The Michigan football team has gone relatively unscathed this season in terms of injuries.
Really, the only notable ones were redshirt freshman wide receiver Tarik Black, who missed a majority of the season with a broken foot, and junior defensive end Rashan Gary, who sat out four games with a shoulder issue.
That has pretty much been the extent of it for the Wolverines.
On Saturday night, despite defeating Indiana, 31-20, Michigan’s injury luck turned on its head.
It began, in earnest, in the third quarter. Fifth-year senior defensive end Chase Winovich was rushing the passer, matched up with the Hoosiers’ right tackle. Right guard Simon Stepaniak came over to help on Winovich, dumped him to the ground hard on Winovich’s left shoulder and dove on top of him to keep him down.
As it turns out, he kept Winovich down for quite a while. Winovich lay motionless on the field for a few moments before being tended to by trainers, as his teammates milled around on the sideline, hoping for the best. Junior quarterback Shea Patterson — Winovich’s roommate — even walked onto the field to give Winovich some words of encouragement.
“I don’t know the severity of his injury,” Patterson said after the game. “I know him really well. I just told him I love him, and we’re behind him no matter what happens. That’s basically all you can do. Just him, with his work ethic and as a senior in his last game … I just wanted to let him know I was there and the whole team was there for him.”
Reports later surfaced that Winovich’s parents joined him in the locker room, raising the level of concern among Wolverine fans. However, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Winovich’s x-rays and CT scans were negative after the game.
From there, the Wolverines had no choice but to rally together.
“It’s a brotherhood,” Gary said. “So when you see one of your brothers go down, of course you’re gonna feel attacked and feel let down and hurt. But, you know, football is football, and when they went out, now the game is for them and us. So I tried to play any snaps with Chase just how he would when I wasn’t playing. That’s my brother, and we just had to play like that.”
That wasn’t the end of the jarring injuries for Michigan.
In the fourth quarter, on a kickoff return, fifth-year senior backup running back Berkley Edwards got blown up while trying to block.
The offender, Indiana’s Cam Jones, was ejected for targeting, while Edwards was eventually carted off the field on a stretcher and brought to the hospital.
Edwards’ brother, Braylon — the legendary former-Wolverines receiver — updated the situation later via Twitter:
“Berkley, everything looked good when he left the stadium,” Harbaugh said. “He did have a concussion — he had a pretty good-sized concussion. He looked good when he left here, but he was taken to the hospital as a precaution, so we’ll have later updates there.”
These two injuries, in particular, gave Michigan a sour taste in its mouth.
After Edwards went down, several players were jawing at the Hoosiers’ sideline.
“It did get chippy,” said senior running back Karan Higdon.
“… Obviously, the situation with my brother Berkley Edwards didn’t sit well with anybody, and that was a situation that was unfortunate, and it kind of shook the team up a little bit.”
In both Winovich and Edwards’ cases, the prognoses were better than originally expected.
Still, as Gary and Higdon said, the pauses were long and clearly emotional. But the Wolverines simply had to rebound.
If the final score is any indication, they did.