Update: According to a former player, this could have been a different play than the one Northwestern runs that Michigan thought was coming. The player doesn't want to give the play away, and I will respect that, but there could have been a little gimmicky wrinkle. Th problem is, the play takes a really long time to develop, and that's not ideal with a non-mobile quarterback and an inconsistent offensive line. In fact, it took so long to develop, that it isn't entirely clear if the wrinkle was added. Still, there's some evidence that it was, and that should be taken into account.
Northwestern's decision to go for two at the end of the game against Michigan was questionable at best, but perhaps worse was the play that the Wildcats chose to run ... twice.
After NU sent its offense out to go for two, Michigan predictably called a timeout. The Wildcats showed their cards and the Wolverines adjusted, meaning you'd expect NU to adjust, too. However, NU decided to run the exact same play that it had previously planned on running, and it was a very similar play to the two-point conversion that the Wildcats ran against Cal. Given all of those circumstances, I asked Pat Fitzgerald why they didn't change the play.
"We thought it was going to work," he said.
That's a pretty arrogant response for a coach of a pretty inept offense. Did he really think that they could show all of their cards on a play they'd run before and still be successful? Obviously, it backfired, as the blocking didn't hold up on the rollout and Trevor Siemian fell down before being sacked.
It's easy to blame this on execution, but there were some really bad coaching decisions here, not the least of which was that Michigan (predictably) knew this play was coming.
"Frank (Clark) did a nice job and the coaches in the (press) box did a nice job, because it was the same two-point play they had ran a year ago (in a game)," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.
The players knew it was coming, too. From Frank Clark:
"You watch film all week until you get bored of watching it, and you see the same play over and over," Clark said. "We know the plays they like and what they like to run in the red zone, and I executed.
"I knew it was going to be a sprint out once I saw the double motion, and that's how I went about it."
And Jake Ryan:
"We planned for it all week," Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan said. "We knew what they were doing."
So with the game on the line, Northwestern confirmed to Michigan that it was going to run a play that the Wolverines had already expected to see. That's purely on the coaches.