ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Somebody call that dude from the sports science show on ESPN and have him analyze the interception made by Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis.
You know, he could explain all the math involving velocity, mass, arc of the ball and position of the intended receiver before proclaiming Lewis as a physics-defying kind of guy.
But first, let’s get one thing out of the way: Lewis, an All-American in 2015, has leaped to the forefront of the “best corner in college” conversation thanks to this play. Not that he wasn’t there already. Most people who follow Wolverines football have predicted this type of attention for the former Detroit Cass Tech superstar.
Saturday versus Wisconsin, though, served as a subtle reminder to those outside of the loop. Lewis’ pick helped seal the deal during No. 4-ranked Michigan’s 14-7 win over the visiting and No. 8-ranked Badgers, who were fresh off a 30-6 win the previous Saturday at Michigan State.
It was the first time Michigan and Wisconsin had met as top-10-ranked opponents. It was also the Wolverines’ 50th win over the Badgers (50-14-1). And, of course, Lewis displayed one of the top feats of athleticism imaginable.
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Lewis floated for roughly five yards before snagging Alex Hornibrook’s fourth-down, fourth-quarter, last-gasp to George Rushing. Suspended animation. Jumpman stuff. Something that probably made Michael Jordan turn his head a couple of times.
Given the circumstances, one must give a few extra points to Lewis.
“The ball was in the air and I knew I could make a play on it,” said Lewis, who returned from a lower-back/groin injury one week ago versus Penn State. “Either knock it or down or do what I did… you know, it was just instincts, really.”
Zero time to think. Even less time to react. Lewis could have given some kind of uber-technical explanation when asked about the thought process leading up to the pick — but he didn’t. He just told reporters what happened.
He jumped early, stuck out his hand and basically waited for the result.
And for the record, the 5-foot-11, 186-pounder said he would have likely made the play even while injured. Yeah, it was a mind-boggling interception — one for the books. But for Lewis, it was just one of many plays that have made him a household name in the world of college football.
Odell Beckham’s catch was mentioned by reporters and coach Jim Harbaugh.
“It looked like that kind of play,” Harbaugh said. “He jumped a little early, and I got a little nervous that he was going to come down, and the ball was just going to go over his fingertips. But he was able to hang in the air and made a spectacular play.”
Similar events, sure. The grab was also a bit like the one-hander made by Michigan receiver Amara Darboh during a 31-0 blowout of BYU in 2015.
“It was definitely crazy — it was definitely crazy when I saw it,” said Lewis. “It’s instincts. Just instincts took over — and I wasn’t thinking at the moment.”
Lewis’ pick could have saved a touchdown. Rushing — a 6-foot-1, 192-pound wideout — had at least a half-step advantage while streaking up the left hash. Starting at the eight-yard line, Lewis pressed Rushing, who quickly adjusted to find an open section of the field.
But he probably didn’t expect Lewis — who appeared more than 30 yards later — to fly roughly 15 feet before making one of the best picks you’ll ever witness.
It wasn’t quite Charles Woodson versus Michigan State in 1997. But make no mistake: Lewis’ interception has already earned a spot in Wolverines lore.
Michigan should go ahead and throw a photo of the play next to Lewis’ All-American photo at Towsley Museum — you know, just for good measure.