The University of Michigan football program has been taking the field since 1879. In that time, it has accumulated the most wins and the highest winning percentage in major college football history. With so much success over such a long period of time, the result has been a history littered with great players, coaches, and administrators creating remarkable moments. It is these moments that have built the foundation of the Michigan football program. Some moments are, of course, more memorable; while others are remembered less and less with each passing generation. I sought out to identify the greatest moments in Michigan's football history because they are, in a sense, the cliffnotes version of what Michigan football is all about. If someone were to introduce a friend to "Michigan football" for the first time, these are the moments that should be relayed before all others.
Before I get into the list, I want to explain a few things that should hopefully identify my process for choosing and ranking these moments.
1). A moment by definition is "an indefinitely short period of time" or "an instant." Clearly, there is quite the inherent flexibility there. In a basketball game, a moment might refer to "a second." In the history of Earth, a moment could be a year or a decade. My point is: don't get too carried away with what a "moment" refers to. On this list, you will find that I have used plays, quarters, halves, games, speeches, hirings, and many other "indefinitely short" periods of time.
2). While I certainly tried to place these "moments" in order of importance, try not to get too caught up over each individual ranking. It can become tedious ranking "moments" that are very different from one another. My primary goal was to make sure that, in general, more important moments are rated near the top of the list and vice versa. Obviously, if there is something that I have ranked considerably lower or higher than it should have been, please feel free to comment.
3). This list went through a number of drafts over the last six months. There were more than 50 moments that were under consideration that ultimately did not make the final cut. With the current limitations of mathematics, it is simply impossible to include more than 100 moments in a top 100 list. Hopefully that'll change some day but, in the meantime, if your favorite moment did not make the list, please feel free to let me know.
4). Virtually all of the secondhand information that I used to provide summaries came from the links that are provided for each individual moment. If you would like to know more about a moment, please click on the link that goes with it for a more detailed explanation.
5). Although most of the information that you will read below can be found using a number of sources, I used just a select few for consistency purposes. The University of Michigan Football Vault by Jerry Green (a must-have for any Michigan football fan) was a valuable resource as was the Bentley Historical Library's online archives. The vast majority of YouTube clips were courtesy of WolverineHistorian who does a phenomenal job of pumping the internet full of Michigan related content. Finally, I'd like to thank my friend Nick for his valuable insight.
The 100 Greatest Moments in Michigan Football History
1. Fielding H. Yost hired as head coach in 1901
Fielding Yost is arguably the most influential coach in college football history. Consider that the University of Michigan has not only the most wins in college football history but the highest all-time winning percentage. It is highly unlikely that those records would be in place if not for the arrival of Yost in 1901 and the phenomenal tenure that followed. He won a National Championship in his first four years at Michigan piling up an unbelievable 43-0-1 record over that span. All told, he won six national championships and compiled a record of 165-29-10 at Michigan. While Yost had a undeniable impact on football at Michigan, he also had a substantial impact on college football as a whole. Among many other contributions, he was instrumental in creating the first ever bowl game which, not surprisingly, was the Rose Bowl.
What Yost created, Bo Schembechler saved. Yost's influence on Michigan football lasted nearly a half century before mediocrity plagued football in Ann Arbor. Under Yost's watchful eye as coach and Athletic Director, Michigan went 251-68-17 (.772 winning %) from 1901-1941. A decade after his departure, the program began to feel the effects of life without Yost. From 1949-1968, Michigan dropped off significantly compiling a record of 105-75-6 (.580). Gone were the glory days of Big Ten Titles and National Championships. Michigan even surrendered in-state supremacy to Michigan State. That might still be the case today if not for the timely arrival of Bo. Perhaps no coach in the country--including Michigan's first choice, Joe Paterno--could've delivered the passion and intensity that Bo brought to the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. This was crucial at the time because the path to Big Ten supremacy went through Columbus, Ohio nearly every season (as it does today). Bo was famously a former Ohio State-assistant under Woody Hayes. However, upon arriving in Ann Arbor, he embraced Michigan and its traditions and made Ohio State his focus. Bo was an unpopular choice in the beginning but quickly won support by winning. After trudging through the 50's and 60's, Michigan football was back in a big way. From 1969-1989, Bo led Michigan to a 194-48-5 record (.800 winning %) and 13 Big Ten Titles. He resuscitated college football's most successful football program. From the day he was hired in '69 to the day his lineage ended with the retirement of Lloyd Carr, Michigan won more football games than any school in college football with the exception of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. In many ways, Bo was the second coming of Yost.
For a program that boasts 877 all-time wins, the '69 win over Ohio State might just be the best. At the time, it was a chance for Michigan to measure up to Ohio State. In hindsight, though, this was Bo vs. Woody I. Even though Michigan was experiencing success in its first season under Bo, it actually entered, "The Game" with a worse record than the previous season that ended with the resignation of Bump Elliot. Michigan entered the game as a 17-point underdog after getting pounded 50-14 by the Buckeyes in '68. The '69 Ohio State squad was considered one of the all-time great teams in college football history heading into the final game of the regular season. It held the #1 spot in the polls for the first nine weeks of the season winning by an average margin of 35 points per game. No team had come within 27 points so the 17-point spread seemed a bit generous. Defying all odds, Michigan held Ohio State to a quarter of its season average and scored the most points Ohio State had given up all season. Michigan won. Bo was coronated. "The Ten Year War" was on. Without Bo, Michigan football may never have returned to prominence. Without this game, Bo may never have been given the opportunity.
There have been many amazing performances in the storied history of Michigan football--most are on this list--but none can match what Tom Harmon accomplished in Columbus, Ohio on November 23, 1940. In his last college game, Harmon ran for three touchdowns, passed for two more, kicked four extra-points, intercepted three passes, and had three punts for a 50-yard average. Behind Harmon, Michigan rolled to a 40-0 shutout over the Buckeyes. The performance was so outstanding that Harmon was greeted with a standing ovation by Ohio State fans as he walked off the field.
Ask Michigan fans to name the greatest player they've ever seen in a Michigan uniform and you're likely to hear the same name over and over again. Charles Woodson accomplished just about everything in his three years in Ann Arbor including arguably the greatest play in Michigan football history. By many accounts, including my own, the Big House has never been louder than in the aftermath of Woodson's game-changing, Heisman-winning, Rose Bowl-clinching punt return against Ohio State in 1997. In ten seconds of flash, Woodson secured Michigan's greatest football season in 50 years.
There are many significant customs and traditions that make Michigan one of the most storied football programs in college football history but none more so than "The Victors." "Hail to the Victors" is the most recognizable line of any fight song in college football. It has been coined "the greatest college fight song ever written" by many including the legendary John Phillip Sousa. It was written by Louis Elbel--a Michigan student-- in 1898 following an epic win over the University of Chicago and the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg. Elbel noted that Michigan did not have a fight song and the victory over Chicago moved him to write, "The Victors."
Michigan's famed winged-helmets are among the most recognizable symbols in all of sports. Whereas today the helmet doesn't serve a tactical purpose on the field, that was not the case in 1938. Players of the day wore similarly colored helmets making it difficult to differentiate an opponent from a teammate downfield. Crisler felt that a distinctive design would help solve the problem. He initially came up with the idea while coaching at Princeton in 1935 and brought it with him to Ann Arbor in '38. Michigan's passing offense improved immensely. It's impossible to know just how much of an impact the new design had on the improvements in the passing game but it was a hit nonetheless. Today, it serves as one of Michigan's most recognizable recruiting tools as perspective recruits from Florida to California are familiar with Michigan's famed "winged-helmet."
8. Harry Kipke rocks Ohio State in Ohio Stadium Dedication Game (Scroll to final story in link)
8. Harry Kipke rocks Ohio State in Ohio Stadium Dedication Game (Scroll to final story in link)
Michigan came into the 1922 Ohio State-game having lost three straight to the Buckeyes. According to Jerry Green in the University of Michigan Football Vault, "Yost took the Michigan team to Columbus on a mission. He was so choked up that he was unable to deliver his normal rousing pre-game pep talk." The Buckeye faithful filled Ohio Stadium 72,000 strong in what was the dedication game for "The Horseshoe." Little did they know they were about to be treated to "The Harry Kipke Show." Michigan's star halfback blitzed the Buckeyes scoring on a touchdown run, an interception return for a touchdown, and a field goal. However, it was his punting display that garnered the most attention. As good as Kipke was at putting points on the board that day, he was even better at keeping points off the board. He punted 11 times for 517 yards (47-yard average) including seven that pinned the Buckeyes inside their own 10-yard line. When Kipke finally finished hammering the home team deep in its own territory, the final score read: Michigan 19 Ohio State 0.
Fielding Yost arguably did as much for the program after he moved into the Athletic Director position as he did while on the sidelines. He was the mastermind behind Michigan Stadium thus the moniker "The House that Yost Built." Almost as important as the stadium itself is the foresight that Yost had in putting forth a blueprint that would allow capacity to be easily expanded. The original capacity of "The Big House" was 70,000. Thanks to Yost, Michigan has been able to keep up with the demand of an elite college football program through various expansion projects. Of course, this also has allowed Michigan the luxury of consistently claiming the largest capacity of any football stadium in America. Additionally, he was responsible for hiring both Harry Kipke and Fritz Crisler both of whom won National Championships for Michigan.
In Michigan's last six games under Langdon Lea in 1900, the team scored a total of 42 points. In Yost's first game in 1901, Michigan scored 50 points. His boys were so dominant that they were dubbed the "Point-a-Minute" team. Yost's first team was led by Willie Heston and Neil Snow, two of the greatest players to ever suit up for the Wolverines. The season culminated in Michigan's participation in not only the first Rose Bowl game but the first bowl game of any kind. Michigan's opponent was Stanford University and according to Jerry Green in the "University of Michigan Football Vault", this game had two compelling subplots. The West Coast was getting its first look at the mighty Michigan Wolverines. By all accounts, it was skeptical of Michigan's reputed football prowess. The other subplot was the fact that Yost would be coaching against the university that fired him just a year earlier. In typical "Point-a-Minute" fashion, Yost's first team gave him vindication as it literally forced the home-state team to quit while giving Michigan the respect of the West Coast doubters in the process.
Michigan made a difficult decision following the 1937-season. After four consecutive miserable seasons, Harry Kipke was fired. Kipke led his alma mater to back-to-back National Championships in 1932-33. He was also a legendary Wolverine on the gridiron having turned in an epic performance in Michigan's victory over Ohio State in Ohio Stadium's dedication game. Michigan, under Kipke, had simply not lived up to the lofty standards set forth by Fielding Yost. Kipke followed his two National Championships with a 10-22 record over the next four years which just wasn't good enough at Michigan. Yost tabbed Fritz Crisler as the man to turn things around and he did so in a hurry. Michigan won more games in his first season than Kipke managed to win in his final two seasons. Under Crisler, Michigan finished in the top ten in eight consecutive years from 1940-47 including the school's ninth National Championship in '47. In a scene eerily similar to Yost's trip out west 46 years earlier, Crisler's "Mad Magicians" hammered USC 49-0 in the Rose Bowl clinching the National Championship. Crisler was also directly responsible for Michigan's famed winged-helmet and made numerous on-field contributions including inventing the offense/defense platoon system.
On October 14, 1939, Iowa came to Michigan Stadium and brought with it the legendary Nile Kinnick. Michigan had an all-time great of its own in Tom Harmon setting up an epic duel between the two leading Heisman Trophy candidates. Harmon torched the Hawkeyes and easily outdueled Kinnick as Michigan blasted Iowa 27-7. Harmon was responsible for every Michigan point on the scoreboard including a 90-yard pick-six of Kinnick. The defeat to Harmon and the Wolverines was Iowa's only mark on an otherwise perfect season. Despite being upstaged by Harmon on the biggest of stages, Kinnick took home the Heisman Trophy in large part because he was a senior while Harmon was just a junior. Harmon finished second and went on to claim the trophy in 1940.
Years before Michigan Stadium was constructed, Fielding Yost yearned for a vast expansion of Michigan's seating capacity. The construction of Ohio Stadium in the early 20's and the massive crowds that resulted only fueled his desire. In 1921, Michigan's current homefield--Ferry Field--had a capacity of 42,000. The demand to see a Michigan football game was so big, however, that Ferry Field's capacity wasn't nearly big enough. The university was forced to hold a ticket-lottery to handle the immense interest. Yost had all the ammunition he would need to get approval on a new stadium project. Although Yost wanted a capacity closer to 150,000, Michigan Stadium was completed in 1927 with room for 85,753. Yost was adamant that the possibility of future stadium expansion be a built-in component of the construction and that foresight has allowed Michigan Stadium to be expanded at least six times and set various records in the process. Michigan saw its first crowd of 100,000+ in 1956. Michigan Stadium has led the nation in attendance in 34 of the last 35 years. It has also topped 100,000 in attendance in 221 consecutive games dating back to 1975.
The precursor to Charles Woodson's punt return in 1997, this play all-but-guaranteed Desmond Howard the Heisman Trophy in 1991. The outcome of the voting was not really in question entering the game as Howard was the dominant player in college football starting in week one. That "dominance" reflected in the voting where his margin over, runner-up, Casey Weldon was the fourth largest in Heisman voting history. Keith Jackson also deserves an assist on the play for uttering the famous words, "Hello Heisman" just as Howard was set to strike the pose.
For the third time in four years, Ohio State came into the Michigan game undefeated. For the third time in four years, Ohio State went home with a loss. Ohio State was a heavy favorite over Michigan in '96. The Buckeyes were undefeated and ranked #2 in the country. A win would've moved Ohio State to #1 entering the bowl season which meant it would've been a Rose Bowl-victory away from its first National Championship in 28 years. Michigan trailed 9-0 by halftime and there was little hope for victory entering the 3rd quarter. That was until Brian Griese's 69-yard touchdown pass in the 3rd quarter changed everything. Michigan came alive offensively after the play and its defense stymied Ohio State's vaunted offense holding it 34 points below its average. Michigan added two Remy Hamilton field goals while holding Ohio State scoreless in the second half securing the 13-9 victory.
Bo Schembechler is often regarded as the godfather of modern day Michigan football. It's no coincidence that Michigan has been arguably the most consistent college football program since 1969--the year Bo was hired. If Bo was the "godfather", then Don Canham was the consigliere. Canham hired Bo out of obscurity. The Michigan faithful were clamoring for a big name coach and were hardly pleased when Bo--a coach from the MAC--was announced as Bump Elliot's successor. Considering Bo was the third fastest coach to 200 wins and retired as the 5th winningest coach in college football history, I think it's safe to say that Canham made a good decision. Canham was also a master marketer turning Michigan into one of the most recognizable "names" in college athletics. What Yost was to the first half of the 20th century, Don Canham was to the second.
Bob Ufer passed away in 1981 well before his time but you wouldn't know it based on the number of times his voice can still be heard on the radio in Ann Arbor. His passion for all things maize and blue is what made him one of the most iconic characters in the storied history of Michigan football. His rooting interests were unmistakable as the voice of Michigan football for 37 years. No moment was greater than his joyous call of Billy Taylor's game-winning touchdown against Ohio State in 1971.
In the days leading up to Ohio State's clash with Michigan in 1995, Terry Glenn famously said, "Michigan's nothing." Take a look at what Ohio State accomplished up to the point and you quickly understand why he might have felt that way. The Buckeyes were 11-0 and ranked #2 in the polls. They averaged 40 points per game with an average margin of victory of 24 points. Ohio State was loaded with talent including the '95 Heisman Trophy winner (Eddie George), the 7th and 9th overall picks in the 1996 NFL Draft (Terry Glenn and Rickey Dudley), the 1st and 3rd overall picks of the 1997 draft (Orlando Pace and Shawn Springs) and a future three time NFL Champion and All-Pro (Mike Vrabel). Ohio State was heavily favored and may have won if not for the oratory skills of Glenn. For 60 minutes, Michigan manhandled the Ohio State defense. Led by Jon Runyan and Jon Jansen, Michigan--or I should say Tim Biakabutuka--ran roughshot over the Buckeyes to the tune of 313 yards. Timmy B. ran 37 times for an 8.5 yard average. Michigan's victory sent Northwestern to the Rose Bowl and Ohio State to the Citrus Bowl and, more importantly, kept the Buckeyes from their first National Championship in 27 years. In fairness to Terry Glenn, "313 rushing yards" may fit his definition of "nothing."
Michigan's "Mad Magicians" dazzled their opponents with sleight of hand and trickeration in 1948. They were so effective at misdirection that they won their first nine games by an average of 32 points. Not surprisingly, the Wolverines easily won the Big Ten Championship and the conference's Rose Bowl bid. Michigan was ranked #1 in the country entering its regular season-finale against Ohio State. Although Michigan blanked the Buckeyes 21-0, pollsters were unimpressed dropping Michigan to #2 in favor of Notre Dame. If Michigan was going to have any chance at a National Championship, it would need to annihilate USC in the Rose Bowl. Notre Dame did not play in a bowl, so all eyes were on Michigan. The Wolverines blasted USC 49-0. At the time, post-bowl votes did not exist. As of January 1, Notre Dame was going to be the National Champion. However, Michigan was so impressive against USC that a special post-bowl vote was called by Lyall Smith of the Detroit Free Press. Michigan won the special vote by a landslide due to both its performance against the Trojans and its huge advantage in margin of victory over common opponents. Both Michigan and Notre Dame played Pittsburgh, Northwestern, and USC. Michigan streamrolled those teams to the tune of 167-21 while Notre Dame only managed a collective score of 104-32. Following the Rose Bowl, Grantland Rice--the most notable college sportswriter of his time--declared Fritz Crisler's '47 Michigan squad the best team he had ever seen.
Before 1997, the Heisman Trophy had been awarded 62 times and all 62 winners played on the offensive side of the ball. Clearly, the trophy had lost its intended meaning over the years. Instead of going to the "best player", it had become an award for the best offensive player on a good, if not great, team. This didn't just make it difficult for a defensive player to win, it made it virtually impossible. By its new unofficial definition, a defensive player didn't even qualify for the award. That was until 1997 when Charles Woodson became the exception that still exists today. Woodson's win wasn't a mere formality like Desmond Howard's just six years earlier. In fact, the award was "supposed" to go to Peyton Manning who was the best offensive player in the country. However, Woodson was so impressive that he forced voters--at least for one season--to change the way they defined the award. Manning's family cried foul but no amount of whining could take away Woodson's historical win. Woodson won five of the six regions and if not for the clear bias of the South Region voters, Woodson would've won by a landslide.
In the waning minutes of the '91 Rose Bowl, Tyrone Wheatley broke free for a 53-yard touchdown run. Washington was too busy celebrating its impending National Championship to give much notice. Little did they know that Wheatley was giving them a sneak peak at what they'd be in for just a year later. After being humiliated by Washington 34-14 in '91, Michigan had revenge on its mind in the '92 Rose Bowl and revenge is what it got. Wheatley dominated the Washington defense on his way to 235 yards on just 15 carries for a ridiculous 16 yards per carry average. He ran for three touchdowns including a Rose Bowl record 88-yarder. He likely would've smashed the Rose Bowl single-game rushing record had he not been forced out of the game in the 3rd quarter with back spasms Still, 2+ quarters of Tyrone Wheatley was more than enough to give Michigan a decisive 38-31 victory.
Five years earlier, Michigan rudely welcomed Ohio Stadium into existence by dominating the Buckeyes,19-0. Ohio State came to Ann Arbor in 1927 looking to return the favor. Luckily for the 85,000 folks in attendance, Bennie Oosterbaan and Louis Gilbert were wearing maize and blue that day. Oosterbaan and Gilbert accounted for all of Michigan's points in a 21-0 blowout. Gilbert was on the receiving end of three Oosterbaan touchdown passes and both helped the Michigan defense hold Ohio State scoreless.
Both Michigan and Ohio State came into their 1950 showdown just one win from a Big Ten Championship. Weather conditions were so poor leading up to the game that "cancellation" was a possibility. Under that scenario, Ohio State would've won the Big Ten Championship. Instead, the teams opted to play in a blizzard and, as a result, Ohio State has one fewer Big Ten Championship to its name. The field was so slippery that any chance for offensive production was not realistic. The primary weapon of choice for both teams was "the punt." Michigan and Ohio State combined for 45 punts including some on first down. Both teams concluded that it was best to not have the ball in such conditions which was supported by the fact that the teams combined for 10 fumbles. Ironically, though, all three scores resulted from blocked punts and no points resulted from the fumbles. The difference in the game was the fact that Michigan fell on a blocked punt in the endzone for a touchdown while Ohio State only managed a field goal off a blocked punt. In a game of amazing statistics, the most unbelievable is that Michigan didn't record a single first down despite winning 9-3. By virtue of its victory, Michigan went on to the Rose Bowl where it dispatched the previously undefeated Cal Bears.
The mighty Michigan Wolverines rolled into Minneapolis in 1903 7-0 and riding a 29-game unbeaten streak. They were the two-time defending National Champions and had their eyes set on a third. The Gophers were 10-0 and hoped to claim a National Championship of their own. To the disappointment of both sides, the teams dueled to a 6-6 draw. In the aftermath of the game, Michigan mistakenly left its water jug behind. The jug had been specifically purchased by a Michigan student manager at the request of Fielding Yost. Yost feared that his team's water supply would be contaminated by the hosting Gophers. When Yost realized he had left the jug behind, he sent a note to Minnesota asking for it back. Minnesota told Yost he'd have to win it back. It wasn't until six years later that the two teams met again. Yost and his boys returned to Minnesota in 1909 looking to get his jug back. This was the season-finale for both teams. Minnesota was unbeaten and poised to finish the season with a perfect record and a possible National Championship. Michigan scored a 15-6 victory and Yost got his jug back. The "Little Brown Jug" rivalry was born. The next season, Minnesota again came into the game unbeaten. This time, however, they were also unscored upon. Michigan dispatched of Minnesota 6-0 ruining another perfect season and a possible National Championship; and, of course, securing Yost's jug for another year.
Bo Schembechler's storied career at Michigan has been well-documented. He literally saved Michigan football's elite status from extinction. His achieved success by focusing his efforts on beating Ohio State and winning Big Ten Championships. To his credit, he certainly did that racking up 13 Big Ten Championships and an 11-9-1 record against Ohio State over his career. What prevented Bo from reaching even greater heights as not only a Michigan icon but a college football icon on par with Bear Bryant was his inability to close out great seasons with bowl wins. Five times in his career, Bo's teams went into their final game undefeated and five times they came away without a victory. He started off his career at Michigan with seven consecutive post-season losses. It's not that his teams were overmatched. Michigan lost all seven games by a combined 40 points. Close losses or not, Bo had begun to develop the reputation of not being able to win bowl games. Like so many before it, the 1980-season was a smashing success for Michigan. The maize and blue dominated the Big Ten on its way to a perfect 8-0 conference record. Michigan drew the Washington Huskies in the Rose Bowl. This time, however, the outcome would be different and Bo would get that elusive first bowl win. Michigan won, in large part, behind both the heroic efforts of Butch Woolfolk (182 yards rushing) and a stifling defense that allowed just nine points over its final five games of the season.
26. AC's Game-Winning catch vs. Indiana in '79
Michigan was 4-0 heading into a pivotal conference game with Indiana in 1979. The winner would keep alive the possibility of a Big Ten Championship. Indiana tied the score at 21 late in the game giving Michigan the ball back with just 51 seconds remaining. Michigan moved the ball to the Indiana 45 with just six seconds on the clock. Without the luxury of going to overtime (ties were still very much a part of college football at the time), Michigan had one play to score a touchdown and avoid the dreaded sister-kissing outcome. Anthony Carter came to the huddle and told QB John Wangler to throw him the ball. He did and this happened...
(Life has death and taxes; college football has Jim Brandstadter and Lee Corso)
In the greatest Michigan football season that most fans have witnessed, this was the defining game. For the first time in 11 years, Michigan was 8-0 and a legitimate threat to win a National Championship. Penn State was 7-0 and had its own National Championship aspirations. Penn State had beaten Michigan in each of the three previous seasons and entered this matchup as the prohibitive favorite playing in front of its home crowd in Happy Valley. The anticipation of this day--and the #3 Florida St. vs. #5 North Carolina game along with it--was so high that ABC hyped it as "Judgment Day." Michigan proved up to the task dominating Penn State 34-8. The beating was so severe that Penn State players and faithful were overjoyed when Curtis Enis scored late to avoid the shutout. Michigan vaulted to #1 in the polls where it stayed for the rest of the season.
28. "The Team, The Team, The Team!" Speech by Bo
While Michigan has certainly been able to grab notable headliners from the Buckeye State, Ohio State has often held the "talent" edge due to its grip on the fertile grounds of the Ohio high school football scene. Perhaps understanding Ohio State's recruiting advantage, Bo Schembechler preached a concept that would propel Michigan to a plethora of upset victories over heavily favored Ohio State teams. This concept was powerfully--if not poetically--laid out in Bo's famous speech about "The Team." I would love to be able to add further detail but very little information exists aside from the speech itself. Bruce Madej, a Michigan Associate Athletic Director, and John Bacon, a Michigan football historian, were unable to provide additional details. Bacon did mention that Bo gave the speech many times making it difficult to pinpoint the maiden version.
The majority of Michigan's great individual performances have come by way of its running backs. It's not easy for a wide receiver to dominate a football game especially when defenses can roll coverage to lock down a receiver. When it's a player with the combination of size, speed, and athleticism as Braylon Edwards, though, there's only so much defenders can do. Michigan State scored with just 8:43 left in the fourth quarter to take a commanding 27-10 lead. The John L. Smith era was just minutes away from realizing its first marquee win. Had the margin stood, MSU would've defeated Michigan by more than 14 points for the first time since 1967. In fact, MSU's last six victories over Michigan came by a total of just 19 points. This would've been a significant win for Michigan State. Unfortunately for MSU, Michigan unveiled the "Braylon-option." Edwards scored three touchdowns after the 7-minute mark of the fourth quarter including the game-winner in overtime. All told, he caught 11 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns. Perhaps no player in Michigan football history has had a greater impact on a single Michigan victory.
If you were a Michigan fan growing up in the late 80's, you learned to hate Notre Dame and you learned it fast. Michigan came into its '91 showdown with the Irish having lost four in a row--the last three in heartbreaking fashion. Michigan entered the game ranked #3; Notre Dame was #7. Michigan jumped out to an early 17-7 lead but no lead against Notre Dame gave "M" fans comfort. Just a year earlier, Michigan led 24-14 in the second half and lost 28-24. The Irish closed the gap to 17-14 and another devastating comeback was on the minds of the Michigan faithful. Michigan drove the ball early in the fourth quarter and found itself facing a 4th-and-inches on the Notre Dame 25-yard line. Michigan coach Gary Moeller made the decision to go for it perhaps thinking that a six-point lead against Notre Dame would not be enough. Elvis Grbac stepped to the line called for the snap and instead of piling forward for a QB sneak or handing it off for a Halfback Dive, he pump-faked to Desmond Howard and then a second later launched a perfectly thrown lob to Howard in the back of the endzone. The catch simultaneously closed the game out for Michigan and thrust Howard into the lead position in the Heisman-race.
Michigan entered its second-to-last regular season game in 1986 undefeated and ranked #2 in the country. The Minnesota Gophers were supposed to be a tune-up for the colossal final week showdown for the Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl birth between Michigan and Ohio State. Despite being 25-point underdogs, Minnesota stunned Michigan ruining any dreams of Bo Schembechler's first National Championship. In Michigan's post-game locker room, Jim Harbaugh--Michigan's QB and one of the school's all-time great players--said, "I guarantee we will beat Ohio State and go to Pasadena." A week later, that's exactly what happened.
This game was unique for a number of reasons. The most important was that it was Fielding Yost's last game on the Michigan sidelines. Ironically, he would have needed to coach one more game to experience coaching in the, "The Big House." After years of planning and developing Michigan Stadium, he decided to let Tad Wieman lead the Wolverines into the "The Big House" era. Yost's final game was the 1926 season-finale against Minnesota. Michigan was 4-0 in the Big Ten after a huge victory over Ohio State the week before. It needed a win over the Gophers to win the Big Ten Championship. The Gophers weren't in the championship-hunt but they knew Michigan pretty well considering this was going to be their second meeting of the season. Minnesota could not find a fifth Big Ten opponent before the season and needed to play five conference games to be eligible for the conference championship. Michigan agreed to play the Gophers twice thus the season-ending trip to Minneapolis. Michigan won the first meeting 20-0 in Ann Arbor. Minnesota held a 6-0 lead through the fourth quarter when Bennie Oosterbaan made one of the great plays in Michigan history. He nabbed an errant snap by the Minnesota center and ran 60-yards for the game-winning touchdown sending Yost out a winner.
After the 1939-season, there was little doubt that Harmon was going to win the Heisman in 1940. He arguably should've won the award in '39 but the honor went to Iowa's Nile Kinnick. Harmon was outstanding in 1940 leading Michigan to a 7-1 record including the famous standing-ovation victory over Ohio State in his final collegiate game. Harmon won the award by the largest margin in its brief six-year history. He was a superstar on the level of famed professional athletes of the time like Joe DiMaggio as he appeared on the cover of various magazines including Time. He is often regarded as the greatest player in Michigan football history and one of the greatest players in college football history. He is one of only seven Heisman winners to finish in the top-two of the voting in multiple seasons. The others are; Herschel Walker, Billy Sims, Archie Griffin, O.J. Simpson, Glenn Davis, and Angelo Bertelli,
Near the end of the 19th century, the University of Chicago played the role of end-of-year rival now occupied by the Ohio State Buckeyes. Michigan was in position to win the first two Western Conference Championships in 1896 and 1897 until losses to Chicago derailed those hopes in both seasons. The next season--in 1898--Michigan entered its season-finale with Chicago again undefeated and again one win from its first conference championship. Up 6-5 in a defensive stalemate, Michigan held the ball with just a few minutes remaining. Charles Widman took the handoff and was immediately engulfed by a mass of humanity at the line of scrimmage. After a few seconds of innocent posturing, Widman surprised everyone by escaping the scrum and dashing 65-yards to clinch the victory for the Wolverines. The win gave Michigan an undefeated season and its first ever conference championship. More importantly, the game inspired a young student by the name of Louis Elbel to write a song fitting of such an inspired performance. Thus, "The Victors" was written.
There are few things more ingrained into the sport of football than the idea of separate offensive and defensive units. Back in the day, though, players played both offense and defense. Fritz Crisler changed all of that in 1945. Michigan's team was comprised of mostly freshmen and had the arduous task of taking on #1 ranked Army in Yankee Stadium. West Point boasted Mr. Inside (Doc Blanchard) and Mr. Outside (Glenn Davis)--the '45 and '46 Heisman Trophy winners--and a team full of physically matured men. Crisler expected Army's significant physical advantage to overwhelm his young Wolverines. He knew his boys needed to stay fresh in order to have a chance against Army and that's where the idea of having platoons came into play. Michigan lost 28-7 but Crisler suggested that it would've been much worse if not for the platoons. The idea caught on quickly around the college football scene. Even Army switched to a platoon system the following season.
Lloyd Carr's tenure at Michigan got off to a smashing success. In his third season, he won Michigan's first National Championship in 50 years. He won five of his first six games against Ohio State and five of his first eight bowl games. That level of success proved to be fleeting for Carr, however. Starting in 2001, wins against Ohio State and bowl opponents became scarce. Carr went 1-5 against Ohio State and 1-5 against bowl opponents heading into the '07 season. Michigan got off to its worst start under Carr suffering an embarrassing loss to I-AA Appalachian State and then getting blown out by Oregon the following week. Michigan regrouped winning its next eight games setting up another pivotal showdown with Ohio State. The Buckeyes prevailed again. Carr subsequently announced his retirement and his Michigan career appeared to be over. However, his retirement included one caveat: he would coach Michigan's bowl game. Michigan had the arduous task of facing Florida--the defending National Champion--and Tim Tebow--the Heisman Trophy winner--in the state of Florida, no less. The Gators were 11 point favorites playing in their own backyard and many felt it wouldn't be that close. Michigan came out firing on all cylinders so much so that many fans wondered where such a progressive gameplan had been during Carr's waning years. The Wolverines shocked the Gators and Lloyd Carr went out with a proper ending. He was carried off by his team creating a lasting final image of Carr as the head man at Michigan.
In 1887, the Michigan football program was eight years into its existence. The Notre Dame football program was still waiting to be created. Players from the University of Michigan traveled to South Bend in the fall of 1887 to teach Notre Dame how to play football. On November 23, 1887, Notre Dame played its first ever football game and it was against Michigan. Not surprisingly, the Wolverines prevailed over the novice Irish. The two teams played twice in 1888 with Michigan winning both games and did not play again for ten seasons. Notre Dame went on to become one of the elite college football institutions in America racking up 831 wins to go with a .736 winning % through the 2008 season. Notre Dame ranks second in college football history in both categories trailing only...Michigan. At the time, Michigan and Notre Dame had a friendly relationship. Over time, however, the rivalry has developed into one of animosity at least among the fanbases. Fortunately for Michigan fans, they have the ultimate "trump card" in being able to point out that Michigan is responsible for the creation of Notre Dame's football program.
It is often said that the most powerful position in the world is the President of the United States of America. On August 9, 1974, Gerald Ford--a former Michigan football great--ascended to the office of the presidency perhaps giving more exposure to the Michigan football program than any other single individual. As a player, Ford had been a notable contributor to Michigan's back-to-back National Championship teams in 1933 and 1934. He remained a supporter of the football program even after becoming the President. He often requested that, "The Victors" be played instead of "Hail to the Chief" and occasionally visited football practices in Ann Arbor. In a tribute to his devotion to the maize and blue, the University of Michigan Marching Band played "The Victors" as his remains passed through the Gerald Ford International Airport following his death in 2007.
The BCS National Championship game did not exist until 1998 so there wasn't a compelling #1 vs #2 match-up to cap off Michigan's undefeated season in 1997. Michigan simply went off to Pasadena to play Washington State in the Rose Bowl. Michigan's regular season was filled with so many great moments that Washington State was viewed more as a final obstacle than an opponent. The game was one of the most important in Michigan football history not because of who it was against but because of what a victory meant. A win would've given Michigan a National Championship for the first time in 50 years. The vaunted Michigan defense--ranked #1 in the country in both yardage and points--was poised to shutdown Ryan Leaf--the #2 pick in the following April's NFL Draft. The defense held Leaf and the high-powered Washington State offense to just 16 points--26 points below its season average--securing Michigan's perfect season.
Michigan's two biggest gridiron rivals are Ohio State and Notre Dame. Despite Notre Dame's hatred of all things maize and blue, Michigan taught Notre Dame how to play football and there's nothing the Irish can do to change that. Ohio State takes maize and blue-hatred to a whole new level. Perhaps it is the litany of ruined seasons courtesy of the Wolverines. Or maybe its the fact that Michigan has more all-times wins, a higher winning percentage, and more head-to-head wins over the Buckeyes. Whatever fuels the hatred, there's no questioning its ferocity. That disdain is most likely the reason that Ohio State has tried to distort history by claiming the it was merely a coincidence that its famed "Script Ohio" was created (in 1936) only after the Michigan Marching Band performed a script Ohio in Ohio Stadium (in 1932). Ohio State's band director at the time submitted that the idea for the script came from "signs" in Times Square. Apparently, it didn't come from this...
In 1879, the college football landscape was, well, not much of a landscape. Notre Dame was eight years away from having a football program. USC was nine years from its first team and Ohio State was still 11 years from the gridiron. At the time, teams generally played just 3-4 games a year. Princeton and Yale were the premier powers in a very small fraternity of college football programs. In fact, either Princeton or Yale (often both) had won every National Championship since college football began in 1869. According to Jerry Green in the University of Michigan Football Vault, Michigan's first ever football game came as a result of a challenge from Racine College in Wisconsin. Michigan accepted the challenge and agreed to play Racine in Chicago. Michigan won 1-0 in front of 500 spectators and the greatest football program of all-time was up and running.
Fielding Yost "retired" in 1923. He was succeeded by a trusted assistant, George Little. Yost watched closely from his new Athletic Director position and certainly was not happy with what he saw. While Little led Michigan to a seemingly respectable 6-2 record, the two losses represented more than Michigan had suffered in the previous three seasons combined. Red Grange's epic and humiliating performance came under Little's watch. Little was let go after the season and Yost's retirement ended abruptly. However, if Little contributed one thing to the Wolverines, it was the insertion of Benny Friedman into the lineup. Friedman came off the bench mid-season in '24 to assume the starting QB position for the Wolverines. When Yost hit the sidelines again in '25, Friedman was poised to become a star at Michigan. In the second game of the '25 season, Friedman put on a performance for the ages against Indiana. In a 63-0 blowout, Friedman accounted for 44 points including five touchdown passes, two field goals, and eight extra points. Friedman would go on to become an All-American and the MVP of the Big Ten Conference.
Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden are 82 and 79 years old, respectively. So, it seems tragically unfair that health concerns forced Bo Schembechler into retirement at the comparatively youthful age of 60. One can only imagine what he could've accomplished with an additional 20+ seasons on the Michigan sidelines. Unfortunately, that's not how things turned out. Bo announced his retirement after the '89 regular season following 21 seasons at Michigan but not before one last bout with Ohio State. A win over Ohio State would give Michigan the outright Big Ten Championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl. A loss would've forced a three-way tie with Ohio State and lllinois and, more importantly, would've sent Michigan to a different bowl game. The Wolverines prevailed ending Bo's career at Michigan the same way it began--with a trip to the Rose Bowl. The win also gave Bo a winning record against the Buckeyes at 11-9-1.
Michigan was not exactly a football power in the 50's and 60's. From 1951-1963, under the guidance of Bennie Oosterbaan and Bump Elliott, it didn't win a single Big Ten Championship. Over that same span, the Wolverines went just 4-9 against Ohio State including four consecutive losses. Oosterbaan retired in 1958 giving way to Elliott. Elliott won his first game against Ohio State but it was downhill from there as Michigan went just 16-18-2 over the next four seasons including four losses to Ohio State by an average of 17 points. Everything came together for Elliott and Michigan in 1964, however. Behind the stellar play of All-American quarterback, Bob Timberlake, Michigan plowed through its schedule finishing 9-1 including a shutout victory over Woody Hayes and Ohio State to go along with a dominating 34-7 win over Oregon State in the Rose Bowl. Michigan narrowly missed an undefeated season and possible National Championship losing to Bob Griese and Purdue by just a single point.This would mark Michigan's only Big Ten Championship over an 18-year stretch. It was truly a season that came out of nowhere as Michigan finished below .500 in both 1963 and 1965.
The greatest rushing performance in the history of Michigan football took place in Michigan Stadium in 1968. Ron Johnson--nearing the end of a record-setting career--carried the ball 31 times for 347 yards. It was the highest single-game rushing mark in NCAA history at the time. Johnson left Michigan as its all-time leader in rushing yards in both a career and in a single-season. He also set the Big Ten mark for most rushing yards in a single-season.
Entering the '91 season, Michigan hadn't seen a Heisman Trophy winner come through Ann Arbor since "Old 98" won it 51 years earlier. Desmond Howard was unquestionably Michigan's best offensive player heading into the season. He racked up 1,025 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore in 1990. However, only one WR in college football history--Tim Brown--had won the Heisman Trophy. It had become an award for QBs and RBs having gone to a player at one of those positions in 40 of the previous 41 seasons. Needless to say, Howard wasn't a frontrunner when the season began. If anything, Ty Detmer--who had won the award the previous year--was being talked about as a possible two-time winner. Howard's anonymity in the Heisman race didn't last long. He hauled in three touchdown passes in the opener against Boston College and then reeled in "The Catch" the next week against Notre Dame. Howard had the stats and the early season signature moment to launch his candidacy. By the time he struck "The Pose" against Ohio State, he had wrapped up the nation's most prestigious trophy. Howard's margin of victory of Casey Weldon of Florida State was the largest in Heisman voting history at the time.
Before Michigan ever took the field against California in Berkley, it had made college football history. According to Jerry Green in the University of Michigan Football Vault, Michigan became the first college football team to travel across the country when it passed on its traditional train trip in favor of boarding a westward bound flight. An obvious sign of the times, the flight made stops in Des Moines, Denver, and Salt Lake City, before finally landing in California. Of course, Michigan made the actual game a memorable moment as well. Tom Harmon--fresh off a second place finish in the Heisman voting the previous season as a junior--was the premier player entering the 1940-season. He was already a star having donned the cover of Time Magazine the previous November and his debut in 1940 was a much anticipated event. The game against Cal also marked Harmon's 21st birthday. However, it was the spectators in attendance who were treated to a surprise. Harmon returned the opening kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown. He fielded a punt in the second quarter and returned it for a 70-yard touchdown. Later, he raced 86 yards for a touchdown juking out a disgruntled spectator who had tried to tackle him in the process. He added another touchdown run and pass to finish the 41-0 route of the Golden Bears. JFK was so impressed by the performance that he later bragged that he was in attendance for Harmon's explosion against Cal.
In 1904, Michigan won its first nine games giving up just 10 total points in the process. The University of Chicago--Michigan's first "Ohio State"--had gone unbeaten in its first 11 games setting up a bitter battle of unbeatens to end the season. Much was at stake when the Maroons traveled to Ann Arbor. The winner would lay claim to the Western Conference Championship (aka the Big Ten) and would also have the inside track on the National Championship. In a precursor to the "Ten Year War" between Bo and Woody some 70 years later, Fielding Yost had developed a heated rivalry with Chicago's legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg. Yost had won his first three matchups with Stagg by a combined score of 71-0. The game also marked the final collegiate contest of not only a Michigan all-time great but one of the greatest players in college football history. Both Walter Camp and Grantland Rice stated that Willie Heston was the greatest player they ever saw. Fittingly, Heston scored two touchdowns and led the Wolverines to a 22-12 victory over the Maroons giving Yost his fourth National Championship in four years at Michigan. This was also the first time a Michigan football game was filmed.
Michigan has had the most wins of any current I-A college football program since 1893. However, Notre Dame held the All-Time winning percentage mark from 1920 all the way through the 90's. Each mark is equally prestigious but to be able to claim both marks would be quite an achievement. Notre Dame has never had a realistic shot of catching Michigan in wins. As it stands now, the Irish trail Michigan by 41. On the other hand, Michigan had been a close second to Notre Dame in winning percentage for a number of years. Finally, on October 2, 2004, in an otherwise meaningless game against a horrible-Indiana team, Michigan passed Notre Dame.
Although Michigan began its football program in 1879, it was far from an elite college football institution at the time. That distinction belonged to a number of Ivy League schools on the East Coast. Yale, Princeton, and Harvard were the college football powers at the time. From 1869 to 1903, the National Championship went to at least one of those three schools in every season. So, it would stand to reason that Michigan would want its novice football program to learn from the best. In the same way Notre Dame's eventual greatness was spawned by its tutorial from Michigan, Michigan's future success can be largely attributed to playing and learning from Yale, Princeton, and Harvard. In the University of Michigan Football Vault, Jerry Green writes of a trip Michigan took to the East Coast in which it played three games in five days against Yale, Princeton, and Harvard. Michigan was the first western school to come to the East Coast to play football. Not surprisingly, the Wolverines lost all three contests but what they learned from the elite college football programs in the country shaped the immediate and distant future of the program. A similar trip to Yale and Harvard just two years later in which Michigan lost two games in consecutive days also bolstered Michigan's football know-how.
In 1969, Bo Schembechler became the head coach at the University of Michigan. Whether it was simply his temperament talking or a matter of fact, he felt that his new team was soft. In what would no doubt foreshadow the brutal conditioning drills that his players were about to be introduced to, he hung a banner that read, "Those who stay will be champions." Of course, the banner insinuates that there might be a reason not to stay. Bo's workouts were so brutal that a number of players simply left never to return. One of those players famously rebutted Bo's slogan with, "And those who quit will be doctors, lawyers, and captains of industry."
Six games into the 2005-season, Michigan was off to its worst start in 15 years. With Chad Henne and Mike Hart returning following a successful '04-season, expectations were inevitably high. Three close losses left Michigan just 3-3 entering a showdown against a top-ten Penn State team. The Nittany Lions were off to their best start in six years and eyeing a possible National Championship. In a back and forth game, Penn State took a four-point lead with just 53 seconds remaining. Michigan's Steve Breaston returned the kickoff 40 yards to the Michigan 46-yard line setting up a chance for Michigan to win the game. Michigan drove to the 10-yard line when Chad Henne's pass attempt to Steve Breaston was dropped leaving just one second on the clock. Had Breaston caught the pass, he would've been tackled at the four yard line and the game would've ended with a Penn St. victory. On the next play, Henne dropped back and hit Mario Manningham in the endzone for the game-winning touchdown. Penn State would not lose again finishing the season with just one loss and a #3 ranking in the final polls.
Charles Woodson won the Heisman Trophy in 1997 as much for his signature moments as he did for his statistical contributions. One such moment came against Michigan State in East Lansing. Michigan was clinging to a 13-7 lead late in the 3rd quarter. Michigan State faced a 3rd and 9 on its own 20-yard line. Todd Schultz, Michigan State's quarterback, scrambled towards the sideline and attempted to throw the ball away. Woodson leaped out of nowhere to haul in a one-handed interception. Woodson then intercepted Schultz on Michigan State's next drive essentially ending any chance of a Spartan-victory. Michigan went on to win 23-7.
Ohio State fans despise Michigan for many reasons but one of the biggest is the sheer number of near-perfect seasons ruined by the Wolverines. Most recently, Michigan famously beat three heavily favored, undefeated Buckeye-teams in the 90's. Two of the losses--'95 and '96--ruined possible National Championship seasons. As it turns out, "Michigan ruining undefeated Ohio State-seasons" has been happening for a long time. It first happened in 1926 when Michigan traveled to Ohio Stadium to face the 6-0 Buckeyes. This was one of the first "winner wins the Big Ten" games between the two schools. Ohio State jumped out to a 10-0 lead and it seemed like it would roll to an easy victory. Benny Friedman--Michigan's All-American quarterback--led a ferocious comeback in which Michigan scored 17 unanswered points. Ohio State scored a late touchdown to seemingly tie it up but--reminiscent of Michigan's 2000 Orange Bowl victory over Alabama--Michigan prevailed when Ohio State's extra-point went awry giving a 17-16 victory and the Big Ten Championship to Michigan.
In 1932, Michigan entered its season-finale against Minnesota undefeated and eyeing both a Big Ten Championship and a National Championship. The game was in Minneapolis which was no easy feat even for the heavily favored Wolverines. In the five previous meetings between the schools, Minnesota had not lost by more than a touchdown. Still, Michigan--led by its All-American quarterback Harry Newman--had to be confident going into the game having held Minnesota scoreless in each of its last two contests. As it turned out, it would need to do the same in 1932 to stay unbeaten. Despite just 25-yards in total offense in the game, Michigan capitalized on a Minnesota fumble at the end of the first half. Newman booted a field goal to make it 3-0. Those would be the only points of the game giving Michigan its 7th National Championship.
Heading into the 100th edition of "The Game" in 2003, Ohio State was looking to win its second consecutive National Championship. The Buckeyes were ranked 2nd in the BCS Standings and were only a victory over Michigan away from a likely bout with Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Game. Michigan came into the game looking to snap a two-game losing streak to Ohio State. The game also represented John Navarre's final chance at a Big Ten Championship and a win over Ohio State as a starting quarterback. The game marked a classic battle between Michigan's high-powered offense (37 ppg) and Ohio State's stingy defense (15 ppg). In front of the largest crowd in NCAA history (112,118), Michigan raced to a 21-0 lead behind two Navarre-to-Braylon Edwards touchdown passes. Ohio State closed within seven points in the fourth quarter but Chris Perry's 15-yard run in the 4th quarter put the game out of reach. The victory gave Michigan the outright Big Ten Championship, a trip to the Rose Bowl, and its only win over Ohio State since. It also marked yet another Buckeye-season ruined by "that team up north."
57. Michigan beats Ohio State in '78 to give Bo 5-4-1 edge over Woody Hayes
Many of the greatest moments in Michigan's storied football history were merely "good" when they occurred. For these moments, it took years of reflection and circumstance before they became "great." For instance, in 1978 Michigan defeated Ohio State to claim a share of the Big Ten Championship with Michigan State. A victory over Ohio State and a Big Ten Championship are always noteworthy achievements but there have been many of those for Michigan over the years. What made Michigan's victory over the Buckeyes in '78 so great was a dynamic that didn't even exist until one month later when Ohio State met Clemson in the Gator Bowl. Woody Hayes--Ohio State's legendary coach--punched Clemson's Charlie Bauman after his interception sealed the victory for the Tigers. Woody Hayes was fired over the incident making the Michigan-Ohio State game that was played in Columbus just a month earlier the last time Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes would face each other. Michigan's win in '78 gave Bo a 5-4-1 advantage over Hayes and thus made him the winner of the "Ten Year War."
58. Bo survives first heart attack in 1969
On December 31, 1969--the eve of the Rose Bowl--Bo Schembechler suffered a heart attack. In just his first season, Bo had led Michigan to one of its greatest victories of all-time over Ohio State and a Big Ten Championship to boot. Needless to say, hope was abound for the future of Michigan football. This unexpected catastrophe threatened to steal from Michigan its new and successful field general. Jim Young--Michigan's Defensive Coordinator--coached the game while Bo was in the hospital. Michigan lost the game to USC but, in retrospect, that was just a footnote compared to the importance of Bo's recovery. It's difficult to imagine a world in which Bo Schembechler dies in 1970. Clearly, his family and friends would've lost a loved one which is an impact significantly more important than the game of football. However, one can only imagine what would've become of the Michigan football program had things turned out differently.
It's hard to imagine Michigan and Notre Dame as strangers but that's exactly what they were heading into 1978. Michigan taught Notre Dame the sport 100 years earlier. The teams played a few times in subsequent years but following the 1909 season, there would be a 33-year break before they would play again. Even then, it was just a home-and-home series in 1942 and 1943 before another break. This time it would be for 35 years. If not for Don Canham's marketing acumen, that might still be the last time Michigan played Notre Dame. Canham--looking for a way to fill Michigan Stadium--entered into an agreement with Notre Dame. They were arguably the two greatest college football programs of all-time and they were set to embark on a series that would eventually turn into an annual rivalry. The timing wasn't exactly great for Michigan. Notre Dame was the defending national champion and featured a senior quarterback by the name of Joe Montana. Notre Dame and Michigan began 1978 ranked #5 and #6 respectively. Notre Dame shockingly lost its opener to Missouri, 3-0. With a bye week in hand, the Irish were poised to take their frustrations out on Michigan but the Maize and Blue had a different ending in mind. Notre Dame led 14-7 in the third quarter but the Wolverines stormed back for a 28-14 victory to beat "Golden Joe." The teams have played 25 games in the 31 years since.
In 1924, Red Grange turned in one of the more legendary performances in college football history against Michigan. He accounted for six touchdowns--four rushing, one passing, and one kick-return--and totaled 402 yards in leading Illinois to a 39-14 blowout victory. Grange's performance was so riveting that he was dubbed "The Galloping Ghost of the Gridiron" by a Chicago sportswriter named Warren Brown. The performance was a boon for Grange's career--he is regarded as one of the greatest college football players of all-time--but it was a major disappointment for a Michigan defense that had given up just 67 points total in its previous 31 games. Michigan returned to Champagne in 1925 looking for revenge--and revenge is what it got. In stark contrast to the the year before, Michigan stymied Grange. Illinois didn't score a single point and the "Ghost" was held to just 56 yards on 25 carries.
After nine seasons as Ohio State's head coach and earning the nickname "9-3 Earle", Earle Bruce was fired. Ohio State wanted something better than the relative mediocrity that had hit the program since Woody Hayes was fired in 1978. Ohio State decided on Arizona State's John Cooper as Bruce's successor. It was not a coincidence that Cooper led Arizona State to a win over Michigan in the '87 Rose Bowl. He had shown the ability to beat Michigan and that was appealing to Ohio State. Little did anyone know just how insignificant that '87 Rose Bowl would be for the Buckeyes. Coincidence or not, Cooper's arrival began one of the most fruitful stretches in the history of Michigan football. In his 13 seasons in Columbus, Michigan won 10 games against Ohio State, eight Big Ten Championships, and a National Championship. All told, Michigan went 10-2-1 against the Buckeyes with Cooper on the sidelines. Since Ohio State became a I-A team, no team in the rivalry had won 10 games in 13 seasons previous to Cooper's tenure. Only one stretch in Michigan's history produced more Big Ten Championships over a 13-year period than the eight Michigan won in the Cooper years. And, of course, Michigan won its first National Championship in 50 years. In hindsight, there is no question that John Cooper being named head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes was a great moment in Michigan football history.
62. Dreisbach to Hayes beats Virginia in '95 Pigskin Classic
In many ways, the 1995-season was the beginning of a new era for Michigan football. Gary Moeller had been fired in the off-season. Todd Collins Ty Law, and Tyrone Wheatley were off to the NFL. Lloyd Carr was named the interim coach following Moeller's dismissal. Two relative unknowns--Charles Woodson and Tim Biakabutuka--replaced Law and Wheatley while Scott Dreisbach--a redshirt freshman--was named the starting quarterback. Michigan's new cast had its first test against Virginia in its first ever preseason classic. With so many new faces seeing the field for the first time, expectations were all over the place. One thing nobody expected, however, was to see Michigan trailing the Virginia 17-0 in the Big House with just 12 minutes left in the game. In typical Michigan fashion, though, the Wolverines would mount a comeback. Dreisbach led two scoring drives to bring the score to 17-12. With 2:43 seconds remaining, Michigan got the ball back on its own 20-yard line needing 80 yards for the win. With just four seconds left, Dreisbach threw a pass to Tyrone Butterfield at the 12-yard line. Had he caught the ball, he would've been tackled and the game would've ended. Instead, Michigan faced fourth down with four seconds left from the 15. Dreisbach lobbed a pass to the corner of the end zone and Mercury Hayes caught the ball and dragged a foot to give Michigan what was at the time the biggest comeback victory in school history. Hayes was the hero of the day grabbing seven passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns. According to Jerry Green in the University of Michigan Football Vault, Lloyd Carr said that he very likely would not have been the head coach at Michigan beyond '95 if not for this win.
Michigan went to Minneapolis in 2003 with one of its most talented offenses in school history. Chris Perry and Braylon Edwards were the 2003 and 2004 Big Ten MVPs, respectively. John Navarre--in his senior season--was the most productive quarterback in the Big Ten. Coming into the game, Michigan was averaging 36 points per game. As the fourth quarter began, however, Michigan had just seven points on the scoreboard and trailed the Gophers 28-7. Minnesota had rolled up an amazing 424 rushing yards against the "M" defense behind the talents of future NFL stars Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney. With Navarre at the helm, Michigan dominated the fourth quarter orchestrating the greatest comeback in school history in the process. All told, the Wolverines scored five times in the fourth quarter capped off by Garrett Rivas's 33-yard game-winning field goal.
Compared to the lofty standards set by Bo Schembechler over the previous two decades, 1987 was a disappointing season for the Michigan Football Program. For the first time in Bo's career, he lost to Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State in the same season. Throw in a loss to Iowa and the result was a disappointing 7-4 regular season. Still, that was good enough for a trip to the Hall of Fame Bowl and Michigan's first ever game against Alabama. Unfortunately, Bo would not be around to coach the game. His second heart attack would keep him off the Michigan sidelines for a second bowl game. His assistant and, future Michigan head coach, Gary Moeller would lead the Wolverines against the stingy Crimson Tide. Despite underwhelming seasons record-wise by both schools, excitement was palpable as two of the greatest college football programs of all-time were set to square off for the first time. Michigan led 21-3 in the third quarter before Alabama stormed back with 21-unanswered points to take a 24-21 lead. With Demetrius Brown under center, Michigan took over in its own territory with under four minutes to play. Facing 4th and 3 at the Alabama 20 yard-line, Brown hit John Kolesar in the endzone to give Michigan a 28-24 victory.
Football in its primitive days was a brutal and mostly unregulated sport. In 1905, Teddy Roosevelt was so concerned with mounting deaths and injuries that he gave college football governing bodies an ultimatum: clean up or get out. Roosevelt's platform was successful as college football reformed with new rules and regulations. If not for Roosevelt's intervention, college football might not exist as it does today. Ten years before Roosevelt's involvement, the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives was founded in the Midwest to ratify a number of rules and regulations including the raising of eligibility standards. It consisted of seven member institutions; Purdue, Illinois, Chicago, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan. This group would become known as the Western Conference and eventually--after adding Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, and Northwestern--would become the Big Ten. The Big Ten is the oldest division I college athletic conference in the country.
Michigan football is layered with symbolism. When fans think of Michigan football they almost certainly think of Fritz Crisler's famous winged-helmets, Louis Elbel's powerful, "The Victors", and the House that Yost Built. Before all of that--before Michigan even had a football team--there was the "maize and blue." Those colors are as ingrained into the fabric of Michigan athletics as the sports themselves. If not for the particular aesthetic tastes of Michigan students in the 1860's, Michigan's colors could've been something far less appealing like green and white, or even worse, scarlet and gray. In 1867, a committee of students from the Michigan Literary Department was asked to choose school colors that would represent the university. The committee tastefully chose Azure Blue and Maize.
Michigan entered the 1948-season looking to get new coach Bennie Oosterbaan off to a rousing start by winning its second consecutive National Championship. Famed coach, Fritz Crisler, had led the Wolverines to the Championship the previous season before retiring. Despite the losses of two of Michigan's all-time greats--Bob Chappuis and Bump Elliott--the team Oosterbaan inherited was a good one that included All-Americans Pete Elliott, Dick Rifenburg, and Alvin Wistert. The '48 season began on the road in East Lansing and, as it turned out, would be Michigan's toughest test of the season. Michigan jumped out to an early 7-0 lead behind a Rifenburg touchdown catch but Michigan State tied it at seven in the third quarter. Michigan would win the game, 13-7, on a Tom Peterson touchdown run in the fourth quarter dodging an early season upset. Michigan went on to win all of its games--most of which were of the shutout variety--but none were more closely contested than the season opener with the Spartans. Michigan would go on to win its second straight National Championship and Oosterbaan would become the first and only coach to win a National Championship in his first season.
Prior to 1924, college football games appeared on the radio as relayed broadcasts. Reporters in the press box would relay the play-by-play to the radio studio and then an announcer from the studio would relay the action to the listeners. Fans could follow the game fairly close to real time but the extra step of "relaying" prevented the excitement of live play-by-play and the spontaneous reactions from the announcers that would go along with it. In 1924, Ty Tyson of WWJ had the idea to eliminate the "relaying" step and broadcast a Michigan-Wisconsin game live from Ferry Field. It was a bold proposition as no other football game had been broadcast live from a stadium. The most difficult step in securing the broadcast would prove to be convincing Fielding Yost to allow the project to happen. Yost somewhat naively felt that a live radio broadcast would keep Michigan fans from paying for a ticket. He agreed to allow Tyson to call the game live as long as it was a sellout. Yost and Tyson both got what they wanted as 46,000 fans packed Ferry Field to see Michigan battle Wisconsin. This game marked the beginning of Michigan football being broadcast live on local airwaves and no doubt contributed to the vast expansion of the Michigan fanbase.
Bob Chappuis spent one season with the Michigan Wolverines in 1942 before being called to duty in WWII. He was a 4th-string halfback who was hardly a major contributor. On February 13, 1945, his plane was shot down over Northern Italy. He was rescued by Italian resistance fighters before German soldiers could get to him. He spent three months being moved from safehouse to safehouse until the war ended in May of '45. Little did anyone know at the time how much of an impact Chappuis's survival would have on the future of Michigan football. He came back to school in '46 and immediately paid dividends breaking the conference record for total yards in a season. The following year Chappuis became a national celebrity appearing on the cover of Time Magazine, leading Michigan to its ninth National Championship, breaking his own record for total yards set the year before, and finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting.
In 1973, Michigan and Ohio State were both unbeaten when they met in an epic #1 vs. #4 showdown to decide the Big Ten Championship, a Rose Bowl berth, and quite likely a National Championship. Unfortunately for the Big Ten, the game ended in a tie removing any possibility of a National Championship for either school. For Michigan, though, a tie was all it seemingly needed to get to the Rose Bowl. Both teams finished conference play 7-0-1 but since Ohio State went to the Rose Bowl the year before, it was thought that Michigan was to be the representative. Since the "no repeat" rule had been abolished in 1971, it would still need to go to a vote by the Big Ten Athletic Directors. Even though Woody Hayes himself wished Bo good luck in the Rose Bowl, the Athletic Directors voted to send Ohio State to Pasadena. At the time, only one Big Ten team per year was permitted to play in a bowl game. Bo was furious by the decision calling it "an embarrassment" and demanded that the Big Ten change its bowl policies to allow members to play in other bowls. The policy was changed less than two years later and the Big Ten began sending multiple teams to bowl games starting in 1975. Bo's tirade sent the Big Ten down a path that has culminated in the eight bowl tie-ins that exist today. It also paved the way for Michigan to appear in 33 consecutive bowl games from 1975-2007.
Michigan had started off the '97-season 5-0 and did so in dominating fashion yielding just 5.2 points per game. Fans were starting to buzz about the National Championship caliber defense that Michigan was fielding led by Charles Woodson and Glen Steele. Game six brought Iowa to Ann Arbor for a battle of top-15 teams. After a scoreless first quarter, Iowa erupted for 21 points--almost as many as the Michigan defense had given up on the season--including a 61-yard Tim Dwight punt return as time expired in the first half. Michigan faced a 14-point halftime deficit and the crowd was stunned. A determined Wolverine-team came out in the second half as Brian Griese led two third quarter touchdown drives to tie the score at 21. Iowa added a field goal to close out the third quarter to grab a 24-21 lead. The fourth quarter was a field position battle when Michigan took over deep in its own territory with just over six minutes remaining. On third down at their own 23-yard line, Iowa was flagged for a pass interference penalty on a Griese pass attempt to Tai Streets. That proved to be the difference in the game as Griese led Michigan down the field for the game-winning touchdown pass to Jerame Tuman. Michigan would go on to win its 11th National Championship and this game would mark the only game of the season in which Michigan trailed in the 4th quarter.
In 1947, the Big Ten adopted a "no repeat" rule which prevented teams from playing in the Rose Bowl two years in a row. Michigan won the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1948 to capture the National Championship. That meant that regardless of how well Michigan performed in the '48-season, its final game would be against Ohio State in the annual regular season finale. After a close victory over Michigan State in the season-opener, Michigan rifled through its next seven games allowing just 34 total points including five shutouts. The Wolverines were 8-0 with just Ohio State remaining on the schedule. Without the Rose Bowl, this game became Michigan's default National Championship game. Michigan came into the game ranked #1 and a victory would give the Maize and Blue its second consecutive National Championship and the unique distinction of completing two undefeated seasons in the same calendar year. Michigan took care of business in Columbus beating Ohio State 13-3 securing another National Championship. Bennie Oosterbaan was named National Coach of the Year in his first season at Michigan just a year after his predecessor, Fritz Crisler, won the same award. It is the only time in college football history that two coaches from the same school won the award in back-to-back seasons.
Michigan traveled to Happy Valley in 1999 to face a Penn State team that had National Championship aspirations as recently as the previous week. The Nittany Lions were 9-0 and ranked #2 in the polls when they were shocked by Minnesota at home. The loss only dropped Penn State four places to #6 where it still had the inside track to the Rose Bowl and an outside shot at a National Championship. Michigan came into the game ranked 16th and looking to make a move in the polls with Penn State and Ohio State still on the schedule. A victory over both would've given the Michigan a great shot at a BCS bowl game. The game started well for the Wolverines as they jumped out to a 10-0 first quarter lead just as they had done two years earlier in the "Judgment Day" showdown. The difference was that in this game, Penn State bounced back. Over the next 2+ quarters, Penn State outscored Michigan 27-7 and held a 27-17 lead with under four minutes to play. That's when Tom Brady orchestrated one of the greatest comebacks in Michigan football history. He ran for a five yard touchdown with 3:27 remaining to bring the score to 27-24. The Michigan defense forced Penn State into a three-and-out and a Diallo Johnson punt return gave Tom Brady the ball at the Penn State 35-yard line. Brady hit Marcus Knight on a key 3rd and 10 to move the chains and then found Knight again for the go-ahead touchdown. With two touchdowns in under two minutes, Michigan defeated Penn State and ultimately earned a berth to the Orange Bowl to battle (and beat) 5th ranked Alabama.
Mike Hart needed 33 yards on the ground against Eastern Michigan in 2007 to break Anthony Thomas's school record for career rushing yards. Apparently not wanting to leave things in doubt, Hart racked up 215 yards to go along with three touchdowns to thwart the EMU upset-bid. Hart would go on to finish his career with 5,040 career rushing yards which beat the old record by more than 500 yards. He left Michigan with a plethora of records including most career rush attempts, most 100-yard games, most 150-yard games, and most 200-yard games,
When Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, Michigan (731) had the most wins in college football history and Penn State (664) had the 5th most wins all-time. Despite close to 1,400 combined wins between the schools, none of the victories came against each other. On October 16, 1993, that would change as two of the winningest programs in college football history were set to square off in a historic Big Ten showdown in Happy Valley. Penn State assimilated itself well to Big Ten power football jumping out to an early 10-0 lead. Michigan roared back with a punt return touchdown from Derrick Alexander and a Todd Collins-to-Mercury Hayes touchdown pass to take a 14-10 lead. Late in the 3rd quarter, Penn State's Mike Archie carried the ball to the Michigan two yard line setting up a first and goal. It was there that Michigan put together one of the great goal-line stands in college football history. Michigan thwarted two Kerry Collins-sneak attempts, and a Ki-Jana Carter plunge up the middle to set up a 4th and goal from the one. Joe Paterno went for it and Carter was stuffed again. Michigan took over at the one-yard line and went on to win the game 21-13.
By Bo's standards, the 1984 Michigan season was a major disappointment. Jim Harbaugh broke his arm five games into the season which gave way to Michigan's only non-winning season in Bo's 21 years in Ann Arbor. With Harbaugh healthy and a wicked defense to boot, expectations were high for 1985. Bo followed the worst season of his career with what would be the best season of his career. Michigan went 9-1-1 in the regular season earning a bid to play Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl. Nebraska was 9-2 coming into the game and ranked 7th in the AP Poll. Michigan was ranked 5th with just two blemishes: a loss at Iowa and a tie at Illinois. Behind two rushing touchdowns by Harbaugh, Michigan overcame a 14-3 halftime deficit to take down Nebraska 27-23. It was the closest Bo ever came to winning a National Championship. Had he not lost to Iowa or tied Illinois, Michigan would've won the '85 National Championship. Instead, he had to settle for a #2 ranking in the final polls.
There's a lot of luck that goes into winning a National Championship. College football is littered with multiple "good" seasons in any given year but great seasons need fortuitous bounces. In 1997, the most important decision of the season was made before it ever began. Looking at it in hindsight, it seems almost unbelievable, but Michigan's quarterback position was very much up-for-grabs heading into fall camp. Scott Dreisbach had begun his career at Michigan with flair beating Virginia in the '95 Pigskin Classic. Injuries derailed his career before it ever really got started giving way to Brian Griese. Griese--for his part--led Michigan to two of its biggest victories ever over Ohio State. However, his underwhelming performance at the end of '95 that saw Michigan score just 47 points in its final four games left fans clamoring for a healthy Dreisbach to rejuvenate the offense. Lloyd Carr kept the decision tight-lipped until the week of the opener. Many hoped and predicted that Dreisbach would get the call. Carr went with the 5th-year Griese and the rest is history. The significance of this decision can be defined by one question: does anyone think that Michigan would've won the 1997 National Championship with Scott Dreisbach at quarterback?
Bob Chappuis--Michigan's legendary star of the '46 and '47 teams--was sent off to fight in WWII following the '42 season. As luck would have it, an equally adapt replacement would be on his way to Ann Arbor. Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch was the star of the '42 University of Wisconsin football team leading the Badgers to an 8-1-1 record and a #3 ranking in the final polls. Obligations to the United States Navy required him to move to Ann Arbor which paved the way for a transfer to the University of Michigan football team. Wisconsin was hit hard by the departure. After going 8-1-1 with Hirsch, the Badgers fell to just 1-8 the following year without him. Michigan wasn't as unfortunate. Ironically, Michigan would post the same 8-1 record and #3 ranking with Hirsch in the lineup as Wisconsin had done a year earlier. Michigan would win the Big Ten Championship and stomp Ohio State 45-7. Hirsch would go on to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and have his number retired by Wisconsin.
A legendary rushing performance usually requires more than a pedestrian 4.3 yards per carry average. When Tim Biakabutuka went off on Ohio State in 1995, he averaged an eye-popping 8.5 yards per carry on his way to 313 yards. When Tyrone Wheatley dominated the Washington Huskies for three quarters in the '93 Rose Bowl, he averaged an unfathomable 15.7 yards per carry on his way to 236 yards. Compared to those performances, Chris Perry's 4.3 average against Michigan State in 2003 doesn't look out of the ordinary until you notice the "51" in the "attempts" column. Perry toted the ball more than any running back in Michigan football history smashing the record of 42 set by Ron Johnson in 1967. Behind Perry's consistent and bruising running, Michigan controlled the line of scrimmage with a decisive 86-57 advantage in offensive plays. Not surprisingly, Perry would go on to break Michigan's single-season rush attempts record to go along with winning the Doak Walker Award, earning All-American honors, and finishing 4th in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Despite what revisionists would have you believe, Tom Brady's career at Michigan was not mired in a timeshare with Drew Henson. While Lloyd Carr has often been criticized for blanketing Brady's talents at Michigan, that notion is simply not true and the numbers will back it up. After being named Michigan's starting quarterback following Brian Griese's graduation in '97, Brady threw more pass attempts over the next two seasons than any two-year stretch in Michigan football history. Those two seasons also resulted in the 2nd and 3rd most prolific single-season passing yardage totals in school history. Brady was a gunslinger at Michigan and left with his name all over the record books. He was never more impressive than in the final three games of his collegiate career. He led Michigan back from a ten-point fourth quarter deficit to beat #6 Penn State in Happy Valley. He followed that up with a win over Ohio State. Those victories earned Michigan a trip to the Orange Bowl to face Alabama. Perhaps in a preview of things to come at the next level, Brady had the best game of his career. Just like he had done two games earlier against the #6 team in the country, Brady led Michigan back from a 14-point second half deficit to beat Alabama, the #4 team in the BCS. Brady threw for a Michigan bowl record 369 passing yards and tied the bowl record with four passing touchdowns. Despite spending most of his college career under the national radar, Brady's senior season ended up producing the second best team of the Lloyd Carr's career.
In 1993, '95, and '96, Ohio State came into its season finale against Michigan with a combined record of 30-0-1. Michigan won all three games. The trend got started in '93 when the 5th-ranked Buckeyes came to Ann Arbor undefeated, looking for an outright Big Ten Championship, and poised to enter the National Championship discussion. Ohio State was loaded with talent including future NFL first overall pick "Big Daddy" Dan Wilkinson, and first rounders Joey Galloway and Korey Stringer. The Buckeyes came in averaging 32.3 points per game. Michigan came into the game unranked with a 7-4 record. Two close losses to #1 Notre Dame and # 12 Wisconsin, however, proved that despite its record, Michigan was capable of playing with the best. Ohio State found that out the hard way as Michigan destroyed the Buckeyes and their hopes of an undefeated season, 28-0. This would be the least painful of Ohio State's upset defeats at the hands of Michigan in the 90's. Even if Ohio State won this game, Florida State would've won the National Championship. The same cannot be said for '95 and '96 when the Buckeyes very well could've won the National Championship if not for Michigan.
By 1909, Michigan had developed into one of the premier football programs not just in the Midwest but nationally. The Wolverines had won four consecutive National Championships from 1901-1904 and were considered a college football power. However, a stain on Michigan's brief but successful history as a major player in college football was its unceremonious record against the powerful teams from the East Coast. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Pennsylvania were the premier football programs in the country when Michigan started having success in the 1890's. From 1881-1908, Michigan played the four East Coast powers a total of ten times and came away with ten losses. Even worse was the way Michigan lost. Nine of the ten defeats were of the shutout variety including three in a row to Pennsylvania from 1906-1908. Heading into the 1909 season, the Quakers were the defending national champions and riding a 24-game unbeaten streak. Considering Penn's lofty status, the three previous outcomes, and the fact that the game was in Philadelphia, the Quakers were the heavy favorite when the two teams met in 1909. On its first possession, the Wolverines--on the strength of a fake field goal by All-American Dave Allerdice--struck first ending a three-game scoreless drought against Penn. Michigan would not look back as it went on to win the game 12-6, ending both Penn's unbeaten streak and its futility against East Coast powers. Michigan would go on to beat Minnesota the following week to win back Fielding Yost's Brown Jug from the Minnesota Golden Gophers making this one of the great two-game stretches in Michigan football history.
83. Bo rebuffs Texas A&M's overtures
By 1981, Bo Schembechler was already a Wolverine-legend. In 13 seasons at Michigan, he compiled a gaudy 123-24-3 overall record including a blistering 89-13-1 Big Ten mark. He won nine Big Ten Championships over that time including six Rose Bowl berths. For many coaches, 13 years is a career. Look no further than the successful coaching career of Lloyd Carr who was the head man at Michigan for 13 years. So, when Texas A&M came with a multi-million dollar offer ($2.5 million over ten years was huge at the time), it would have been understandable for Bo to take the money and run feeling he had accomplished everything at Michigan short of a National Championship. Bo was getting older. The "Ten Year War" with Woody Hayes had ended. His reputation for coming up short in bowl games was growing by the year. Even though scenarios such as these don't happen very often today--a lesser program legitimately threatening to steal away the head coach of an elite program--Bo's decision was very much up in the air, at least publicly. In the end, he turned down A&M's millions and continued to coach Michigan for eight more seasons which resulted in four more Big Ten Championships. There is no question that Bo's decision to stay secured the legendary legacy that he holds today. Equally important is that his decision to stay secured stability for the program all the way through Carr's final season in 2007. Interestingly, when Bo was Michigan's AD in 1989, he blasted Michigan basketball Bill Frieder for struggling with a similarly enticing offer from Arizona State. Unlike Bo, though, he didn't turn it down. After Frieder accepted the job with the Sun Devils, Bo did not allow him to coach Michigan in the NCAA Tournament instead handing the duties over to Steve Fisher who promptly won the National Championship. When you turn down an offer to quadruple your salary and become the highest paid coach in the nation, you can do that.
Michigan's epic victory over Ohio State in 1969 was unquestionably one of the greatest moments in the history of Michigan football. Ruining Ohio State's chances at a National Championship and going to the Rose Bowl were certainly fantastic accomplishments. However, one victory over Ohio State would not be enough. For it to truly matter, Michigan would need to start beating Ohio State more often than the four victories in 15 years it claimed before '69. While it was '69 that shocked college football, it was 1971 that showed Michigan wasn't going anywhere. The Wolverines stomped through their schedule leading up to the Ohio State game. They were 10-0 with only two of those wins coming by fewer than 15 points. In a role reversal from just two years earlier, Michigan was the team looking to close out an undefeated season and a national championship that might come with it. For the second time in three meetings, Bo would get the edge over Woody as Michigan squeaked out a defensive affair. The win sent Michigan to the Rose Bowl where it would play Stanford. On paper, Michigan was a heavy favorite but when it came time to play the game, the Cardinal ruined Michigan's undefeated season, 13-12. That would be the closest that Bo would come to a perfect season. However, it is unlikely that Bo would've won his elusive national championship even with a victory as Nebraska--#1 the entire season--hammered Alabama in the Orange Bowl.
85. Mgoblog created
Most of the great moments in Michigan football history have, not surprisingly, been courtesy of the Michigan football team. However, without mediums to bring those great moments to the masses, they would be no greater than any of the thousands of terrific high school football plays that occur all over America every Friday in the fall. Interest in Michigan is what allows these moments to be so great. Some of the great media-related moments in Michigan football history include the first ever filmed Michigan game (1904 vs. Chicago), the first radio broadcast of a Michigan game (1924 vs. Wisconsin), and the first ever televised Rose Bowl (1948 vs. USC). There is no question that television and radio broadcasts have given Michigan its most access to fans. However, the creation and subsequent success of Mgoblog has revolutionized the quality of access available to fans. Listening to a football game on the radio is fine and well but fans rarely find anything beyond superficial analysis in those broadcasts. That's where Brian Cook--Mgoblog's creator--has stepped in. Since its inception in 2004, the site has pumped out the finest college football analysis in the country including an Mgoblog original called UFR which reviews and grades every offensive and defensive play of the season. Perhaps the site's greatest contribution is its ability to hand out criticisms and superlatives without an agenda. Mgoblog strips down the emotional reaction and blind faith that tend to pervade the Michigan football experience and lathers it with logic. As a result, it has become the calming influence of the Michigan fanbase. All told, Mgoblog has welcomed 21 million visitors and averages a robust 75,000 visitors per day. Did I mention that it's free?
86. Michigan "D" stifles Ohio State to go to Rose Bowl in '77
Ohio State and Michigan came into their '77 showdown ranked 4th and 5th respectively in the AP Poll. Ohio State was looking for an outright Big Ten Championship, a trip to the Rose Bowl, and an outside chance at a national championship. With a victory, Michigan would gain a split of the Big Ten Championship, a trip to the Rose Bowl, and the same outside shot at a national championship. If Michigan was going to win, it was going to be on the strength of its defense and the extremities of Rick Leach. Michigan's defense was so stingy in 1977 that it allowed fewer than 10 points in seven of its ten games leading into "The Game." Leach, Michigan's junior signal caller, had beaten Ohio State in Columbus as a sophomore and was the key to Michigan's ground game. Fortunately for the maize and blue, both the defense and Leach were up to the task. The defense--led by All-American John Anderson and future All-American Ron Simpkins--held the Buckeyes to just six points--27 points below their season average. The victory sent Michigan to the Rose Bowl and pulled Bo even with Woody Hayes in the "Ten Year War", 4-4-1.
This was certainly a great moment for Michigan athletics as a whole but it is the football program that has become the beacon for Michigan athletics. Ask any novice football fan across the country about Michigan football and you'll immediately hear "The Victors", "The Big House", The Winged Helmet", and of course, "The Wolverines." In 1861, Michigan students adopted "the wolverine" as its school's mascot. There are a number of theories for its origin none more plausible than the other. Eighteen years later, Michigan fielded its first football team and the words "Michigan" and "Wolverines" would become synonymous with the most successful football team in college football history. The mascot would prove to be the perfect fit to match the feistiness and ferocity of the typical Michigan football team. It's also a mascot that stands on its own as Michigan has repeatedly rebuffed a sideline mascot in a wolverine costume. Attempts were made in the 20s and 30s to keep a live wolverine on the sideline but, according to Fielding Yost, it was too dangerous to continue the practice.
88. Michigan wins Big Ten and beats Ohio State in 1918
Michigan withdrew from the Western Conference in 1908. According to Jerry Green in the University of Michigan Football Vault, the source of the withdrawal was a proposed rule that would require coaches to be faculty members. Since Fielding Yost was not a member of Michigan's faculty, this proposal threatened his job. Rather than lose his iconic coach, James Angell, Michigan's President, pulled the school out of the conference. The separation lasted for nearly 10 years forcing the Wolverines to search far and wide to fill a schedule that used to be littered with conference foes. As the 1917-season came to an end, Michigan and the Western Conference reconciled, and the maize and blue played its first conference game in seven years against Northwestern in the season-finale (Michigan continued to play Minnesota through 2010 despite its withdrawal). The following season--its first full season in the conference since 1908--Michigan would march through its schedule undefeated including a season-finale shutout of Ohio State. Yost's boys blitzed its schedule to the tune of 99-6 which was good enough for the conference championship and a national championship. It also marked the last season of Michigan football without a loss to Ohio State. After starting the rivalry off with a 12-0-2 stretch, Michigan finally dropped its first game against Ohio State in 1919. Interestingly, Michigan's return--combined with Ohio State's admittance into the conference in 1912--gave the conference ten member institutions sparking the first ever reference to, "The Big Ten."
From 1988 to 2002, Notre Dame was a thorn in Michigan's side. The teams played 11 times over that span with the Irish holding a 6-4-1 advantage. For Michigan fans, however, the anguish went much deeper than simply losing to Notre Dame. Michigan's six losses came by an average of five points per game. Even the four wins were nailbiters with Michigan winning by an average of just six points. Rankings and records didn't seem to matter. Take 1997, for example. Michigan went 12-0 and Notre Dame barely scraped together a winning record at 7-6. Yet, the Irish were one of only two teams to hold a lead against the mighty Wolverines in the second half (in Ann Arbor no less). So, when the Irish came calling again in 2003, the Michigan faithful were preparing for another classic heart-stopper in Michigan Stadium. Except, that's not what happened. Spearheaded by a defense that allowed just 166 yards to Notre Dame and an offense that featured four touchdowns from Chris Perry, Michigan blitzed the Irish 38-0 in the most lopsided game of the rivalry's 100-year history. In fact, no team had ever even scored 38 points in the rivalry, let alone won by that margin. For one fall afternoon in 2003, Michigan fans were able to forget about every Reggie Ho field-goal and Rocket Ismail touchdown return. Then, they were able to do it again in 2007 when Michigan won again, 38-0.
Michigan has done some pretty awful things to West Virginia University over the years. Back in 1901, it employed a Mountaineer grad by the name of Fielding Yost who would go on to create the most successful football program in college football history. Then it pilfered John Beilein from the West Virginia basketball program in 2007. Beilein had turned WVU from the worst team in the Big East to a perennial NCAA Tournament contender. Michigan completed ravaging the WVU Athletic Department by taking its football coach, Rich Rodriguez, in 2008. Still, nothing can match the eye-popping nature of what Michigan did to West Virginia on October 22, 1904. Michigan held the Mountaineers to just three yards and zero points while piling up a school record 130 points. Even "Physicians and Surgeons" only lost 72-0 to Michigan.
It's true that some will judge Bill Martin's legacy solely on the success of Rich Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan. While it remains to be seen how that hire will turn out, it would be unfortunate if Martin's tenure wasn't based on his total body of work. When he was hired in 2000, the Michigan Athletic Department had just produced a $2.2 million deficit the previous year. It's difficult imagining the athletic department of one of the most marketable football programs in the country running a deficit but that's the reality Martin inherited. Michigan's bottom line quickly changed as Martin immediately got the department into the black. The program has had a budget surplus for nine consecutive years and is one of only six programs in the country to have a surplus for five consecutive years. Martin has turned the Michigan Athletic Department into a moneymaking machine. Martin was a score financially but he has also significantly impacted Michigan's aging football facilities. He has used Michigan's now stable surplus to help sell and partially fund major new building projects and renovations. The most notable being the $226 million renovation of the "Big House" and the $26 million construction of Michigan's state-of-the-art football practice facility. Martin inherited a program plagued by old buildings and messy finances and will leave it in 2010 with the opposite. Like all public figures, Martin has received his share of criticism--and some of it deservedly so--but his business acumen was clearly a godsend for a fiscally careless Michigan Athletic Department.
Ever since its dedication in 1927, Michigan Stadium has been one of the modern marvels of college football. When the NCAA began recording attendance figures in 1949, it was the "Big House" at the top with an average attendance of 93,894. For seven years that figure remained the same. Then, in 1956, Michigan completed construction of the Michigan Sports Communication Center, or more commonly known as the Michigan Stadium Press Box. The project--put forth by AD, Fritz Crisler--increased Michigan Stadium's capacity to 101,001. For unknown reasons, Crisler liked the idea of a capacity ending in "1." That tradition has been kept with each subsequent expansion all the way to its current capacity of 106,201. According to Michigan lore, it was Fielding Yost who was responsible for ending the capacity with "1" as he wanted a seat reserved for Fritz Crisler at all times. While that makes for a good story, that is simply not true according to The Michigan Stadium Story on the Bentley Historical Library website. Michigan didn't start adding the "1" to its capacity until 1956. Yost passed away in 1946.
There is no question that Michigan was a more established program than Ohio State at the turn of the 20th century. However, when the teams met in 1901, Ohio State gave Michigan its toughest test of the year. Granted, the Wolverines allowed zero points the entire season but no team held Fielding Yost's "Point-a-Minute" team to fewer points than the Buckeyes in a respectable 21-0 defeat. When the two teams met the following season, Michigan and Ohio State were both undefeated. Ohio State had outscored its four opponents by a combined total of 86-0. Despite their relative success the previous season against the vaunted Wolverines, the Buckeyes were clobbered by the highly coincidental score of 86-0. It is--and likely will remain forever--the most points scored by any team in the rivalry and the largest margin of victory. Additionally, it was this game that inspired the writing of Ohio State's alma mater, "Carmen Ohio." Unlike the confident and proud lyrics of "The Victors" written following a jubilant victory over Chicago in 1898, "Carmen Ohio" has a more sobering tone referencing friendship and memories.
94. Steve Smith gets redemption in '83-win over Ohio State
In many ways, Steve Smith was the original John Navarre. Smith was highly criticized for his poor play in losses to Ohio State in both 1981 and 1982. Michigan turned the ball over a total of nine times in both games and managed to score just 23 total points. Up to that point, the seven combined losses with Smith under center in '81 and '82 were the most losses over a two-year stretch in the Bo-era. In his senior season, though, Smith had the Wolverines playing the best football of his career. Michigan got off to a 8-2 start heading into the annual season-finale with the Buckeyes. Both teams were ranked in the top ten with the winner likely wrapping up a spot in the Sugar Bowl. Unlike the previous two disappointments, Smith was on the mark. He scored all three of Michigan's touchdowns and accounted for 251 total yards in a 24-21 Michigan victory.
For 37 years, Bob Ufer was the voice of Michigan football. He all but invented partisan play-by-play as he openly rooted and wept for Meeechigan. His raucous calls of Billy Taylor's winning TD vs. Ohio State in 1971 and Anthony Carter's winning TD vs. Indiana in '79 have been immortalized in Michigan lore. For all of Ufer's fantastically homerish play-by-play, it was often what he said between plays or after games that resonated most. One of these memorable moments came when Ufer explained how he--of all people--came into possession of General Patton's horn from WWII. Ufer was at his best when Ohio State tore down the M Club Banner on its way out of the Michigan Stadium tunnel in 1973:
Perhaps his most famous commentary, though, came following Michigan's monumental victory over heavily favored Ohio State in 1969. Just a year earlier, Ohio State put up 50 points on Michigan in a 36-point blowout. Ohio State came into the '69 contest ranked #1 and looking to clinch a National Championship. It was Michigan that came away with the victory, however, and Ufer was nice enough to provide a eulogy for the defeated titled, "Burying Woody Hayes."
96. "The Victors" feature on ESPN GameDay in 2006
The 2006 Michigan-Ohio State game was the game of the rivalry's 112-year history. For the first time in the rivalry, Michigan and Ohio State were ranked #1 (OSU) and #2 (M) in the polls. The build-up for the game was palpable. ESPN hyped the game with a countdown clock during the week and held it's ESPN GameDay show outside the gates of Ohio Stadium. It was on that show that ESPN featured a segment about "The Victors" that will be remembered around Ann Arbor for a long time. During the four minute segment, pop singer, Nick Lachey journeyed to Ann Arbor to, among other things, learn how to properly sing the Michigan Fight Song from a professor in the music department, interview Lloyd Carr, and sit it on the Michigan freshmen being introduced to "The Victors" for the first time. Lachey then spoke to Bo Schembechler on the 50-yard in Michigan Stadium where they proceeded to sing--with the help of the Michigan Marching Band--"The Victors." This may have been the last time Bo sung "The Victors" as he died suddenly the morning before the game. The segment ended in truly memorable fashion as Lachey and Desmond Howard--both standing at the top of Ohio Stadium--sang, "The Victors" to thousands of booing Buckeye-fans below.
Throughout the storied history of Michigan football, many players have gone on to achieve success in the NFL and it has become a common practice for fans to cheer them on long after they leave Ann Arbor. Many Wolverines have gone on to achieve individual (Elroy Hirsch, Dan Dierdorf) and team success (Ron Kramer, Ty Law) in the NFL but no athlete in the history of the Michigan football program has reached the team or individual success of Tom Brady. Despite being just a 6th round pick, Brady has become not only one of the top quarterbacks of all-time but one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL. Brady's success was never a foregone conclusion even after he made the Patriots roster in his rookie season. He began the 2000 season as New England's fourth string quarterback and managed to work his way to 2nd string by mid-season and remained there heading into 2001. While his move up the depth chart was promising, there was still the problem of being stuck behind, Pro Bowler, Drew Bledsoe who was the franchise's all-time leader in passing yardage and its starting quarterback the previous eight seasons. Brady quite literally got the break he needed when Bledsoe was knocked out in week three against the Jets. With Brady under center, the Pats finished the season on an 11-3 stretch securing a first round bye. New England won its first two playoff games against Oakland and Pittsburgh setting up a "David vs. Goliath" Super Bowl against the heavily favored Rams. Behind Brady's efforts, the Pats pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history. New England--and its new hero--became the story of the NFL. While this was fantastic for Brady, the publicity Michigan received was overwhelming. In the aftermath of his Super Bowl XXXVI MVP, Brady became New England's full-time starter. In subsequent years, Brady has won two more Super Bowls, another Super Bowl MVP, a NFL MVP, and put together the greatest offensive season in NFL history. Brady's assencion to NFL superstardom is one of the greatest stories in NFL history and certainly qualifies as a great moment in the history of Michigan football.
Before there was ever a "Big House" or any other on-campus "stadium", the University of Michigan football team played at the Ann Arbor Fairgrounds. The "Fairgrounds" were no more than a modern-day playground that hosted any number of activities including university sponsored "Field Day" events. In 1890, the Michigan Board of Regents--in response to student concerns over the quality of athletic facilities--approved expenditure of $3,000 to construct the Michigan football program's first ever permanent home field with an initial capacity of 400. Perhaps in a nod to the approving body, the field was dubbed, "Regents Field." Michigan held its first home game at Regents Field in 1893 against the Detroit Athletic Club. It didn't take but two years before the capacity was doubled and so began the "arms race" that has seen Michigan's football fields undergo capacity expansion no fewer than 15 times culminating in the largest capacity in America today at 107,501. Regents Field saw the transformation of the Michigan football program from a fledgling athletic endeavor into a major college football powerhouse in just a few short years. Fielding Yost coached his first four National Championship teams at Regents Field which unsurprisingly yielded a huge increase in fan interest. The success of the program was so vast that in just 11 years, attendance for Michigan home games rose from 400+ in 1894 to 17,000 in 1905. While Regents Field was no more than what is known today as a small-town high school football field, it marked the first step--and arguably the most important--in making Michigan football the most watched live sporting event in any stadium in America today.
Unbelievably, the Michigan defense had given up just three touchdowns the entire season heading into "The Game" in 1985. However, it was an offensive play that clinched the victory over the Buckeyes who had been ranked 3rd in the polls just a week earlier. Following a Cris Carter touchdown that brought Ohio State within three points in the fourth quarter, Michigan took over at its own 20 yard line. On 2nd down, Jim Harbaugh took advantage of a failed Ohio State-blitz and found John Kolesar for a 77-yard touchdown putting Michigan up 27-17 ending any chance of a Buckeye-victory. The win put Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl where it was victorious over Nebraska giving Michigan its highest end-of-season ranking in Bo Schembechler's illustrious career.
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In the last two decades, Michigan has had some of its largest margins of victories ever against its rivals. Michigan hammered Ohio State by four touchdowns in 1991 (and '93) which was the largest margin over the Buckeyes since 1947. Michigan blasted Notre Dame by 38 points in 2003 (and 2007) which was the largest margin over the Irish in the history of the rivalry. The biggest blowout in a rivalry game over that span, however, was a drubbing of Michigan State just a year after "Clockgate." Competitively speaking, Michigan State has hardly been a rival to Michigan. The Wolverines own a 30-10 record against MSU since 1970 and an even bigger margin in the overall series. Still, Spartan players and fans are notorious for claiming that the gap between the schools is diminutive. Even they couldn't have spun anything positive in a 49-3 loss that prompted Charles Rogers to say, "It's too late for a turnaround...We'll be lucky if we win another game.''