BLOOMINGTON — As Lavert Hill sat in the bowels of Memorial Stadium, he was asked if his brother had texted him. The sophomore cornerback admitted he hadn’t checked his phone yet, but it’s easy to understand why a detail like that could peak curiosity.
It was just two years ago, after all, that Michigan found itself in a double-overtime game in Bloomington — one not too different from the overtime thriller of Saturday afternoon. That one came down to the final play too.
Then-Hoosier quarterback Nate Sudfeld lined up in the shotgun from the two-yard line, and looked right. Mitchell Paige ran a curl route and Sudfeld took aim. The ball was in Paige’s hands, and the Wolverines’ season was about to be rendered irrelevant. Then-junior safety Delano Hill — Lavert’s older brother — had other plans, ripping the ball from Paige’s grasp.
Saturday afternoon’s conclusion wasn’t quite as dramatic, nor convenient. Indiana had a chance to ruin Michigan’s season in Bloomington once again, but this time, the final pass never reached a receiver’s hands. The younger Hill didn’t replicate Delano’s game-ending play. Junior safety Tyree Kinnel did.
“I (remember) watching that play a couple years ago, it was pretty exciting,” Hill said. “I thought about that during this game. I just wanted to go out there and ball out.”
That is exactly what Hill did, even if he wasn’t the one to capture the final highlight.
And if he had checked his phone after the game, there’s a chance he would have seen a tweet from Jourdan Lewis calling him an All-American.
He may not be there yet, but Saturday made it look like he is well on his way.
“He’s been pretty high all season, he really has,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “Lavert’s been a really good player for us. (I) was gonna say steady, but he’s been better than steady. He’s been playing at a really high level — had some great defenses on balls, pass break ups, interception, tight coverage.
“That’s why we brought him here.”
Hill put his stamp on the game from the get-go. On Indiana’s second drive of the game. Ramsey dropped back to pass, only to watch Hill pick him off near the Hoosiers’ own 25-yard line. A questionable pass interference call brought the play back, but Hill would still have his moment.
On 2nd-and-2 in the fourth quarter, Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey targeted wide receiver Taysir Mack on the sideline. In doing so, he targeted Hill too. It was a decision he’d soon regret.
Hill boxed out Mack — forcing him toward the hash marks — all while shadowing him on the inside, eventually contorting his body and high-pointing the ball to come down to the turf with an interception.
Theoretically, Hill’s pick should have put the game to bed.
It came with just over six minutes remaining in the game and the Wolverines held a 10-point lead.
Instead, despite having only one timeout, the Hoosiers managed to push the game to overtime with a field goal that went through the uprights as the clock expired.
Hill’s counterpart in the secondary eventually gave Michigan its victory.
Ramsey rolled to his left, carrying with him the Hoosiers’ final hopes of keeping the chance of an upset alive in Bloomington. He retreated to the 15-yard line with defensive end Chase Winovich collapsing on him fast.
And just as he absorbed the hit, he floated the ball into the end zone, albeit to no one in particular. Kinnel took full advantage, rising up uncontested to nab the ball out of the air and simultaneously put the Wolverines on the right side of their second consecutive upset scare.
What you may have missed, however, is what made it so easy for Kinnel to pick the ball off. There was only one receiver that Ramsey could have been targeting on the play — Indiana’s top wideout, Simmie Cobbs Jr. But he was taken out of the play.
Lavert Hill was the one guarding him.