EVANSTON, Illinois — Pat Fitzgerald watched his offense struggle right up until that final touchdown drive, so with a chance to win in regulation, Northwestern's coach decided to go for it.
This wasn't the result he wanted.
De'Veon Smith ran for a career-high 121 yards and a touchdown, and Michigan beat Northwestern 10-9 Saturday after the Wildcats' Trevor Siemian slipped attempting a two-point conversion at the end of the game.
Siemian had just connected with Jones in the left corner of the end zone on a 3-yard pass to make it a one-point game with three seconds left.
Rather than try for the tie, Northwestern went for the win. That plan backfired when Siemian slipped while dropping back as Michigan's Frank Clark closed in on him.
"We didn't score a lot of points so I felt like I'd take a one-play opportunity — 3 yards, one play," Fitzgerald said.
The problem was Michigan had it well-scouted.
"Frank did a nice job," coach Brady Hoke said. "The coaches in the box did a nice job, because it was the same two-point play they had ran a year ago."
Hoke acknowledged he was a "little surprised" Northwestern went for it but defended the decision.
"Pat's shown his team he's got a lot of faith in them," he said.
Northwestern receiver Tony Jones thought the Wildcats could have pulled out the win in OT. Still, he praised the decision to go for two.
"I definitely like the call, going for two," he said. "It showed great courage, a lot of faith in our offense at the same time."
Either way, it was another wild finish between these teams, with Michigan once again prevailing.
The Wolverines (5-5, 3-3 Big Ten) won in overtime two years ago and pulled out a triple-OT thriller last year after the field goal unit sprinted onto the field for the tying kick at the end of regulation.
This time, they gave their fading bowl hopes a boost and handed Northwestern (3-6, 2-4) its fourth straight loss in a game that was almost comical for all its missed scoring chances.
Michigan finally grabbed a 7-0 lead on Smith's 3-yard run midway through the third quarter and eventually escaped with a much needed victory.
The Wolverines still have to win one of their two remaining games to become bowl eligible.
Considering the finale is at Ohio State on Nov. 29, the Wolverines can't afford a letdown against Maryland in two weeks.
Against Northwestern, they got two sacks from Mario Ojemudia and five in all by the defense.
Smith eclipsed his previous high of 115 yards against Appalachian State in the opener to lead Michigan on a day when Devin Gardner threw for 105 yards and two interceptions. And the Wolverines won despite converting just 1 of 12 third downs.
Siemian threw for 268 yards and a touchdown but got picked off twice, but Northwestern managed just 12 yards rushing against one of the Big Ten's stingiest run defenses.
"It's tough," Jones said. "This is a very close football team. We'll find a way to respond."
After numerous missed opportunities by both sides, Michigan finally broke through midway through the third, taking a 7-0 lead on Smith's 3-yard touchdown plunge. That came after Northwestern's Jones fumbled a punt and the Wolverines' Jehu Chesson recovered at the 21.
The Wildcats had a chance later in the third when Ibraheim Campbell returned an interception 79 yards to the 15. But two plays for a loss and then an intentional grounding by Siemian put the ball on the 43 and Northwestern out of field goal range.
Michigan had several chances to score in the first half, only to come away empty-handed. The last three drives started in Northwestern territory but produced a grand total of zero points, with the Wildcats' Nick VanHoose blocking a 41-yard field-goal attempt by Wile near the end of the second quarter to keep it scoreless.
Tom Hruby, a 33-year-old active Navy SEAL, made his debut for Northwestern.
A junior who walked on this season, Hruby was in on the game's opening kickoff. Married and a father of three, he was recently cleared to play by the Navy.