February 26, 2024

Joel Klatt on how Zak Zinter’s injury moved Michigan in The Game

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

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

“We knew he had broken his leg pretty clearly,” said Klatt, who called the play along with Johnson, when later discussing Zinter’s injury on Monday’s episode of his podcast “The Joel Klatt Show.” “The players who immediately saw him on the ground 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 an outpouring of emotion.”

The injury was significant for numerous reasons. In addition to Zinter’s play, the senior has served as an integral voice and leader within Michigan’s program. Michigan outside linebacker/edge rusher Jaylen Harrell told Klatt and Johnson a day earlier that “Big Zint” is the man who most embodies the team. Klatt even said that Zinter is in some ways “the soul of the program.”

So when one of the leaders dropped out, several Michigan players were understandably upset. Left guard Trevor Keegan “hit the ground with his helmet crying,” Klatt said. While many other players cried, McCarthy comforted Zinter’s parents, who walked off the field as their son was tended to.

Michigan defeats Ohio State for their third straight win in the rivalry

Klatt even said he got emotional in the booth when the moment happened.

“I’m emotional when it comes to college football because I know how much goes into it for these guys,” Klatt said. “Every time a guy goes down, and I know it’s an ACL, 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 isn’t going to play college football again, like Zak Zinter, I get emotional.

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

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

“Even though my headset is on, I can hear the stadium coming alive,” Klatt said. “They’re doing the air cast. The team is devastated. And the stadium starts singing, and when 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 area. It was the whole stadium – and it was loud. It was so loud I took off my headphones to hear it.”

Klatt said he saw something happen to the Michigan team at that moment that surprised him.

“I’ve never heard a stadium this loud in a commercial break, other than the ‘Jump Around’ for Wisconsin or the fabricated song. This was completely human-driven – no music, no band, no PA announcer,” Klatt,” he said as he began to choke. “The Michigan fans just start chanting for him. I got emotional in the booth. That’s when this happens: The team goes from devastated to united as this tsunami of emotion from the fans pours onto the field.

‘It was extremely loud. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. What I hate is that you didn’t experience it at home.’

Joel Klatt on how Michigan rallied after Zak Zinter’s injury

Joel Klatt on how Michigan rallied after Zak Zinter's injury

Klatt described the energy in Michigan Stadium at that moment as “loud” and “palpable,” adding that it lifted Michigan “off the mat” as the team looked out. When the Wolverines took the field again to resume play, Klatt said he felt the bounce.

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 at one of the FOX cameras after scoring.

In the broadcast booth, Klatt said he was just trying to calm himself down when the action resumed.

“That was a pretty remarkable little run there,” Klatt said. “The scene where I got 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 cracking because I was getting emotional. … I didn’t turn around until right before the break.”

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

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

That moment served as the impetus for the rest of the match. Michigan held the lead for good and intercepted Kyle McCord on the game’s final drive to seal the victory.

Saturday’s win over Ohio State moved Michigan to 12-0 on the season, keeping its national title hopes alive. It also marked the 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 version of The Game.

“That crowd was a nervous, energetic crowd in Michigan when I first started playing games in Michigan. It was always the ‘When is this going to go wrong?’ audience. I understand. They’ve had moments over the years where they’ve been jaded and let down. It was always that feeling in 2017, ’18 and ’19. It was always, ‘Okay, when is that going to pieces?’ If something happens, it will break our backs.” It was always that nervous energy crowd, and I felt sometimes 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 then suddenly in 2021 they realized, ‘Wait, we’re going to win.’ From that moment on, it’s now a crowd with an expectant energy. They expect domination. They want domination. They know they’re going to get domination. … To see what I saw in the booth with Gus on Saturday, it was wild. fanbase, without for some reason that stadium lifted the team off the mat, the team walked onto the field, they got galvanized and it’s a touchdown. Blake flashes the ‘6-5.’ It was very loud at a time that could have gone the other way.”

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