ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan's final day of spring practice was filled with the football program's new, unique brand of unorthodox excitement -- both of the natural variety and the manufactured.
The two-hour scrimmage came down to a two-point conversion attempt on the final play of the night. The stakes were steaks. The winning team gets a hearty protein celebration meal. The losers are served spaghetti.
Redshirt junior quarterback John O'Korn scrambled six yards for a rushing touchdown in the closing seconds of the game to pull his team within a point, 14-13. After an offsides penalty inched the ball closer to the goal line, fullback Henry Poggi's plunge was stuffed by a host of his defensive teammates to seal the win and the ribeye dinner.
"I knew what play was coming because they've run it all spring," said senior linebacker Mike McCray, who was part of the crew that met Poggi at the goal line. "I tried to anticpate it and I think everybody was (in on the tackle)."
McCray, a senior who stepped into one of the vacant linebacker spots this spring, finished the scrimmage with a team-high seven tackles, including a sack and a tackle for loss. He was plagued by injuries early in his career in Ann Arbor, but is one of several Wolverines who improved their standing throughout the spring and heads into the offseason on a high note.
His teammate for the day, running back Ty Isaac, also completed his best 15-practice stretch in the program with an exclamation point Friday night. Isaac was the game's leading rusher with 78 yards on 10 carries, including a 30-yarder in the third quarter that helped set up the eventual game-winning score.
Isaac said while the game was a fun, less grueling way to finish a spring full of four-hour practices that didn't keep him and his teammates from chewing on their fingernails before storming the field to celebrate their dramatic finish.
"I was a little nervous," he said. "It was fun. It reminded us a little bit of Minnesota."
Michigan's defense stuffed the Gophers on a similar last-second goal-line stand in Minneapolis last fall. The offensive hero of that game was backup quarterback Wilton Speight, who came off the bench to lead a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. This time around Speight threw one touchdown pass and ran for another score while continuing to look like Michigan's frontrunner in the three-way quarterback battle heading into the offseason.
The coaching staff reiterated to their quarterback trio throughout the week that Friday night's game would be a big opportunity to prove how they could perform in a simulated game. All three had some noteworthy performances Friday.
O'Korn led the blue team in rushing yards, scrambling successfully several times including his touchdown run on the game's penultimate play. Senior Shane Morris shined brightest while making cameos at wide receiver. He threw a touchdown pass on a trick play where he caught a backward screen pass and then fired the ball to running back Drake Johnson in the end zone. He also caught a 25-yard pass from O'Korn that helped set up the final score of the game.
Speight, though, completed five of six pass attempts for 46 yards. More importantly, according to him, he didn't make any major mistakes while leading the offense down the field. Speight said he wasn't sure what the pecking order would be when Michigan reconvenes for training camp in August, but he thought he left himself in a good position to compete for the job.
"That's probably coach's call, but I know where I stand in my eyes," he said. "I know what I'm capable of and what we can do as a team if I'm under center and I feel good about it. I feel good going into fall camp."
Head coach Jim Harbaugh didn't speak with reporters following the game, so the world will have to wait until this summer to hear him weigh in on the quarterbacks and the rest of his team's performance under the lights.
While some thoughts from the head coach are always welcome, the quintessential Harbaughian event Friday night didn't need much of a recap. It spoke for him. The game that started with a slight delay so that rappers Bailey and Rich Rocka could finish their Michigan-inspired song while perched on a sideline stage at the 20-yard line. After two more halftime rap performances, the game produced some nuggets of substances and some genuine, on-the-field entertainment. It ended with teammates smashing into each other with little more on the line than bragging rights, a show that this team has inherited its competitive nature from the head coach, even in a spring game.