By RICKY LINDSAY, Sports Editor
It took all 60 minutes for Michigan to stave off Northwestern on the road and remain in contention for bowl eligibility.
The Wolverines topped the Wildcats, 10-9, Saturday after senior Frank Clark snuffed out a two-point conversion attempt with three seconds remaining.
Clark totaled eight tackles and 1.5 sacks in a predominantly defensive battle. Fifth-year senior Jake Ryan finished with 11 tackles and an interception. As a team, Michigan totaled six sacks, two interceptions, and held Northwestern to -9 rushing yards.
“Defense answered the bell a lot,” head coach Brady Hoke told mgoblue.com after the game. “They faced some challenges, some adversity and did a nice job with it. But that’s why they came to Michigan — to play defense. And so they count their blessings every time they get to go out on that field and play defense. That’s kind of the mindset and mentality that this group has had.”
Michigan’s offense struggled throughout the game, which was scoreless at halftime.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Devin Gardner went 11-for-24 passing for 109 yards and two interceptions.
Sophomore running back De’Veon Smith totaled 121 rushing yards on 18 carries. His 3-yard run midway through the third quarter gave Michigan its first points of the game.
“I thought he ran with a purpose. I think the guys up front did a nice job,” Hoke told maizeandbluenews.com. “I think a year ago, this is kind of the game that Derrick (Green) and De’Veon both started playing their best – or better – let’s put it that way.
“But I thought he ran hard. I’ve said before, he’s a hard guy to get down. He breaks tackles.”
Michigan finished 1-for-12 on third down conversions and failed its only fourth down try of the day.
“I think it’s a byproduct of what you do on first and second down. I think that’s always part of it,” Hoke told maizeandbluenews.com. “There’s certain down and distances that you really like to play in. I think that’s part of it. We had some opportunities, and it will be interesting to watch it on the way home, that we could have taken advantage of.”
A 39-yard field goal by Matt Wile with 3:10 remaining in the game was enough for Michigan to squeeze past Northwestern with a win.
With two games remaining on its schedule, Michigan has to split in order to clinch a bowl berth. Reaching the six-win threshold is a goal the Wolverines hope to accomplish.
“We just want to make it to the bowl,” Clark told mgoblue.com. “We’re not going to the Rose Bowl; we failed at that. We’re not going to the Big Ten Championship; we failed at that this year. All we can do is finish the season strong — beat Maryland and beat Ohio.”