Notebook: Four years later, Koger spurns Buckeyes once again

Jed Moch/Daily
Senior tight end Kevin Koger had a game-high four catches against Ohio State. Buy this photo

By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 26, 2011

As a kid, senior tight end Kevin Koger never missed The Game.

On that crisp weekend every November, he would join his father and brother in the living room in Toledo, Ohio to watch the Michigan and Ohio State football teams do battle.

But he was never a Buckeye fan. Koger’s father was raised in Detroit, and his passion for Michigan rubbed off on his sons.

When Koger was being recruited as a four-star tight end, he held scholarship offers from four Big Ten schools, but it was always between Michigan and Ohio State. The Wolverines won out. Then the Buckeyes beat him three straight seasons.

“I never second guessed my decision,” Koger said last Monday.

Even when Ohio State was going to national title games?


When he lined up alongside redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Taylor Lewan at the four-yard line midway through the fourth quarter on Saturday in Michigan’s 40-34 victory, Koger had his chance at redemption.

He didn’t miss it.

On 3rd-and-1, Koger ran five steps forward, angled to the corner of the endzone and turned back toward the line of scrimmage. Junior quarterback Denard Robinson was coming out of a play-action fake and spied Koger running free in the flat.

Robinson lofted a pass over two defenders and into Koger’s hands to give Michigan a 37-27 lead. The touchdown turned out to be the game winner.

Surrounded by 114,132 hysterical fans at Michigan Stadium, Koger was right at home.

“I've always said my dream has always been to catch a touchdown in the Michigan-Ohio State game,” Koger said, beaming in the postgame press conference. “I finally did that, so it means a lot to me and my family.”

This time, his family wasn’t sitting in the living room in Toledo, they were there to see it live at the Big House.

Koger finished as Robinson’s favorite target, racking up a game-high four catches.

After being named a captain in August, Koger grew into the spotlight and earned a more prominent role in the offense. Teammates tabbed him with the nickname “Hypeman 86” early in the season to match his energetic personality, and that charm hasn’t left the senior.

For his entire senior season, Koger and Michigan said, “Beat Ohio” after every team meeting. Countdown clocks were installed in Schembechler Hall. Koger couldn’t forget about Ohio State if he wanted to.

And finally, for the first and last time in his career, Hypeman 86 faced the Buckeyes and walked away a victor.

1K CLUB: One thousand yards.

It’s a number that won’t put either Robinson or redshirt sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint into Heisman contention this season, but it’s a big reason the Wolverines are sitting at 10-2 and on the brink of a BCS-bowl berth.

With banner days against the Buckeyes, both Robinson and Toussaint eclipsed the 1,000-yards rushing on the season. Robinson’s 170 yards boosted his season total to 1,163. Toussaint added 120 yards for 1,011 total.

The last time Michigan had two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season was 1975, when Gordon Bell and Rob Lytle rushed for 1,390 and 1,030 yards, respectively.

“I didn’t know that,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke when told of the two rushers on his team. “That’s good.”

Hoke attributed the success to three factors.

“The ability of the guys up front and what they’ve done,” Hoke said. “I think the offensive staff and what Denard has done in this kind of makeshift, kind of quasi-offense that we have.

“And then I think Fitz (and) the growth and maturity that he’s shown.”

CATCH A GRENADE: After Robinson took a knee to drain the clock and end the ballgame at 40-34, he decided to go ahead and do it.

When the team rushed off the home sideline and gathered at midfield, Robinson tossed the ball straight up in there air, and when the ball fell to the ground, the entire team mimicked a grenade explosion and fell backward onto the turf.

The antics certainly drew a few laughs around the stadium, but it wasn’t a first-time stunt.

“That’s something that we’ve done every Friday,” senior captain David Molk said. “We have a little short practice, and at the end of the practice we ... take a knee, we all get together and Denard throws the ball up toward the ceiling and once it hits ...”

Molk threw his hands apart to mimic an explosion.

“Like a bomb blowing up and we all fall,” Molk finished.

Not everyone was so pleased with the celebration, though.

“I lost so much respect for Michigan after they won (and) threw the ball in the air acting like it was a grenade,” Ohio State fullback Zach Boren wrote on Twitter. “This is a great rivalry and to take it to that level of disrespect is just so uncalled for. Act like you have won before (and) treat this rivalry like it should be treated.”