On Saturday evening, the University of Michigan’s football team stood 10 meager seconds away from a major win against undefeated Michigan State, their in-state nemesis.
Leading 23-21, Michigan’s punting team simply needed to kick the ball away and let time expire. Outside the Big House, Michigan’s massive stadium, which was filled to its nearly 110,000-person capacity, a local reporter from Grand Rapids was already delivering a laudatory live segment about the Michigan Wolverines’ hard-earned victory. “People are spilling out of Michigan Stadium into the streets of Ann Arbor celebrating ...”
Meanwhile, inside the stadium, something completely unexplainable was about to take place. There’s a video here, but do yourself a favor and push play on the box below, close your eyes, and listen first.
It’s not just that the Michigan center botches the snap.
It’s not just that the Michigan punter Blake O’Neill fumbles the ball forward toward the rushing defenders.
It’s not just that when O’Neill is tackled, the football magically floats into the arms of Jalen Watts-Jackson, the Michigan State defender, who is standing a few yards away.
It’s not just that Watts-Jackson manages to grab the ball and run 38 yards for the touchdown, even after he seemingly gets hemmed in at the 12-yard line and nearly tackled at 10.
It’s not that the last Michigan player tackles Watts-Jackson just as he crosses into the end zone and the clock hits zero.
It’s all of that, plus the fact that Michigan State’s chance of winning was already practically zero before any of that happened.
Like all sports, college football is an enterprise particularly vulnerable to tired clichés. But sometimes, even after a team has delivered the 110-percent effort required to win a big game, they can still be bested by a miracle. Michigan State’s announcers are actually struck dumb by the event, issuing grunts and screams.
The chaos didn’t end there. So euphoric was the Michigan State celebration that somewhere at the bottom of the dogpile, game hero Jalen Watts-Johnson had his hip dislocated by his own teammates and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. Meanwhile...
How every Michigan fan woke up today: pic.twitter.com/E3rBo7feMb— Bobby Kunz (@UofMDieHards) October 18, 2015
Over at Forbes, Mike Ozanian notes that the shocking loss almost certainly wrecked Michigan’s chances at contending for a national title. That it came on a fluke play is dispiriting news for the Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, whose contract promises a combined $800,000 in bonuses for getting to the college football playoffs and winning a national title.
The term “heartbreaker” would be a little too macabre given that one Michigan fan in the stands suffered a heart attack during the final play of the game. According to Sports Illustrated, the fan is in stable condition.
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