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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Top 10 Victories in the Lloyd Carr Era: #1 & #2

Over the last couple of weeks, we've been counting down the Top Ten Victories in the Lloyd Carr Era (now conveniently labeled under "Lists and Such"). Today, we reveal our picks for #1 and #2.

As mentioned, what makes a win "great" is a subjective thing. But we 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.

To recap...

10. 1995 #14 Michigan 18, #17 Virginia 17
9. 1999 #16 Michigan 31, #6 Penn State 27
8. 1995 #18 Michigan 31, #2 Ohio State 23
7. 2003 #20 Michigan 38, #17 Minnesota 35
6. 1998 Rose Bowl #1 Michigan 21, #8 Washington State 16
5. 2006 #11 Michigan 47, #2 Notre Dame 21
4. 1996 #21 Michigan 13, #2 Ohio State 9
3. 2004 #12 Michigan 45, Michigan State 37 (3OT)

And now, on with the countdown...

2. 1997 #1 Michigan 20, #4 Ohio State 14

What happened: After Michigan ruined Ohio State's perfect season and National Title hopes in both '95 and '96, Ohio State was looking to return the "favor" against the top ranked Wolverines in front of a then-record crowd of 106,982 at the Big House. But it was not to be for the Bucks as Charles Woodson cemented his Heisman Trophy campaign with big plays on both sides of the ball.

After a scoreless first quarter, on 3rd and 11 from the Michigan (I think) 47, QB Brian Griese found Woodson, the junior wide receiver/DB/kick returner, for a huge gain over the middle before he was pulled down on the OSU 16. Two plays later, tailback Anthony Thomas lunged in from one yard out to give Michigan a 7-0 lead with 6:22 left in the first half.

Michigan then stopped OSU cold on its next series. On 4th down, OSU punter Brent Bartholomew boomed a 55 yarder driving Woodson back to his own 22 and setting up this...

A blocked extra point (with linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer tackled on the Michigan 13) made the score 13-0 at halftime.

To start the third quarter, OSU drove 67 yards down to the Michigan 7 yard line. It looked bad. Until...

Not long afterwards, Andre Weathers picked off a Stanley Jackson pass and returned it 43 yards for a TD that seemed to put the game away as Michigan took a 20-0 lead. But the Buckeyes didn't quit.

David Boston caught a bomb and scored, taunting Woodson as he went into the endzone. Then, midway through the 4th, a Griese fumble led to another OSU TD that cut the lead to 20-14. With Michigan now hanging on for dear life, OSU's last chance bounced off Andy Katzenmoyer's back on a poorly thrown Brian Griese screen pass sealing the victory for U-M.

Why it made the list: Almost too many to count - For starters, the victory gave Michigan its first undefeated, untied regular season since 1971. After four consecutive four loss seasons and five years since their last Rose Bowl trip, Michigan silenced critics who said the program was slipping. As mentioned above, with the pressure and roles reversed for Michigan and Ohio State after '95 and '96, the Wolverines didn't succumb. And finally, as also mentioned, the victory - and Woodson's performance on the national stage - made him the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman...which probably cost Michigan a unified National Title because Phil Fulmer pissed.

So after that, what can possibly be the Top Victory in the Lloyd Carr Era. Well...

1. 1997 #4 Michigan 34, #2 Penn State 8

What happened: Undefeated Michigan arrived in Happy Valley to face undefeated and 2nd ranked Penn State, a team which had beaten Michigan the previous three times they played.
Penn State came into the game sporting an offense that was 8th best in total offense (447 ypg) and 9th in scoring (37 ppg). But against the Michigan defense, the Nittany Lions were held to 101 yards rushing and just 68 yards passing. Michigan got out early and never let up. In fact, the eight points PSU scored were junk points late in the 4th quarter.

To see the domination, check out this YouTube clip which has it all...except &^%$ sound!

After the game, 1,000 U-M students stormed the home of school president Lee Bollinger, chanting "We want Lee!" The Bollinger not only answered the call, but invited the students into his home creating what the Michigan Daily called the largest post-game party on campus.

Why it made the list...and the top spot: Don't be fooled just because the post for the OSU game above was "longer." Besides vaulting Michigan to the top of the AP poll, paving the way for its National Title run and beating Penn State after three consecutive losses, this was the biggest win in the Lloyd Carr Era for one simple reason: playing above the competition. If you've been a Michigan fan for a long time, Michigan has had a maddening habit of playing to the level of their competition. When U-M is lightly regarded and beating #1 OSU on the road, it's a good thing. But when they're a top ten team struggling against a Purdue or IU late into the 4th quarter, it's frustrating as hell.

Furthermore, when Michigan was/is highly ranked and their opponent was/is as well, too often it seemed they would "play the jersey" or the ranking instead of the talent they were/are up against. Teams such as Switzer's Oklahoma, Miami at various times, FSU in the 90s and USC today play teams as if they're all wearing practice squad unis. A prime example was Southern Cal burying "3rd ranked" Michigan in the Rose Bowl this year. They were the better team and didn't feel the "need" to keep it close because Michigan was supposedly highly ranked as well. Their talent was better and they played that way. Rankings and "tradition" be damned.

Which brings us back to Michigan-Penn State '97. The Nittany Lions were an excellent football team that year. They had already defeated a top five Ohio State squad. They were playing at home in front of the largest crowd in school history. And I already mentioned some of their stats above. Even in victory, this should have been a "close" game, especially given Michigan's history against teams like this. But it wasn't. Michigan didn't play the jersey, the team or the ranking. They played the talent, jumped out early and never took their foot off the opponent's throat. This was a great Michigan football team and they played that way. They played without fear. They played to win, not not to lose. Opponent ranking and "tradition" be damned.


Cock D said...

I went to the 97 game in State College as a Life-long M fan and a Senior at PSU. Wore a State hat and an M sweatshirt into the SR section with little notice or reprecussion: this was back before PSU folks hated Michigan (3-1 over M was where they thought PSU belonged).

I have never seen a stadium go so dead. The quick jump out on the score, the Stephenson/Taylor collision, and the weather really had the Beaver Stadium crowd in a condition that could best be described as funereal.

In all phases of the game, M was firing on all cylinders and PSU was dead.

I still cant belive that PSU has not beaten M in the time i have been able to purhcase alcohol legally.

righteouschops said...

I didn't have time to watch the whole video so maybe it was in there, but what were the names of those two kids that collided along the sidelines? I remember for sure the Mich kid never played again. What about the PSU guy? Does anybody remember what I'm talking about?

righteouschops said...

Ok nevermind, I just cock d's post! That was one of the nastiest hits I've ever seen.

Cock D said...

Bob Stephenson - TE, PSU: I believe, not sure, that he was out the rest of the game and played out the rest of the season. At worst, he may have missed the rest of that game and the following week.

Daydrion Taylor - DB, UM: Far less lucky. His injury kept him out of the game. After the game, they did some diagnostic tests on him that revealed that he had some condition that caused him to have an abnormally narrow spinal column. He was told that playing football put him at serious risk of paralysis / death and never played another down of organized football.

It's almost 10 years under the bridge, so forgive me if the details are slightly off, but I can give you the above info with 95% confidence.

Anonymous said...

Great set of posts. The '97 PSU game was absolutely amazing. I was watching it at a bar in CA with huge numbers of both UM and PSU fans. The roars from one side and silence from the other are still memorable. And the Hit: wow. I have never seen anything like it.

- Another UM Fan

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Ahhhhhh, Judgment Day, what a great college football day that was. I can still remember it well even though for me, that game started at about 4:30am on Sunday, 9 November (it was broadcast live on the Armed Forces Korea Network).

I remember feeling uneasy about the game for all the aforementioned reasons, Penn State was good and had beaten Michigan in previous years and Michigan’s tendency to blow it. But, I also remember Penn State’s quarterback saying something about not being afraid to throw the ball in Woodson’s direction which I thought was a dumb thing to say.

I had to try to make it through a Wisconsin game--I think--that started at 1am after an evening of partying and drinking. I wasn’t successful, passing out sometime late in the 3rd quarter. I woke up in the first quarter of the Michigan-Penn State game to find that not only was Michigan hanging in there, they were dominating Penn State. That was the point when I believed Michigan could beat anyone and I had no problem remaining wide awake for the rest of the game.

I was so excited by Michigan’s win that I also watched the delayed telecast of the Nebraska-Missouri and continued watching college football until around noon.

ohio_guy said...


I guess that favor return had to wait until 2006.

well, I guess there was 2002, but that wasn't the same scenario.

righteouschops said...

Oh man, I still remember screaming my head off when that kid from Nebraska kicked the ball back into the air in the end zone at the end of that game. There went our outright championship.

Out of Conference said...

I just want to brifly interrupt this blog to say goodbye to the Oklahoma girl before she moves on to Archiveland.

Chris of Dangerous Logic said...

I put up a highlight reel of the '97 aOSU game here.

dtw2phx said...

O-M-G, I remember that '97 AA game like it was yesterday. Seeing those clips and Chris' highlights reel gave me goosebumps. (Seriously, I think my nips are hard.)

Man...if only to have that again this November. (Ten years later? Maybe??!?? Please!!!!)

Go Blue Gabe said...

I'm glad to see that #1 was a dominating performance. It seems that so often times that the "Great Victories" come out of situations that we should't have been in in the first place. ie. 2004 MSU game. A great victory, but brought about by lack of effort and execution early. Nice choice!

the raterinks said...

Go blue gabe's got it right on. Why the hell can't smash good teams like that anymore? Frickin' Lloyd!

brad2386 said...

I totally agree with your choices for the top two games. I have been lucky enough to attend only two games in Ann Arbor but they were classics. The second game being the 97 OSU game. I paid $140.00 from a scalper for my ticket which seemed like a ton of money in the days before E-Bay. I'll never forget it. Go BLUE!