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Joel Klatt explains how Zak Zinter’s injury galvanized Michigan on The Game


With just over two minutes left in the third quarter of Michigan’s memorable 30-24 win over Ohio State on Saturday, Wolverines right guard Zak Zinter had his left leg rolled up as JJ McCarthy completed a pass to the tight end AJ Barner. Zinter remained on the ground for several minutes as it became clear that the All-Big Ten guard had just suffered a serious injury. The injury was so severe that the FOX broadcast chose not to air a replay of it.

What happened next was something Joel Klatt has never seen before in his broadcasting career, which spans more than 100 college football games for FOX, serving as lead analyst alongside from play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson, or during his four seasons as quarterback. in Colorado.

“We knew he clearly broke his leg,” said Klatt, who called the match alongside Johnson, later discussing Zinter’s injury on Monday’s episode of his podcast “The Joel Klatt Show”. “The players who saw it immediately on the field… they knew it.

“The air leaves the building and it’s quiet. You can hear a pin drop and there’s a lot of emotion from his teammates. There was just a rush of emotion.”

The injury was significant for a multitude of reasons. In addition to Zinter’s play, the senior has served as an integral voice and leader within the Michigan program. Michigan outside linebacker Jaylen Harrell told Klatt and Johnson a day before that “Big Zint” was the guy who embodies the team the most. Klatt even said that Zinter was, in a way, “the soul of the program.”

So with one of its leaders down, several Michigan players were understandably upset. Left guard Trevor Keegan was “hitting the ground with his helmet crying,” Klatt said. As many other players cried, McCarthy consoled Zinter’s parents, who took to the field while their son was treated.

Michigan defeats Ohio State, earning its third straight victory in the rivalry

Klatt even said he became emotional in the booth as the moment unfolded.

“I get emotional when it comes to college football because I know how big a role these guys play,” Klatt said. “Every time a guy goes down, and I know it’s an ACL or an Achilles tendon or a broken leg, it’s like, ‘Hey, the season’s over.’ Especially when it’s a senior or a guy who I know won’t play college football again, like Zak Zinter, I get emotional.

“If you’re Trevor Keegan, you’ve lived with Zak Zinter, you know where he comes from, you know his struggles, you know what he went through to be here, you know what his hopes and dreams are,” Klatt added. . “Now you see him on the ground and his leg is broken right in front of your face. It’s an emotional moment when I see things like that.”

Many members of the Michigan team remained on the sidelines and away from where the next play was supposed to take place while their teammate was being evaluated. While several Wolverines players looked devastated and the FOX broadcast was in a commercial, something remarkable happened as a wave of emotion washed over the more than 100,000 fans inside the Big House on this cold Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor.

“Even though I have my headset on, I can hear the stadium starting to come alive,” Klatt said. “They’re blowing up the air. The team is devastated. And the stadium starts chanting, and if I get emotional, I’m sorry, ‘Let’s go Zak! Let’s go Zak!’ And it’s not just one section. It’s not just one zone. It was the whole stadium – and it was loud. It was so loud I took my headphones off to hear it.

Klatt said he saw something happen with the Michigan team at that time that amazed him.

“I’ve never heard a stadium this loud during a commercial break, except for the ‘Jump Around’ for Wisconsin or the fabricated song. It was all man-driven – no music, no band, no PA announcer,” Klatt said as he began to choke up. “The Michigan fans just start chanting for him. I was emotional in the stand. In that moment, here’s what happens: The team goes from devastated to unified as this tsunami of fan emotion pours out in the field.

“It was really loud. I’ve never experienced anything like that. What I hate is that you didn’t experience that at home.”

Joel Klatt explains how Michigan came together in the face of Zak Zinter’s injury

Joel Klatt explains how Michigan came together in the face of Zak Zinter's injury

Klatt described the energy at Michigan Stadium at that moment as “loud” and “palpable,” adding that it took Michigan “off the mat” as the team looked out of it. As the Wolverines took the field to resume play, Klatt said he could feel the resilience.

That led to Blake Corum rushing for a 22-yard touchdown on the very first play after the injury timeout, giving Michigan a 24-17 lead. The senior running back flashed “6-5,” Zinter’s jersey number, with his hands in front of one of the FOX cameras after scoring.

In the broadcast booth, Klatt said he was just calming down as the action resumed.

“It was a pretty remarkable little sequence,” Klatt said. “The sequence where I was a little emotional, when we came back from commercial, I had to turn away from the field. I didn’t want you to hear my voice crack because I was emotional. … I didn’t get I didn’t go back until just before the snap.”

As a clip of Klatt describing what he saw after Zinter’s injury made the rounds on social media Tuesday, Zinter himself responded to it.

“Family, forever, turn blue!” » Zinter wrote in a social media post.

This moment served as momentum for the rest of the match. Michigan held on to the lead for good, intercepting Kyle McCord on the final drive of the game to seal the victory.

Saturday’s win over Ohio State moved Michigan to 12-0 on the season, keeping its national title hopes alive and well. It was also their third straight victory over Ohio State, the first time since 1997.

As the Wolverines have become the class of the Big Ten and the college football world again in recent seasons, Klatt has noticed that reflection in the fan base, which he credits with helping Michigan win the 119th iteration of The Game.

“That crowd was a nervous, energetic crowd at Michigan, when I first started playing games at Michigan. It was always the question, ‘When is it going to go bad?’ crowd. I get it. Over the years, they had times where they were jaded and disappointed. It was always kind of that feeling in 2017, 2018 and 2019. It was always, “OK, when is this play is going to happen” happen, it’s going to break our backs. There was always this nervous, energetic crowd, and I sometimes felt like that nervous energy was even seeping into the team.

“Something happened in the fourth quarter against Ohio State in 2021. That crowd had that energy, but all of a sudden they realized in 2021, ‘Hang on, we’re going to win.’ From that point on, it’s now a crowd with expectant energy. They expect domination. They want domination. They know they’re going to get domination. …To see what I saw Saturday in the stand with Gus, it was crazy. fan base, without any incentive, this stadium lifted the team off the mat, the team entered the field, they were galvanized and it’s a hit. Blake goes ‘6-5’. It was really strong at one point, which could have gone the other way.”

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