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November 16, 2013

Quick Hitters: Michigan 27 NU 19 (3 OT)

EVANSTON-It was another week, another bizarre finish and another soul-crushing loss for Northwestern, which fell to Michigan, 27-19, in three overtimes.

Here are our quick hitters for a game that is as difficult to write about as it was for Wildcat fans to watch.



Offensive game ball: Jeff Budzien. Northwestern would have preferred he didn't have to, but the senior had a monster day with four field goals and an extra point. The Wildcats continued their trend of stalling in the red zone, but Budzien stepped up and salvaged points. He knocked home kicks of 40, 22 and 29 yards to send NU to overtime, then added an extra point and a 36-yarder in the extra period.



Defensive game ball: There were a lot of candidates for Northwestern, which turned in a sterling defensive performance in regulation. We'll go with Traveon Henry for the honor. The sophomore was all over the field, leading the Wildcats with 13 tackles, including two for losses.



Defensive big play: The stop on 4th-and-2. Michigan had marched 65 yards down the field and was inside the Northwestern 10-yard line. When it got to fourth down, Michigan coach Brady Hoke and the Wolverines inexplicably decided to go for it, even though a kick would've tied the game. A Northwestern timeout gave them time to change their mind, but they put the pressure on the shoulders of quarterback Devin Gardner, who tried to beat the defense to the right sideline but was met by Chi Chi Ariguzo, who took him down for a loss of one.



Turning point: The buzzer-beating field goal by Michigan at the end of regulation. Devin Gardner hit Jeremy Gallon for a 16-yard gain to the NU 27 with about nine seconds left. As the clocked ticked, Michigan scrambled to get the field goal unit in place. The holder sprinted onto the field and literally slid into place and, with one second left, the ball was snapped, and Brendan Gibbons nailed the 44-yard field goal to tie the game it 9. It was yet another crazy finish to a Northwestern game, but in a completely unique way.



Stat of the day: Eight, as in yards on Brandon Williams' fourth-quarter punt. After Michigan downed a punt on the Northwestern one-yard line, the Wildcats were only able to get two yards on the next three plays. Williams, who punted six times for an average of 30 yards, completely shanked the kick and watched it take a backwards bounce and sail out-of-bounds at the 10. The 'Cats survived the following possession without giving up a touchdown, but Williams' job couldn't be saved. He was replaced by Chris Gradone directly afterward.



Story of the game: Northwestern defenders let at least four interceptions slip through their fingers during the game. If a player had held onto any one of them, the Wildcats would have likely posted the win. Damien Proby, Nick VanHoose, Ibraheim Campbell and Ariguzo all dropped potential picks.



Atmosphere: Despite the windy, rainy weather, Ryan Field was almost full. Michigan, as usual, traveled well. Maybe the most disappointing part for Northwestern was that there was a lot of open space in the student section. But overall, it got pretty loud for two teams who have been struggling mightily as of late.



The final word: How many different ways can Northwestern find to lose a game this season? One week after losing on a last-gasp Hail Mary against Nebraska, the Wildcats fall victim to a last-second field goal as time expired. And this came one year after Michigan connected on a prayer of a pass to kick a field goal and force overtime in a game that Northwestern would also eventually lose in OT. If it wasn't for bad luck, these Cats would have no luck at all.




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