By Will Burchfield
Jourdan Lewis channeled his inner Odell Beckham.
The All-American cornerback made an incredible one-handed interception in the dying minutes of Michigan’s 14-7 win over Wisconsin on Saturday, wowing a sellout crowd at the Big House and leaving his teammates all but speechless.
“We see him make a lot of plays,” said quarterback Wilton Speight, “but that was on another level.”
With under two minutes to go and Michigan clinging to a one touchdown lead, Wisconsin faced a fourth and ten from its own eight-yard line. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook heaved a pass deep down the middle of the field, looking for receiver George Rushing.
Lewis, running with Rushing stride for stride, had one thing on his mind.
“The ball was in the air and I knew I had to make a play on it,” he said. “Either knock it down or do what I did.”
What he did was stunning.
Lewis elevated as the ball was coming down, but he left his feet a bit too soon. Not to worry. He hovered in the air, defying gravity, and then thrust up his right hand and snatched the ball out of the air.
“I jumped too early so I couldn’t go get it with two (hands), so I was like, put my hand up there and see what happens,” he said.
“I think he jumped and floated for five yards,” Speight recalled.
Lewis came down with the ball and the Michigan win – not a bad haul for an ill-timed leaped.
“A heck of a play, that was my first reaction,” said wide receiver Jehu Chesson.
Then he went up to Lewis and delivered a simple message: ‘That’s why you’re the best, dude. You make plays like that.’”
Lewis smiled when asked if had seen a replay of the moment afterward. Of course he had.
“My feet were in the air for a while but it was a great play,” he said. “I’m just glad I could seal the deal for my team.
“It was just instincts, instincts took over.”
Jim Harbaugh admitted the timing of Lewis’ jump left him a bit uneasy.
“I got a little nervous that he was going to come down and the ball was going to go over his fingertips,” the coach.
For Lewis, that was never a concern.
“I knew I was going to knock the ball down, so why not take the next step and go get it?” he said.
As if it was ever that simple.
Ironically, Lewis’ interception hurt the Wolverines in terms of field position. Had he simply knocked the ball down, they would have taken over on downs inside Wisconsin’s ten-yard line. By intercepting it, he pushed them back to Wisconsin’s 46.
For a moment, anyway, Harbaugh wondered if Lewis shouldn’t have gone for the pick.
“But I’m really glad he did because it was a spectacular, spectacular football play,” he said. “Really unbelievable.”
Speight saw a flash of Lewis’ future in his leaping, levitating, one-handed grab.
“That’s a guy that’s going to be playing on Sundays for a long time,” he said.
Just like someone else.
“I’ve seen Odell Beckham Jr. do that,” Harbaugh said. “It looked like that kind of play.”