Turnovers Spell Doom for Wolfe, Northern Illinois
Arnold, Jeff, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Jeff Arnold Special to the Daily Herald
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -From its inception, the play call was perfect, combining a well-placed shovel pass with the talent of the one player the nation's fourth-ranked team didn't appear to have an answer for.
As Northern Illinois tailback Garrett Wolfe erased the yards between himself and the goal line, he recalled what he had been coached to do.
Hold on to the ball, high and tight, Wolfe kept thinking as he reached the end of the 18-yard run that seemingly turned around the Huskies' season opener against Michigan.
But as Wolfe's body moved closer to the Michigan Stadium turf, the ball slipped away. With it went Northern Illinois' chances.
By the end, the turnover tally had reached 5 - a key factor in the Huskies' 33-17 loss to the Wolverines on Saturday in front of 110,971.
"With my fumble, everything started to turn around and the game started to go downhill for us," said Wolfe, who finished with 148 yards and a 76-yard touchdown run on 17 carries. "That's when we started to have those turnovers."
Wolfe's fumble, which occurred at the Michigan 13-yard line with the Huskies trailing 20-10 late in the second quarter, proved to be only the beginning.
After Northern Illinois' defense appeared to have given its offense another chance at trimming the deficit, Shatone Powers mishandled Ross Ryan's punt on the 14-yard line, losing the Huskies' second fumble in a three-minute span.
Last season, Northern Illinois led the nation with 1 fumble lost. Saturday, the Huskies lost 4 to go along with a Phil Horvath interception.
Three plays later, Michigan freshman tailback Kevin Grady scored from 2 yards out with 27 seconds remaining before halftime. Michigan suddenly led 27-10.
"I think you can look back at this and say this was a little bit of a missed opportunity," NIU coach Joe Novak said. "(If ) we don't have all of those turnovers, maybe I'm whistling Dixie, but I think we've got a chance."
With a 17-point halftime lead, Michigan never looked back. …