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So, it turns out we may have something of a controversy where there shouldn’t be one.
Michigan football beat Nebraska, 32-29, on Saturday in a game that the Wolverines controlled in the first half before the Huskers went on an offensive rampage in the second. There were awful calls on both sides — bad spots for Michigan, no-calls when Nebraska had an illegal formation or was emulating the snap count; the Wolverines got away with quite a few things, as well, almost including a touchdown — but at the end of the game, it was a stripped ball and return by Michigan safety Brad Hawkins that all-but sealed victory for the maize and blue.
Cut and dry, right? It turns out, not so much.
While saying he’s taking accountability for his actions, Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez also gave himself something of an out, saying after the game that he thought that the play was completely over and that he was just standing there when Hawkins came up and aggressively ripped the ball out.
“Yeah, the call: obviously short-yardage run play, try to get the first down,” Martinez said. “I’m not gonna stand up here and make excuses for myself: can’t be careless with the football. I thought the play was over, I was standing as I’m standing right now, and I thought it was done. Regardless of that fact, I feel a lot of responsibility and can’t make plays like that that hurt our team.”
He spoke again about the play on Monday, just noting that he has to hang onto the ball.
“The biggest thing, just continuing to be aware and hold on as tight as possible to that ball,” Martinez said. “It’s hard to really see anything else there from that play.”
The Michigan contingent spoke about the play after the game, as well, with both Jim Harbaugh and Brad Hawkins commenting on it.
“Yeah, I knew they wouldn’t flinch!” Harbaugh said. “Like I said, some incredible athletes. Brad Hawkins, incredible play he made — stripping that ball in the end and picking it up.”
“Just practicing how you play,” Hawkins said. “Practice all week, every single day. Then we practice punching at the ball, stripping the ball, taking the ball out. In that moment, punching the ball out, stripping the ball out and it came free. Just practicing how you play. And it came through for us.”
What do you think? Was Martinez’s forward progress stopped or was the play over?
A reminder. Adrian Martinez didn’t fumble the ball.
— Michigan Salt (@PelhamOneTwo3) October 10, 2021
Regardless of what you decide, the whistle hadn’t blown, which tends to be the ultimate determination of whether or not a play is dead. Given that Martinez was still fighting for yards, safe to say, it was still a live play.