With Michigan holding on to a 10-9 lead with three seconds remaining, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald decided to keep his offense on the field and go for the winning score.
The stage was set for Michigan’s defense, which had caused havoc in the Northwestern backfield all game. Led by senior defensive end Frank Clark’s seven tackles, one sack, three pass break ups, -- including one that led to a Matt Godin interception in the second quarter – theWolverines would need one more play from their standout lineman.
And Clark was up for the job.
Lined up in the six-technique – or just outside the tight end – Clark read the play. He scanned the offense. He noticed where the wide receivers were lined up. He saw motion. And instantly he knew what play NW quarterback Trevor Siemian was going to try to execute.
“It’s weird, my job wasn’t to contain it,” Clark said. “My job was to be six-technique on the tight end. And once I seen the tight end. I actually watched the back, and the back was wide. He was almost behind the tight end.
“… I looked over to the left, I seen the receivers were tight inside, they wasn’t really tight on the numbers. They was inside the numbers. So I knew it was going to be some kind of route more to the outside. I seen them motion, I watch film. When you motion, you know sprint outs comes some type of way.”
Frank was right.
Siemian rolled right, just as he expected. Clark also had plans to meet him. He busted right past two Northwestern players to meet Siemian as he was sprinting right. Then as Clark was about to sack Siemian for the fourth time of the game, the NW quarterback tripped, ending the game with a rushing loss in the backfield. And while it wasn’t a stat, Clark was there to meet him anyways – as planned.
“We knew that was one of the plays they like to do,” Clark said afterwards. “They showed that a couple times, they like to do that in the red-zone. I executed. I did my job. That’s all coaches asked us to do. They been saying that all week. You do your job, you’re going to win the game.
“I didn’t do no thinking,” Clark said of the play. “I knew it was going to be a sprint out once I seen the double motions. That’s how I went about it.”
And the play may have saved Michigan’s season. And may be Clark’s biggest play yet.
“I kind of improvised, seen the play, and just played football,” Clark said.
It’s a good thing he did.