EVANSTON, Ill. – With Michigan facing a fourth-down, no timeouts and less than 10 seconds remaining in regulation -- kicking a game tying 44-yard field goal seemed more impossible then probable.
Or so it seemed anyway.
Then it happened.
The Michigan field goal unit sprinted onto the field with haste. Senior holder Drew Dileo slid to his spot as if he was stealing second base. Senior kicker Brendan Gibbons spotted up on the fly and then kicked the ball as the zeros flashed on the scoreboard.
“I was warming up with Devin (Gardner) driving down the offense,” Gibbons said afterwards. “(Punter Matt) Wile came to me and said, ‘Hey, we need to run down there just in case we don’t have any timeout.’ And we made a big catch, and coach (Brady) Hoke said, ‘hurry up, hurry up.’ So we run in and where’s Drew? He slides in there. (Jareth Glanda) does a nice job with the wet ball. Drew does a nice job putting it down. It’s my job to make the kick.”
The rest, well, was history, as Gibbons kicked a 44-yard field goal that tied the game at 9-9, which Michigan would eventually win in three overtimes 27-19.
“Right when I hit it,” Gibbons said. “I knew it was good.”
But while the play may seem lucky from a far, it’s a play that the Michigan special teams unit practices two to three times a week says Hoke, who usually does the countdown himself.
“The last play of regulation is play a lot of teams may not follow through and be successful,” Hoke said. “But it tells you about the discipline of these guys playing together. How they got on the field. On how the guys who weren’t on that team got off the field.
“It might be the best single play I have seen. So – cause it was a team play.”
Practice definitely played a huge role in the play, said Gibbons, who noted he makes the kick with regularity in practice.
“I do in practice a lot,” Gibbons said. “I think it helped me prepare for this situation in the game.”
As they say, practice makes perfect.