAMS inconclusive. My opinion would be the play on the field stands no matter which way they called it. Therefore TD. I can also understand the holding on the next play, BUT the personal foul was within the action of the play. It was a guy blocking. If that is a penalty, then any guy who tackles a guy in the end zone is guilty of a late hit since the play is officially over once a player crosses the goal line.

1st Down

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 7:21 a.m.

"I swear, we have the most touchdowns called back on review," Michigan senior defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen said. "I don't even like review anymore." it has kept this team from...11-1 great job RVB

Terry Star21

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 1:39 a.m.

Speaking of shutting......Michigan has the longest current streak (348 games) since being shut out (mid-eighties)....only 13 games shy of the all-time record (361).....I'll write again about this next year while we're playing in the Big Ten Championship game. goose eggs for blue !