Looking Back — Michigan Football Season Openers – 1995 Virginia

Looking Back is a Special Feature by Jeff Cummins

The third installment in this week’s series looking back at opening games takes us to 1995.

Gary Moeller’s tenure as head coach at Michigan ended abruptly. Simply put, the program was in turmoil, and it’s difficult to remember just how dark the mood was around the Michigan football program following Moeller’s resignation. That was the environment in which Lloyd Carr began his tenure as the new Michigan head football coach.

Initially, Michigan hired Carr as head coach on an interim basis. He started his tenure as head coach with a passionate speech about the pressures of the job at his first press conference. Despite those challenges, few interim coaches achieved as much success as Carr.

The 1995 season began on a brutally hot day at home in Michigan Stadium, in the Pigskin Classic against the Virginia Cavaliers. Oddsmakers expected Michigan to win the game handily, but Virginia proved an extremely tenacious opponent. Mike Groh scored on a quarterback keeper to give the Wahoos the early lead, and then Tiki Barber broke a tackle and outraced Chucky Winters to extend Virginia’s margin. After Virginia kicked a field goal, Michigan was trailing by a whopping 17 points, and it looked like the Carr era was off to a rocky start.

Trailing by a wide margin in the fourth quarter, the Wolverines suddenly woke up and started playing Michigan football. Quarterback Scott Dreisbach connected a couple of times with Mercury Hayes, with Hayes wrestling the ball away from Ronde Barber on the second pass to give the Wolverines first down and goal to go at the Virginia 3-yard line. Dreisbach then handed off to Ed Davis, who ran right up the middle for a touchdown, and the Wolverines started to seize the momentum. On a later possession, Dreisbach was under pressure and barely got the pass off to Hayes, who scampered down the sideline for a touchdown, and Michigan was within one score, though time was not on the Wolverines’ side.

The clock started to work against Michigan, limiting the Wolverines’ time for a comeback. Finally, it all came down to one play. Four seconds to go. Fourth down, with the ball on the Virginia 15-yard line. Michigan had to have a touchdown on this play, or Lloyd Carr would lose in his first game as Michigan’s head coach.

Dreisbach took the snap and threw a fade pass into the corner of the north end zone, where Hayes caught the ball and narrowly managed to get one foot in bounds. Touchdown, Michigan!

The victory was arguably the most exciting win of any season-opening game in Michigan history. Carr’s first team defeated Ohio State to end the regular season, and the university named him the head coach and removed the “interim” tag. He enjoyed an excellent career at Michigan, leading the team to a perfect season and the Associated Press national championship in 1997. Carr coached the Wolverines for 13 seasons, and many coaches would be thrilled to have his record as a head coach.

Thanks for YouTube, ABC Sports, and YouTube poster Rxwolverine2 for the highlight film included below. As always, neither I nor anyone associated with own anything, and we do not profit from this blog post.

About Jeff Cummins

Jeff Cummins has written about football since 1998, including nine years with The Record of Hackensack, N.J. He frequently contributes feature stories to Touchdown Illustrated, an insert in the national college football game program, published by University Sports Publications, and he has also written the official pregame stories for the game programs of the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Gator Bowl, and the BCS National Championship game. He has written the preview story for the official program for the NHL Winter Classic at MIchigan Stadium, and numerous college basketball feature stories for College Hoops Illustrated, another game program insert published by University Sports Publications. In addition, he has written stories about theater, music, physical therapy, and newsletter marketing. He’s an avid Michigan football fan and long-time New York Jets season ticket holder, and he can be reached at