Football: Wildcats’ loss defined by comedy of errors


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Kyle Prater watches a ball sail just beyond his grasp. The senior receiver’s eight catches for 86 yards weren’t enough to spark a lackluster offense.

Alex Putterman, Sports Editor

On the final play of Saturday’s game, with Northwestern trailing Michigan 10-9 with a chance to win on a two-point conversion, senior quarterback Trevor Siemian rolled right toward an oncoming pass-rusher, attempted to backpedal, stumbled and collapsed to the turf.

“I slipped,” Siemian later explained wryly, “probably because I’m unathletic.”

It was the perfect play to end a disaster of a football game, for both sides.

Michigan threw two interceptions, snapped the ball into a moving receiver, had a field goal blocked and took an unforced sack when quarterback Devin Gardner lost his footing.

NU threw two interceptions, botched a snap on a punt, missed a field goal, dropped a punt and played a whole lot of ineffective offense.

“All those are self-inflicted wounds,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said after the game. “We failed on those plays.”

Of all the mishaps, senior receiver Tony Jones’ third-quarter muffed punt was the most consequential. Michigan recovered the fumble at NU’s 21-yard line and scored two plays later.

Jones said he forgot to “lock (his) elbows” on the punt return.

“It was a very costly mistake, very unfortunate, and I’ve got to be better,” he said. “I take full responsibility for that play and really today’s loss.”

But it was not only players who committed costly miscues Saturday.

With 7:30 to play and NU facing fourth-and-goal 3 yards from a game-tying touchdown, Fitzgerald opted to kick a field goal instead of going for the touchdown. Though sophomore Jack Mitchell’s kick was good, the decision left the Cats down four points, still in need of a touchdown.

Minutes later, after a Michigan field goal put NU down seven again, Siemian drove the team down the field and hit Jones with a three-yard touchdown pass. Fitzgerald’s decision to go for two was defensible, but Siemian’s tumble proved a fitting end.

Just one more laughable mishap in a game packed start-to-finish with them.

This post was updated at 9:15 p.m. Saturday.
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Twitter: @AlexPutt02