Victory from a missed two-point conversion in triple overtime. 67-65 Michigan. Bowl eligibility for the first time since our evisceration of Tebow's Gators in the Citrus (sorry, Capital One) Bowl. After the chaos that was the Michigan fanbase last week, it's wonderful to see a more joy, chaotic joy, but that may be the best variety. I was depressed after last week, but not to the point of despair, as much as doubts were creeping into my head, I had hope that some light would break through the murk. It's funny how much a week can change things... a day, a second. How much perception shifts because of thousands of little moments that could have shifted either way. A 67-65 victory over Illinois, a Big House erupting into absolute pandemonium. A victory hasn't felt this good in I don't know how long. Yet, as if in some cosmic joke, last week's defeat only makes it all the more sweeter.
And when we finally have a stalwart defense to augment the unceasing Ragnarok that is our offense, all the suffering that we've experienced since 2007 will make it all the better. I'm not one who subscribes to the theory that one game changes everything; that we've somehow turned a corner, but I think we're finally emerging form the darkness. Next year the defense will be improved, and, as scary and as titillating as this is, so will the offense. But, I don't want to spiral off into ramblings about the decimation we will wrought upon our opponents next year, so let's come back down to earth.
This offense is unstoppable, as I think we showed by putting up 45 points in four quarters and put up wet-dream-inducing yardage totals despite turning the ball over five times. The touchdown pass to Roundtree on the first play from scrimmage summarizes it nicely. Despite his two picks and only 50% completion percentage, Denard put up over 300 yards passing and three touchdowns. We rushed for 257 yards combined among five different players. We made mistakes, but we redeemed them. I don't know what would have happened if we hadn't turned it over so many times. The offensive line was dominating, and Roundtree simply amazing despite a few drops, but perhaps most importantly was Forcier coming in and the offense not missing a beat. The run game was neglected a bit, but he cobbled together a victory out of moxie and sheer force of will.
And to continue to the more maligned side of the ball... the defense played well enough. Were they good? No, but they allowed us to win the game and played better than they have in a long time. Let's get one thing straight: Illinois may have scored 65 points, but the defense did not allow that many, not really. 20 of those points came in overtime, where, I think we can all agree, starting at the opponent's twenty-five gives the offense a pretty sizable advantage. Additionally, Illinois scored 18 points off of turnovers and their starting field position was tremendous throughout the game. They forced six punts and four field goals and made two do-or-die stops at the end of the fourth quarter and on the last two-point conversion attempt of the game. Mike Martin, with two bum ankles, played almost the entire game and might just have been the difference maker. While the defense made some horrible mistakes, they were aggressive and took it to Illinois. I really think this unit showed a lot yesterday, after being absolutely torn apart last week.
What will come of the rest of the season, I don't know, but basking in the glory of victory sure feels good after the past three weeks.
Note: Photo from SI.com