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Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday History Lesson - UM v. OSU - 1997

Today, MZone reader Matthew Stout concludes his excellent trip down memory lane this week with a look back at the 1997 M/OSU clash.

1997...Carr's Crew Conquers Everest...

A half century from now, the legend of 1997 will have grown to epic proportions. The names of Carr, Griese, Woodson, Steele and others immortalized in the Michigan history books while those claiming to have been a part of the Michigan Stadium crowd that day will have swelled to over 10 million. But only those of us who were actually there, in Michigan Stadium, on that twenty-second day of November, nineteen hundred and ninety-seven, will understand what really transpired. And our story will go something like this...

"Were you in Michigan Stadium that day, Grandpa Stout?"

"You're damn right I was. I got up at 7 AM, in the freezing cold and snow, with my former team mate Brian Aparo to put 40,000 maize and blue pompoms on the seats to get my ticket in. And let me tell you--there hasn't been a game like that played in the Big House ever since."

"Tell me about it."

"Well, the year was 1997. Bill Clinton was your President and busy in Washington trying to cover up an affair with a 21-year-old White House Intern. The greatest sitcom ever, Seinfeld, was in its final season. Titantic was breaking records at the box office and Jimmy Buffett, at the tender age of 50, was still wasting away in Margaritaville with all his Parrotheads. The Michigan Wrestling Wolverines were entering their 76th season. And I was 26 but of course, still in Law and MBA school at a place that shall remain nameless."

"Tell me about THE GAME."

"Well, both schools came into The Game each ranked in the top five in the nation for the first time in 20 years. Michigan entered the game unbeaten and ranked #1 in the country. Coming off four consecutive four loss seasons, the Wolverines were gunning for their first trip to the Rose Bowl in five years, and their first 11-0 season since 1971. The Boys in Blue were led by a great team defense that emphasized "11 hats to the ball" and led the nation in both total defense and scoring defense. Spearheading this defense was the great Charles Woodson, an All - American defensive back who also excelled on the offensive side of the ball and was a threat to wreak havoc on his opponents every time he stepped on the field.

The Buckeyes came to Ann Arbor with a 10-1 record after falling only to Penn State early in the season in Happy Valley. They were ranked fourth in the nation and had won five straight since the loss to the Nittany Lions, improving each week. Led by All - American linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer, the Buckeye defense had yielded just one touchdown in its last five games. After seeing the Wolverines ruin their own perfect seasons and national championship hopes the past two years, the Buckeyes looked to turn the tables on the Maize and Blue and make their second consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl.

But on a crisp autumn day before a record Michigan Stadium crowd of 106,982, these Wolverines had their eyes on the prize and were not to be denied.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Wolverines and Woodson, almost single-handedly, broke open the game during a four minute stretch late in the first half.

The first big play of the game saw Woodson grab a Brian Griese pass a little past midfield on a third down and 12 from the Michigan 47 and outrun the Buckeye defenders for 37 yards to the Ohio State 15. Two plays later, Wolverine freshman Anthony Thomas scored from the one, and the Blue took a 7-0 lead that they would not relinquish.

Ohio State took the ensuing kickoff, and on three plays, went nowhere against the top-rated Michigan defense. With the Buckeyes looking to punt on fourth down, Woodson retreated to his own 20-yard line, and prepared to show the Michigan Stadium crowd why he was the best player in the country.

Woodson received the Buckeye punt at his own 22, broke to his left, split the sea of scarlet and gray defenders, and sprinted down the left sideline for an electrifying 78-yard touchdown. The return gave the Blue a 13-point lead and sent the Michigan Stadium crowd into a maize and blue pompom frenzy as both teams headed for the locker room.

As the second half opened, the Wolverines went for the jugular. After Woodson halted a Buckeye drive by intercepting a Stanley Jackson pass in the Michigan end zone to open the second half, the Wolverine defense once again flexed its muscles two series later. Andre Weathers picked off a Jackson pass at the Ohio 44, and raced untouched into the end zone to give the Blue a seemingly insurmountable 20-0 lead.

However, the Buckeyes did not roll over. Michigan mistakes and turnovers allowed them to score two quick touchdowns and put us Wolverine fans into a near cardiac arrest with almost a quarter to play. Buckeye quarterback Joe Germaine first hooked up with David Boston for a 56-yard TD pass to close the score to 20-7, and a two yard run by Pepe Pearson after a Griese fumble at his own ten made it 20-14 with 13 minutes left in the game.

But the Buckeye rally wasn't nearly enough. With the best defense in the country on the field, the Wolverines bottled up the Buckeye offense on three straight possessions to close out the game, close out a perfect 11-0 season, and clinch a trip to Pasadena.

On the first day of the new year, the Wolverines would capture their first national championship in 49 years with a 21-16 Rose Bowl win over Washington State. In the locker room at Pasadena, Coach Lloyd Carr addressed his team and summed up Michigan's storybook season in just few simple sentences.

'You have left a wonderful legacy for every team that ever follows you,' Carr proclaimed. 'You just won...the national championship!'

Somewhere, high up in the heavens, the legendary Fielding Yost could only smile and nod his head in agreement. Nearly a century had passed since Yost had directed the Wolverines to their first national championship in 1901. Ninety-six years later, Michigan was Champion of the West once again."

Go Blue! Beat the Buckeyes!!!


Amish said...

Great post. I was in high school then, a few years away from becoming a Michigan football fan, so that game and that season are not as familiar to me. You gave me chills, and made me wish I was four years older so that I too could tell that story to my grandchildren.

srudoff said...


Mikoyan said...

And if it weren't for the Osborne effect and Choke Boy choking in the Orange Bowl, Michigan would have won an outright championship.

Both the Ohio State game and the Rose Bowl were good games. Nervewracking games but good.

Crabapple Buck said...

Finally, a history lesson with a happy ending, UM won a bowl game.

I was at that game. When Ohio State got back in it at 20-14, you could hear a rat piss on cotton. UM faithful were sure that the missed XP was going to haunt them and the Bucks would score to win 21-20. Sadly, that never happened, but it bought Lloyd Carr 10 more years. That was your best team by far and Woodson could not be stopped.

KB said...

I actually missed the game, because my high school football team was playing in the class B state semifinals that day in Marquette. After our 11 a.m. game against some team 15 miles from the Superior Dome, we had to ride the charter's back to Grand Rapids. What a season, though I hate that I missed this game. As a side note, we did win that game 57-28 and the State Championship the following week at the Silverdome.

surrounded in columbus said...

if you recall, real late in the 2nd half, Katzenmoyer broke into the backfield and deflected a screen/swing pass- ball hung in the air for like, 5 or 8 minutes (it seemed). Katz had a slim shot at the pick and nothing but 30 yds of turf between him & the end zone.

it's an interesting sound when you hear 105,000 hearts stop beating for a second or two. katz missed the pick and we punted/hung on, but it was a defining moment.


"rat piss on cotton"??? where did you come up w/ that?

if i went to a school that goes around counting 1970 as one of their seven (really only 5) MNCs because the college football sports writers poll listed them as #1 BEFORE they lost to USC in the rose bowl? i'd at least step out of my glass house before i started heaving bricks.

good to see your spirits have improved since earlier in the week.

srudoff said...


i've picked up a little but then found out that my work put the kibosh on posting on any blog site (plus going to youtube, facebook, and a whole host of other sites that were previously ok).

as for the half championship comment, we only throw it out there cause you guys are so sensitive about it - plus you have to go back 50 years to your last one before that. we can laugh at the 70 "championship" because we have the legit 68 and '02 ones to bookend it. but again mostly because it pisses you guys off :)