ANN ARBOR - In the minutes following Michigan's 38-31 overtime win against Northwestern, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke turned the tables.
"Lemme ask you this," Hoke asked the gaggle of reporters assembled in front of him, in a room underneath the stands of Michigan Stadium. "Who started writing their article before the game was over?"
A few reporters raised their hands. And Hoke smirked. Because in his mind, the finish was already scripted. Or at least that's what he told the media.
"My wife just asked me that on the way in: 'Did you know you were going to win?' " Hoke said.
He had a one-word answer: "Yes."
The storyline, in the final minutes of regulation, appeared to be cut-and-dried: Michigan blows a lead, Northwestern closes out the upset and dashes Michigan's already-slim Big Ten championship hopes.
After Tony Jones gave the Wildcats a 31-28 lead on a 15-yard touchdown catch with 3:59 left in the fourth quarter, the clicking of the keyboards echoed through the press box at Michigan Stadium. It seemed too easy - all Northwestern had to do was stop Michigan's final drive and run out the clock to seal the win.
It didn't work that way.
Instead, Michigan got the ball back with 18 seconds left at its own 38. And Devin Gardner launched a rocket to Roy Roundtree. Via ESPN and YouTube:
Roundtree's catch placed the Wolverines at the nine with seconds left in regulation, and Brendan Gibbon's 26-yard field goal with 2 seconds left forced overtime.
After Gardner's 1-yard touchdown gave the Wolverines a 38-31 lead, Michigan needed four plays to end the game, capping it off with a resounding tackle by linebacker Kenny Demens on tailback Tyris Jones.
Game over. Players celebrate. Reporters scramble to write yet another lead.
This certainly wasn't the exception. It's a vicious cycle.
A friend of mine who also covers a Big Ten team said something along these lines earlier this week, in discussing what reporters covering the presidential election go through:
" Late night, tight deadlines, interviewing upset losers, ever-changing leads."
It's akin to what sports reporters go through - on a regular basis.
We prepare to meet and beat deadlines. Or maybe we shouldn't. As evidenced by this afternoon at Michigan Stadium, who knows how it's all going to end.
For the record: I had four leads written by the time Roy Roundtree snagged that bobbling football. Maybe a fifth floating around in my head, too.
Though if he was a reporter, I wonder what Hoke's lead would have been. Or how many leads he would have written.