Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Yesterday, we gave you our five Michigan victories during Coach Carr's 12 years at the helm that didn't quite make the Top Ten but landed on our Honorable Mention list.
Today, we start counting down numbers 10 through 1 -- the biggest Wolverine wins since 1995. As mentioned yesterday, what makes a win "great" is a subjective thing. But Benny and I based our decision on a combination of factors including importance for the program, season impact, intangibles, who the opponent was (let's face it, a thriller against highly ranked arch rival Ohio State is always a candidate) and just the plain ol' excitement factor of the game.
So here we go...
10. #14 Michigan 18, #17 Virginia 17
What happened: In his first game as Michigan's head coach, Lloyd Carr's squad staged what was, at the time, the biggest comeback in U-M football history, rallying from 17-0 down in the 4th quarter. Mercury Hayes caught a touchdown pass from Scott Dreisbach as time expired.
Why it made the list: Couple of reasons. To start, the game was the first after a summer of turmoil in Ann Arbor. Gary Moeller had been fired during the off-season following his drunken outburst at a Detroit-area bar and Mo's defensive coordinator Lloyd Carr was tapped to step in, for no other reason, than it was the middle of summer and who else were they going to get. By the time the UVA game rolled around, people just wanted to get back to talking about football on the field for a change. So the win was big from a "righting the ship" standpoint and to show the Moeller firing hadn't dealt some sort of lethal blow to the Michigan program.
Second, as Lloyd's first game, it was imperative, playing a ranked team at home, he start his tenure off on the right foot. If he loses this game, all the naysayers are breathing down his neck from the first game and already talking about his replacement (he was only the "interim" coach at the start of the season). Instead, he started off 5-0 that first year and continued Michigan's winning ways.
Finally, it was a damn exciting game. If you were there (as I was) you probably remember the heat. It was as hot of a game as I've ever been to in A2. An older gentlemen in our section even passed out from the heat. Wilting just as badly was Michigan's chances at victory, down by 17 in the 4th. But with one beautiful fade route on the game's final play, the heat didn't seem so bad. And say what you will about Michigan teams under Lloyd, they rarely get blown out and never quit. This game summed up and started that trait.
9. 1999 #16 Michigan 31, #6 Penn State 27
What happened: Tom Brady brought the Wolverines back from a 27-17 deficit in the final 3:26 to lead the Wolverines to victory in Happy Valley.
Why it made the list: We picked this game from the '99 season over the Orange Bowl OT win against 'Bama to end the season for a couple reasons. First of all, this game (finally) put to rest Michigan's dual QB system once and for all. The shared time between Brady and Drew Henson was used earlier in the season and many fans (yours truly included) blame the 34-31 loss by undefeated #3 U-M to #11 MSU on keeping Henson in instead of switching to Brady who almost led the team to a miraculous comeback on the road. The Penn State game, down 10 in a hostile environment, showed what Brady was capable of, no matter what the score. Besides a win for the team, the self-confidence factor for a guy that had to split time was probably immeasurable as well.
In addition, after starting out 1-3 against the Nittany Lions since they joined the conference, the amazing comeback was Michigan's third win in a row over Penn State, and they've never looked back (or lost).
Finally, the win - coupled with a victory over OSU a week later - locked up Michigan's first trip to a BCS bowl since the league joined the arrangement the previous year.
Ok, the list was going to be a little longer for today, but real life intrudes. More to come.