Michigan Wolverines running back Derrick Green (27) runs with the ball as Northwestern Wildcats safety Traveon Henry (10) tackles during the first half at Ryan Field. (David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)
EVANSTON, Ill. - They just needed some extra time.
After U-M's improbable field goal to force overtime with no time remaining - complete with the holder sliding into position - Michigan went to extra time and won the game.
Yes, won the game.
For the first time since Oct. 19, Michigan won, needing three overtimes for the 27-19 victory over Northwestern at Ryan Field.
Just as unlikely, it came on back of quarterback Devin Gardner.
After a game of frustration, he threw for a touchdown in the first overtime, put the ball in the receiver's end-zone hands in the second (though dropped) and ran it in during third for the winning score and the two-point conversion in the third.
After two straight losses and three of four, the Wolverines (7-3, 3-3 Big Ten) showed remarkable resiliency, overcoming their own missed chances.
In a regulation finish to be discussed for years, Michigan's Brendan Gibbons hit a 44-yard field goal with no time left in regulation to tie the game at 9-9 and force overtime.
But this was no ordinary last-second field goal.
This one featured the U-M kicking team running on the field with 10 seconds left and just getting the snap off with one second left.
That was even more improbable because Michigan gave it away so many times.
For the second straight week, Michigan faced a decisive fourth-and-2 in the fourth quarter.
With the chance to tie the game with a field goal, Hoke took a chance from the Northwestern five-yard line.
Gardner rolled to his right and was stuffed.
Though there was 5:39 remaining at the time, the Wolverines only got the ball back with 2:18 left and on their own side of the field, never with as good of a chance. Yet they marched for the shocking field goal, living by the skin of their teeth.
Among the many sequences that looked devastating came early in the fourth quarter. The Wolverines downed a punt on the 1, then forced a three-and-out.
Handed the ball on the Northwestern 10 - the deepest U-M got since the game-opening drive - and they lost a yard on their three plays.
Settling for a field goal, they never got that close again.
A drive earlier had similar potential.
Michigan finally got momentum near the end of the third quarter, marching with the ball on the ground, including an impressive run by Derrick Green for 23 yards.
But then, as U-M got to the Northwestern 30, Gardner took a monstrous sack, putting U-M in a major hole and blowing up that opportunity.
The first half looked strikingly familiar for Michigan. As in the Michigan State game, the Wolverines started the game with a successful drive, throwing the ball and showing offensive progress.
Then it suddenly imploded and settled for a field goal.
The rest of half looked like the 7 ½ quarters since - no movement, no momentum, limping to halftime looking miserable, fortunate to be down only 6-3.
Contact Mark Snyder: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mark__snyder.