If misery really loves company, then the Michigan injured list had plenty of happy people following Saturday’s game.
The Wolverines entered Evanston with a number of notable names missing from the dress list, including guards Alex Mitchell and Jeremy Ciulla, and, unexpectedly, linebacker John Thompson. And by the time the 28-16 win finished, three more Wolverines had hobbled off the field.
Tight end Mike Massey, linebacker Chris Graham and third-string right guard Tim McAvoy all exited Saturday’s game early. Massey left the stadium on crutches, and the status of all three remains unclear.
“We’ve got to see what it is (Sunday), and see where we go from there,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
Thompson’s absence came as a surprise to fans, since the linebacker – who looked much improved in his last two games – was injured in practice this week. Without him, the Wolverines turned to redshirt freshman Obi Ezeh, who took some time to adjust to the starting position before he recorded four tackles and intercepted a pass.
Carr said he could not comment on Thompson’s return.
“Hopefully he’s worked hard to come back and we need him to come back, but I can’t tell you any more than that,” Carr said.
A tale of two special teams: Well, at least he’s consistent.
The Wolverines called on senior Jason Gingell to kick two field goals (26, 39) on Saturday. He missed both.
One of three kickers looking to replace the once-maligned and now-appreciated Garrett Rivas, Gingell won the field-goal kicking job this summer. Since then, he’s done his best to lose it: He’s hit just 3-of-9 attempts this season.
Punter Zoltan Mesko, however, has enjoyed much more success. Despite sometimes lacking good special teams coverage, he punted six balls for an average of 44.5 yards and pinned Northwestern inside the 20 three times on Saturday. His most impressive punt traveled 60 yards after Wildcat returner Rasheed Ward bobbled it, recovering the ball on the 2-yard line.
“My guess is that kick was five seconds or better, which is an incredible kick,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “That makes it more difficult to handle, so he’s having a sensational year.”
Almost No. 1: One-hundred-six yards down, 33 to go.
On the brink of Michigan’s all-time rushing record, running back Mike Hart will have to wait another week after he struggled to break through a John Gill-led Northwestern defense for much of Saturday’s game. One of the worst rush defenses in the Big Ten, Northwestern stuffed Hart at or behind the line on six carries and held him to a season-low 106 yards.
“It’s hard to believe if you stood there and watched,” Carr said. “I would not guess Mike had 100 yards.”
And, if not for a big fourth quarter, he wouldn’t have. Hart had just 61 yards through three, but a late-game, 23-yard dash that set up his 1-yard touchdown run helped him hit the century mark.
Still, Hart’s performance pushed him ahead of Jamie Morris to claim the No. 2 spot on Michigan’s all-time career rushing list. With just 33 more yards to go, Hart will likely overtake former Wolverine Anthony Thomas (4,472) against Eastern Michigan on Saturday.
Notes: Wide receiver Mario Manningham caught a career-high 10 passes for 123 yards. … Rivals.com’s No. 14 outside linebacker in the country, Detroit Country Day’s Kenny Demens committed to Michigan this weekend.