Alejandro Zúñiga: And under the Big House lights, the dogs of the world united

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By Alejandro Zúñiga, Managing Sports Editor
Published October 11, 2014

Dennis Norfleet was dancing on the field, spinning and waving and urging the fans to join him in celebration.

The crowd was obliging, pumping its pom-poms and screaming and illuminating the Big House with shimmering maize and blue flashes from light-up glasses.

Per Norfleet’s request, the loudspeakers blasted George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” into the cloudless October night.

Why must I feel like that? / Why must I chase the cat? / Nothin’ but the dog in me.

There was no protest Saturday. Not even close.

The student section wasn’t quite full at kickoff, and there wasn’t a new attendance record set, but it was the best crowd Michigan Stadium has had all season. 113,085 fans packed the Big House to see this: Michigan 18, Penn State 13.

They came to see Devin Funchess steal an interception away from a safety, and to see the defense hound a Nittany Lions quarterback like it was 2006. They came to wonder if Amara Darboh had stickum on his gloves and to gasp as third-stringer-turned-featured-back Justice Hayes snaked through the Penn State defense to seal the win.

They came to see Norfleet dance. So the junior gave them a show, and so did the rest of the Wolverines.

“He does that every day,” said sophomore cornerback Jourdan Lewis. “It’s exciting every time we see it. It’s great energy. It’s exactly what we need every day.”

Norfleet has danced throughout his career at Michigan. On Saturday, for the first time, the crowd joined him.

The Wolverines overcame injuries and the threat of bearing the program’s worst Big Ten start in nearly 50 years to band together for a five-point win.

Dog of the world unite / Dancin’ dogs.

The game won’t cure everything. It’s more like a bandage, temporarily hiding the ugliness underneath.

The Wolverines couldn’t run the ball, finishing with 64 net yards on the ground. There were some bizarre play calls, like Brady Hoke’s decision to ask for timeout with three seconds left in the first half that gifted the Nittany Lions a free chance at a Hail Mary.

And when Devin Gardner got injured on a sneak in the third quarter, the next option at quarterback wasn’t Shane Morris, but Russell Bellomy, indicating that maybe the sophomore is hurt more than the coaching staff would like everyone to believe.

The Wolverines still might not make a bowl. They need to win three of their remaining five games.

Hell, it’s mid-October and Michigan isn’t even at .500, much less challenging for a berth in the Big Ten title game.

But on Saturday, that didn’t matter.

On Saturday, there were 113,085 fans packed the Big House to see Michigan 18, Penn State 13. Who cares if the Nittany Lions aren’t that great of a football team? Who cares if the referees called offsides on the onside kick when everyone who saw the replay knew they were wrong?

Who cares if Gardner threw a ridiculous interception, and Bellomy nearly threw one that was even worse? Who cares what happens next week in East Lansing, or next month in Columbus?

Because on Saturday, Dennis Norfleet danced.

Zúñiga can be reached at azs@umich.edu and on Twitter @ByAZuniga.