Deep in his own territory with his team trailing late in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati’s quarterback Hayden Moore rolled out and uncorked his 39th pass of the day.
The ball whistled through the air, passing sophomore defensive back Khaleke Hudson’s outstretched right hand. But it did not get by sophomore cornerback Lavert Hill, who broke on the ball, cradled it into both hands and sprinted 24 yards untouched into the endzone.
It was Hill’s first career interception and touchdown, and it provided a fitting sense of finality against the Bearcats in Michigan’s 36-14 win Saturday.
Quite simply, Cincinnati could not pass on the Wolverines — though that wasn’t for a lack of trying. Moore completed just 15-of-40 attempts for a measly 3.3 yards per attempt.
Michigan’s success was due in part to Hill, making his second collegiate start. After opening the season against Florida — a game in which he gave up several completions, including a 34-yarder on the Gators’ opening drive — Hill looked like a shutdown cornerback.
“Yeah, been happy with Lavert,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh on Monday afternoon. “He’s asserted himself and played very well. Made the big play for us in the ball game this past week.”
That was the expectation for Hill when the Wolverines recruited him — he would play sparingly as a freshman, learning under his brother, former safety Delano Hill, and former cornerback Jourdan Lewis. Then, he would take over the reins.
And last fall, that was how things played out. Hill appeared in 11 games, playing corner in nine as an important backup behind Lewis and Channing Stribling. Things went slightly askew, though, once the page turned to spring ball.
According to cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich, Hill didn’t practice much in the spring — something that the coaching staff was “very disappointed” with. Hill, who says he had a minor concussion, worked hard to stay on the field, but had to deal with the injury again in August.
Hill confirmed there was a sense of urgency on his part this offseason when it came to his development. As one of the faces of Michigan’s revamped secondary, he needed to be ready.
“Yeah, because those guys left and just people had to step up and take over for them,” Hill said. “I just felt like that’s what I had to do, and that was it.”
And when he finally returned for good in fall camp, things clicked.
“I had suffered a couple of minor injuries,” Hill said, “So after that, I just had a better mindset about things and got after it.”
Added Harbaugh: “Yeah, (Lavert is) doing well. Seeing him digest information very well. Comes from good stock. You’d love to be Lavert Hill Sr., to have Delano Hill playing professional football and now here you see Lavert in there starting at corner, making plays, helping his team win.
“Lavert Hill Sr.’s probably boring the heck out of the neighbors with how well his sons are doing.”
Delano, whose rookie season with the Seahawks opened Sunday, found time to watch his younger brother’s game Saturday. But for the first season ever, he wasn’t there to offer advice to Lavert in person.
He may not have had any wisdom regarding his younger brother’s first pick-six, though. Delano didn’t register his first interception or touchdown until his senior year. And perhaps with that in mind, any struggles Hill had in the spring or fall may best be put in perspective. After all, he’s still ahead of the family curve.
“I talked to (Delano) right after the game,” Lavert said. “He called me, he just told me congratulations and just keep working and get some more interceptions.”