Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1997

The fifth and final installment of the series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State takes us back 20 years, to 1997. The economy was roaring, the world was starting to take an interest in this new thing called the Internet, and Michigan entered the season facing arguably the toughest schedule in the country, while critics snickered not so quietly that the Block M stood for mediocrity.

The good news is that everyone in Maize and Blue heard that criticism, and by the beginning of the season, they were seething with anger, and they were absolutely determined to prove their critics wrong. Lloyd Carr, who proved to the best master motivator in 1997, had just finished reading “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, a book about a harrowing ascent of Mount Everest in the most dangerous storm in the history of Mount Everest climbs. Carr found out that Lou Kasischke, a member of the climbing party, lived nearby, and he persuaded Kasischke to talk to the Michigan team about the challenges he faced while climbing Everest.

Michigan entered the game with a perfect record, while Ohio State entered with the perfect opportunity for revenge. The last two seasons, Michigan had ruined perfect seasons for the Buckeyes by upsetting Ohio State. Throw in the fact that Ohio State wide receiver David Boston had taken a potshot at Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in the media, and it’s easy to see why there was so much tension in the pre-game build-up.

Midway through the second quarter, the game was locked in a scoreless tie when Michigan quarterback Brian Griese found Woodson on a post-pattern for a 37-yard gain. Two plays later, freshman Anthony Thomas crossed the goal line to give Michigan the lead. By the middle of the third quarter, the Wolverines had extended that lead to 20-0. That’s when things got a little bit nerve-wracking. Boston finally beat Woodson for a touchdown, and then OSU linebacker Jerry Rudzinski forced a fumble from Griese, and all of a sudden, Michigan’s lead was down to 20-14. That’s when every Michigan fans started to sweat during a game in which the temperature was in the low 20s.

Fortunately for Michigan, the defense stood tall at the most critical moments, and a huge hit by Marcus Ray on Boston changed the momentum. Just a few minutes later, Michigan’s defense had held, and Griese took the snap and ran out the clock.  The final score was Michigan 20, Ohio State 14. The win gave Michigan the Big Ten championship with an 11-0 record, and Michigan went to the Rose Bowl, where the Wolverines topped Washington State to finish the perfect season and capture the Associated Press National Championship.

In my 54 years, that was the biggest Michigan-Ohio State game of them all, and I doubt I’ll see any victory bigger than that one in my lifetime. That win serves as the bar for every Michigan win over Ohio State.

Thanks to ABC Sports and YouTube posters Stephen Barnett and Dr. Sap. As always, we own nothing, and this blog and video are posted strictly for the enjoyment of readers.


Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back — 2000

The fifth and final installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back to 2000. Prior to the new year, there were widespread fears about Y2K, and what it would mean to computers around the world. There were fears of mass transit problems, complete with concerns that Y2K could seriously hurt the trains in this country.

As it turned out, the Y2K computer problems never materialized, and computer problems were really Michigan State’s only hope of stopping the A Train, Anthony Thomas. In his final game against the Spartans, Thomas rushed 25 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns, averaging a whopping seven yards per carry. Throw in a Michigan defense that had bad memories of the previous year in East Lansing, and it was the perfect recipe for a 14-0 shutout of the Spartans.

The game started with junior quarterback Drew Henson deftly mixing the run and the pass, but the Wolverines failed to score very much. In the first quarter, Thomas punched the ball over from the 1-yard line, and that was really all Michigan would need. Later in the game, the Wolverines’ defense put its stamp on this game with a goal line stand that ended with Michigan linebacker Victor Hobson stripping the ball away and Eric Wilson making the recovery to give Michigan possession of both the ball and the momentum. In the third quarter, Thomas scored on a 31-yard run that was just icing on the cake. The Wolverines’ defense had already established which team was better.

All in all, the Wolverines were young in 2000 and struggled when playing away from Michigan Stadium. The Pasadena heat doomed them in an early season loss to UCLA, and losses to Big Ten foes Purdue and Northwestern prevented the Wolverines from going to a more serious bowl. The season ended with a 31-28 win over Auburn in the Citrus Bowl, hardly a fitting conclusion to the careers of Thomas and offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson. Henson left school permanently in the offseason, lured by the baseball dollars of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Thanks to ABC Sports and YouTube poster WolverineHistorian. As always, we own nothing, and this video and blog are strictly for the enjoyment of readers.