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'Heroes' help No. 3 Michigan past Illinois to remain unbeaten

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Michigan survives upset scare from Illinois (2:09)

Michigan gets a late field goal and avoids the upset with a 19-17 win over Illinois. (2:09)

ANN Arbor, Mich. -- Michigan found itself down 17-16 against Illinois in the fourth quarter with only nine seconds to go Saturday, when senior kicker Jake Moody ran onto the field for what would be the last kick of his college career at Michigan Stadium.

Moody had never kicked a game-winning field goal in his entire career, but he lined up for the 35-yarder from the right hash and put it straight through the uprights to keep Michigan's undefeated season alive with a 19-17 win. It was Moody's fourth field goal of the game, but he said there hasn't been another kick he's had that compares to this one against Illinois.

"For it to be in my final game at the Big House, it was pretty magical," Moody said. "I'm just glad we could send out the seniors on a good note."

Last season, Moody won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's best kicker, and had made 25 of 30 field goals prior to making all four against Illinois.

After his team gutted out a win in the final seconds, Jim Harbaugh said he had a locker room "full of heroes," which included Moody and his heroics on the day. There had only been one other top-five College Football Playoff team to overcome a last-minute deficit coming into Saturday, when Alabama beat LSU in 2014, and Harbaugh's team had accomplished the same on the foot of his star kicker.

Harbaugh highlighted most of his players, but spent nearly three minutes discussing Moody and the performance he put on to keep the No. 3 Wolverines' playoff hopes intact.

"I don't know if any of us really quite comprehend what that feeling's like that he experienced today," Harbaugh said. "When he came into the locker room, every guy was chanting his name. It was a tremendous celebration."

Despite the fact that quarterback J.J. McCarthy completed just 53% of his passes and star running back Blake Corum suffered an apparent knee injury late in the second quarter, Harbaugh only focused on the positives and described this season as a happy journey with a team of heroes.

Harbaugh wasn't concerned about the injury to Corum or defensive end Mike Morris or tight end Luke Schoonmaker, saying that whoever is on the fringe will likely play in the final contest against Ohio State. Corum's X-rays came back negative and the only update Harbaugh did give was that there wasn't anything seriously injured structurally.

Harbaugh brought the conversation right back to his kicker, though, and described in detail each of the four kicks from Moody and how impressive it was with cold and windy conditions.

He compared the late comeback to the contest Michigan had with Penn State in the 2021 season when Michigan was trailing the Nittany Lions by four points in the fourth quarter. Tight end Erick All caught a pass from quarterback Cade McNamara and ran it in for a 47-yard touchdown to put the Wolverines ahead and give his team the win.

The passing game had its struggles this time around and the team was without its best running back, looking to its most consistent player to bring home the win in Moody. He noted he wasn't any more nervous than he would be for any other field goal, but Moody noted he understood what this kick meant for his team.

He lined up, with the wind at his back, and put three points on the board to send his team to Columbus, Ohio, undefeated and a chance at extending their season.

"Legend. I've been watching Michigan football since I was a kid, pretty decent historian of Michigan football," Harbaugh said. "I am nominating him for legendary status at the university."