ANN ARBOR, MICH. - The streak is over.
After eight years, Michigan finally beat a top-10 team.
The No. 5 Wolverines had to sweat more than they have all season, but used dominating defense and one fourth-quarter bomb to survive No. 8 Wisconsin, 14-7, at Michigan Stadium on Saturday.
The U-M program had lost 11 straight games to top-10 teams – all as the underdog – and had to do it differently than every other game this season.
While the defense showed its usual stinginess, holding the Badgers under 160 yards of offense and making nearly every big play it needed in the final 1½ quarters, the offense looked nothing like the 49-point juggernaut that cruised through the first four weeks.
But when they needed a few heroes, Michigan (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) found them.
The test came as neither team could move the ball for much of the second half, with a combined six scoreless drives after Wisconsin tied the game at 7-7 early in the third quarter.
Then U-M received the ball with 9:49 left and appeared headed for another punt, until quarterback Wilton Speight hit Amara Darboh with a third-down bullet for 15 yards. That brought the defense up and, for the first time all game, a deep shot paid off with Darboh catching a pass over the shoulder at the five and cruising into the endzone.
The 46-yard bomb injected life into most of the 111,846 in attendance, as U-M had its first points since the start of the second quarter and a 14-7 lead.
No. 8 Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1) was lift with a fourth down with a little over two minutes to play and down by that one score.
But the last-ditch attempt on fourth-and-10 went deep over the middle and U-M’s All-America cornerback Jourdan Lewis made the play of the season, picking off the pass with one hand while falling backwards.
With 2:15 to play, that essentially ended the game.
It looked scary for U-M through much of the second half.
Michigan had a third missed field goal of the game came late in the third quarter when walk-on Ryan Tice came on in relief of starting kicker Kenny Allen, who had missed his first two attempts.
He missed as well, but was put in that position because Wilton Speight took an 11-yard sack, turning a fourth-and-six into a kicking situation.
In a tie game, it was frightening to the crowd, which hadn’t seen a tight fourth quarter through the first four home games.
All because Wisconsin had one relevant drive, given a short field.
Wilton Speight threw his first interception since the first play of the season with 10:28 left and the big return was for 36 yards, with Speight himself forcing the return man out of bounds.
That led to Wisconsin’s first score of the game on a 17-yard wheel route reception by running back Dare Ogunbowale.
That tied up the game at 7-7 with 8:03 to play in the third quarter.
The first half was one of Michigan’s missed opportunities. After demonstrating its power with an 11-play, 77-yard drive in the first quarter, taking a 7-0 lead on a Khalid Hill one-yard run, the offense couldn’t finish.
A few times the Wolverines made progress, getting to Wisconsin’s 13-yard line on one drive and the Badgers’ 25 on another but two missed field goals kept those from getting any points.
That left it at a 7-0 halftime lead.
Michigan’s defense was dominating in the first half, limiting the Badgers to just 98 yards of total offense and 3-of-9 third-down conversions. But without points on the other side, the game remained too close for the defense to be able to win it themselves.
Detroit Free Press