With the game hanging in the balance and the offense struggling to find any rhythm, Michigan needed someone, anyone to make a play. Momentum was fully in UConn’s favor and the frenzied, record-setting Rentschler Field crowd could sense a monumental upset in the making.
It was deja vu for a Michigan squad that had staved off the unthinkable against a similar opponent a week ago. Now it needed a game changing play to do it once more.
UConn stood 1st-and-15 at its own 32 with the lead and the ball, having just stopped Michigan on 4th-and-2. Quarterback Chandler Whitmer fired a pass across the middle, but linebacker Desmond Morgan leapt up and snagged it with one hand. He raced 29 yards to the Husky 12-yard line and on the very next play, Fitzgerald Toussaint carried it in to tie the game at 21.
It was a play reminiscent of Charles Woodson’s grab against Michigan State in 1997 and Morgan may as well have reached in and stolen the hearts right out of the Husky faithful – and those from Columbus and East Lansing as well. While Michigan still needed another score and another defensive stop or two, Morgan’s play singlehandedly changed the momentum of the game.
|Net Rushing Yards||192||47|
|Net Passing Yards||97||159|
|Time of Possession||35:47||24:13|
|Third Down Conversions||7-of-17||1-of-11|
|Fourth Down Conversions||0-of-1||0-of-1|
|Red Zone Scores-Chances||3-of-3||2-of-2|
|Full Box Score|
Following Toussaint’s touchdown, Michigan forced a three-and-out and Drew Dileo returned the punt the Husky 25-yards line. A 15-yard penalty on Jourdan Lewis brought the ball back to the 40, but Michigan was able to eat up half of the remaining time on the clock and add a 21-yard Brendan Gibbons field goal to take a 24-21 lead.
UConn took over with 4:36 remaining and got into Michigan territory before the offensive ineptitude bug struck them. On 3rd-and-12, a false start pushed the Huskies back five yards and on the ensuing play Frank Clark sacked Whitmer for a loss of 12. The last ditch effort to convert on 4th-and-29 fell three yards short and Michigan ran out the clock.
The game started out the way the previous three did, with Michigan’s defense forcing a punt on UConn’s first possession of the game. But unlike the previous three, Michigan wasn’t able to the first time it had the ball. Instead, a promising drive ended with an interception off a tipped pass.
After a UConn three-and-out, Michigan’s offense put together what would be its best drive of the night, going 69 yards in 11 plays. Devin Gardner ran it in from 17 yards out to put Michigan ahead 7-0.
UConn got on the board midway through the second quarter with an eight play, 56-yard drive to tie the game. On the first play of Michigan’s next possession, Gardner was intercepted again, this time on a deep ball to Jehu Chesson. UConn was unable to capitalize, but the Husky punt hit the leg of freshman receiver Da’Mario Jones and the Huskies recovered on the Michigan 9-yard line. They punched it in to grab a 14-7 lead.
Michigan opened the second half with the ball, but on 3rd-and-1, Gardner had the ball knocked out of his hands as he tried to pick up the first down. A UConn defender scooped it up and raced 34 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, Michigan found itself down by two touchdowns in the third quarter to a team it was favored to beat by 18 points.
On the first play of Michigan’s ensuing possession, Gardner scampered 39 yards to the UConn 25, but a holding penalty on Taylor Lewan brought it back and Michigan was unable to get anything going from there. The defense forced a Husky three-and-out and the offense finally struck once again. On 2nd-and-10 from the UConn 35, Gardner checked out of the shotgun and into the pistol, running an option to Toussaint who weaved through the Husky defense for a touchdown.
The win keeps Michigan unbeaten on the season, but concerns abound after a second straight scare at the hands of one of the worst teams in FBS. The defense, however, isn’t one of those questions. UConn gained just 206 total yards, gained just 12 first downs, averaged 1.9 yards per rush, and converted just 1-of-11 third downs. In reality, only seven points can be pinned on the defense since the second touchdown started on Michigan’s 9-yard line and the third was a UConn defensive score.
Frank Clark recorded a pair of sacks, his first of the season, while Raymon Taylor, Jibreel Black, Mario Ojemudia, and Chris Wormley each had half a sack. Blake Countess had a pair of tackles for loss.
Michigan’s offense gained 289 total yards, 192 of those on the ground. Toussaint had his best game of the season with 24 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Gardner completed 11-of-23 passes for no touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed 19 times for a net of 64 yards, though when sacks are removed, he gained 106.
Michigan gets a bye week to heal up and work on the issues that have come about the past two weeks before returning home to face Minnesota on Oct. 5.
Stay tuned for more breakdown and analysis of Michigan’s escape from East Hartford in the days to come.