* On the first play of the second half, 'Cat defensive end Tyler Scott stopped Wolverine running back Vincent Smith for no gain and, on its second play, he threw Fitzgerald Toussaint for a 1-yard loss. But here, facing a third-and-11, Robinson found Roy Roundtree in the middle of the field for 17 yards and a first down.
This would be an underlying theme all evening as the Wolverines would go on to convert 14 of their 17 third-down opportunities. "We did the little things in the first half and throughout most of the game," Scott would later say. "But when it came down to crunch time, we failed. . . One of our goals is to get off the field on third down, but we didn't execute. So."
So what happened?
"Denard Robinson," said 'Cat coach Pat Fitzgerald. "Pretty good. Pretty good player. Probably the best we've seen in awhile. He was outstanding."
* Now, after a four-yard gain carried Michigan to its 40, Robinson threw high into the night sky toward a streaking Roundtree, who was running a deep post with 'Cat corner Jeravin Matthews on his hip. Way earlier, on his team's first possession of the game, he had launched a similar ball toward Junior Hemingway, who would out leap well-positioned 'Cat safety Ibraheim Campbell for the reception that set up the Wolverines' first touchdown. Here, in a virtual replay, Roundtree out-leapt Matthews for the reception on the 3-yard line and three plays later Robinson went in for the touchdown that pulled his team to within three.
"He's going to throw the ball up there for you and we got three picks (two by Campbell, one by safety Brian Peters)," Fitzgerald would later say. "But we should have had at least five and, if we get those two other ones, it's a completely different ball game. We don't lose momentum. . . That's what's tough. You let the ball go over your head, it's demoralizing to a defense. They're playing their tails off and then all of a sudden, bang, here's an explosion play."
"It kills you," Scott later agreed. "When you're working so hard to stop an offense and you do it consistently on a play-by-play basis and then they hit a big one on you, it really hits you hard."
* The 'Cats had effectively run the option in the first half, but here, on their first offensive play of the second, quarterback Dan Persa ran it and was stopped for no gain. He was sacked for a loss of six on second down and, on third, he threw toward a crossing Jeremy Ebert, who fell with the ball in the air after his feet got tangled up with those of Wolverine corner Thomas Gordon. Ebert popped up, looked for a call, didn't get it and the 'Cats punted.
* Now Robinson guided the Wolverines on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ate up 6:29 and put them up 28-24. During this drive, they went three-of-three on third-down opportunities.
* The 'Cats picked up a first down on their ensuing possession, but then, on second-and-four from their 41, Persa threw behind a crossing Drake Dunsmore and the ball bounced off of Dunsmore's left shoulder and Wolverine linebacker Brandin Hawthorne picked it. "It was my fault," Persa will later say.
* The Wolverines were now 47 yards from another touchdown and Robinson quickly got 25 of them with a darting run. Then his sub, Devin Gardner, got 19 more with a toss to Jeremy Jackson and two plays later Michael Shaw swept right to put them up 11 with five seconds gone in the fourth quarter.
* The 'Cats responded by picking up three first downs, but then, on first-and-ten from the Michigan 42, Persa hit Jeremy Ebert on a slip screen and Ebert fumbled and the Wolverines recovered. "It doesn't matter who it is," Fitzgerald would say when asked about these errors by some of his team's most reliable performers. "It just comes back to the team playing better team football. We cannot turn the ball over and expect to win."
* The 'Cats would suffer no damage here. They instead blocked the field goal attempt that ended Michigan's next possession. So now they had the ball again, down 11 with 9:13 remaining, and soon enough there was Persa, on fourth-and-five from the Michigan 37, looking to convert and keep his team's hopes alive. But pressure came from Wolverine safety Jordan Kovacs and Persa ducked and pulled away from his grasp and off came Persa's helmet, which by rule automatically ended the play and the 'Cat possession. Fitzgerald, on the field, screamed for a face mask penalty, didn't get it, instead saw his team get slapped with an unsportsmanlike penalty. Was it a face mask penalty instead?
"I guess," said Persa. "I don't know how else my helmet would have come off. So. I don't know. They didn't call it, so it wasn't a penalty.
* Nine plays later, Robinson ran five yards for the Wolverines' final touchdown.
* To summarize, then, on just how this game slipped away from the 'Cats: On its first five possessions of the second half, Michigan marched for four touchdowns and had a field goal attempt blocked; on the Wildcats' first four possessions of the second half, they went three-and-out and then turned the ball over on an interception, on a fumble and on downs. "They obviously did a nice job adjusting," Fitzgerald would later say in his opening remarks.
What kind of adjustments, he would soon be asked.
"I'm not quite sure they made a whole lot of adjustments," he said here. "I think we just didn't execute. Little things, but nothing major schematically. We just turned it over. This guy named Denard threw a jump ball, a pretty nice jump ball, and a kid made a play. We had multiple guys in position to make plays tonight. Their kid made it. Our young men did not. That's part of the solutions we've got to come up with. We've got to look at what we're doing schematically. We've got to look at what we're doing personnel wise."
* Persa suggested there might be another place to look as well. "It's frustrating," he said here. "But we have no one else to blame but ourselves. We've got to look inside ourselves to see what we've got to do to pull it out."
Moments later he also said, "We let our fans down. We've got to play a lot better than that. The sense of urgency has to go up."
"It's gut-check time now," Colter was soon concluding. "We talk about it, we talk about it, we talk about it and now it's time for people to start doing it."