Michigan was an inch, a second, a single miscommunication away from a loss on Saturday.
Without every last detail played to perfection in the waning moments of regulation, the Wolverines wouldn't have attempted that game-tying field goal and wouldn't have had a chance to play for an overtime win against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.
“It was one of the best team plays I’ve seen,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “But that whole team and the team getting off the field did a tremendous job.”
There was Matt Wile finding kicker Brendan Gibbons to let him know Michigan would be running a hurry-up field goal. There was Taylor Lewan, Erik Magnuson and Kyle Bosch getting to the sideline in time. And then there were the other linemen getting on to the field in time.
There was Gibbons -- a player whose position is predicated on routine and detail -- getting to the 34-yard line, shuffling back and moving his weight back and forth a few times. In film, special teams coach Dan Ferrigno would tell Gibbons that steps are overrated.
And then there was Dileo, fresh off a vertical route the previous play of the game, on the opposite side, unable to hear the coaches on the sideline. He didn’t know the play call until he saw Gibbons running on to the field. At that point he took off.
And then there was the play within the play -- Dileo’s slide (or as people on Twitter took to calling it, the #DileoPowerSlide).
The slide was for substance, not style (though it definitely added some style points to the game), because every millisecond mattered.
“At first, honestly no, I really didn’t [think I’d make it],” Dileo said. “I saw Brendan run on the field. I looked at the clock and it was six seconds left and so then I just put my head down and ran to where his foot was.”
Dileo remembers signaling for the ball with two seconds remaining, and after three overtimes, the Wolverines were able to successfully celebrate a road win, its special teams and the Dileo power slide.
That slide so perfectly encapsulated the chaos of the moment, the need to do whatever it took -- including a return to Dileo’s baseball days -- in order for the play to work.
Dileo didn’t know whether Lewan started the trend or if it were someone else on Twitter, but it blew up and suddenly -- after a full day of college football -- everyone seemed to be watching and talking about a special teams play that happened in a relatively inconsequential Big Ten game.
With the exception of the impromptu slide, however, that play for Michigan is relatively normal. The hurry-up field goal is something the Wolverines have practiced every week since Hoke and this coaching staff arrived at Michigan.
Though, admittedly, sometimes Hoke makes it a bit more difficult.
“Coach Hoke’s countdown is not a real countdown,” Dileo said. “Sometimes he goes from 10 to one in about four seconds. ... I think the game was probably just a culmination of practice the last three years and we executed really well.”
The execution was there, and for a team that has struggled to make big plays and give their fans something to be excited about, the Wolverines managed to come up the biggest in the moment with the smallest margin for error.
Michigan fans have been in awe of it and Hoke said it was one of the best he has ever been a part of, but was it the best team play Dileo had ever seen?
“I really think so,” Dileo said. “In the last couple days I’ve watched that play over and over and over. And it really is amazing that we got the ball off. Really the whole two-minute drive ... and them getting off the field. It really was amazing.”