Western Michigan beat Northwestern, 22-21, which might seem weird because Western Michigan is in the MAC and Northwestern is a Big Ten team that won 10 games last year. (It might not be weird, because Western Michigan is a great MAC team and Northwestern was a very bad 10-win team last year.) But it almost didn’t happen thanks to one of the strangest plays I’ve ever seen.
Let’s explain what happened here: Northwestern had the ball trailing Western Michigan, 22-21, and was a few yards away from the end zone with about three minutes left. QB Clayton Thorson ran the ball on a keeper and as he reached for the end zone, the ball was stripped. That left the ball bouncing towards the sideline, almost surely giving Western Michigan the ball on a turnover. Due to one of football’s most maligned rules, an offensive fumble that goes out of the end zone the offense is trying to score in gives the defense the ball at the 20-yard line.
And then WMU safety Davontae Ginwright entered the frame.
You know how in youth basketball, your coach told you not to save the ball under your own basket? Well, that applies in football, too, AND THE CONSEQUENCES ARE POTENTIALLY MUCH WORSE.
If Ginwright had simply let the ball bounce out of bounds, or picked up the ball and run out of bounds, or just nicely shepherded the ball out of bounds (without drawing too much attention for illegally batting it), the ball would have gone to Western Michigan.
But instead, Ginwright attempted to hurl the ball back into play, where Northwestern jumped on it in the end zone for an apparent touchdown.
Luckily for Western Michigan, the referees ruled that Ginwright’s foot touched the ground before he threw the ball back into play, saving the Broncos from themselves.
(Somebody’s going to point out that there was a holding on the play that would’ve negated the touchdown, but the Wildcats still would’ve gotten the ball back and had an opportunity to kick a field goal.)