Michigan vs Ohio State Football – Looking Back – 1998

The first installment of this year’s series on the Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry takes us to 1998. The late ‘90s were heady times for the Maize & Blue, and the offseason leading up to the ’98 season might have been the headiest time of all. Coming off a perfect season and a share of the national championship, Michigan had vanquished all the ghosts of seasons past. An expansion of 5,000 seats enabled Michigan Stadium to reclaim the title of nation’s largest college football stadium, and the addition of highly-touted quarterback recruit Drew Henson and highly-touted running back Justin Fargas had Michigan fans dreaming of even more glory.

Unfortunately for Michigan, the 1998 season unfolded with all the charm of a hangover. Many critical players graduated or left early to join the National Football League. My wife and I attended the home opener in the newly expanded stadium, hoping to see the raising of the National Championship banner (in our native New York, the raising of a world championship banner borders on a religious experience). Sadly, Michigan didn’t raise a national championship banner in the stadium, and Donovan McNabb and Syracuse thrashed Michigan.

Still, by the final week of the regular season, Michigan had righted the ship, and was in position to win the Big Ten championship with a victory in Columbus. Unfortunately, Ohio State was lying in wait for Michigan, still smarting from a loss in Ann Arbor the previous season. By now, everyone knows how that game turned out. A year earlier, Michigan cornerback Andre Weathers had been one of the heroes for the Wolverines; this time, Ohio State receiver David Boston burned him for a pair of touchdown receptions on the way to a 31-16 Ohio State win.

Fortunately for Michigan, the Wolverines adhered to Bo Schembechler’s old rule not to let one loss become two losses, as they routed Hawaii in a rare season-ending non-conference game, and then overcame two deficits to top Arkansas in the Florida Citrus Bowl.

Thanks, as always, to ABC Sports, and to YouTube poster Stephen Barnett. We own nothing, and this post is strictly for the enjoyment of readers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPB76vENTwg

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRMC5xcBxGk

Remembering Tom Brady- A Story You Haven’t Heard

How most people remember Tony Brady's time at Michigan.
How most people remember Tom Brady’s time at Michigan.

To many Tom Brady was merely a stopgap falling in the shadow of Brian Griese (who led Michigan to a National Championship) and Drew Henson who was destined to lead the Wolverines to 3 or 4 National Championships, while leading the Yankees to World Championships during the football off-season.

No disrespect to Drew Henson but the hype surrounding him was completely out of control. The spotlight on Henson obscured Brady and many fans couldn’t wait for him to make way for Henson.

While Brady was technically the starter, Lloyd Carr employed the dreaded dual QB system giving Henson ample to time to challenge. At the time it seemed like a concession to keep Henson from bolting and playing baseball full time.

But Brady held on as the starter for two seasons and capped his career with an OT win over Alabama in the 2000 Orange Bowl.

During his time at Michigan no one could have predicted the success he’d have in the NFL.

I always thought that Brady would be successful at something– he had that air about him. A quiet determination and confidence. No matter how obnoxious fans would be, “Hey Tom, how long until Drew takes your job?” he stayed calm, cool, and collected.

Only later did we learn how close he came to transferring.

Brady liked this photo because it included his teammates

But there was one indication of his character. I took this picture during the 1998 season and was determined to get all three players who were featured prominently to autograph it.  At 1999 Media Day fans had an opportunity to meet the players and I quickly tracked down center Steve Frazier (#64) tight end end Aaron Shea (#36) but couldn’t find Brady anywhere.

I went from line to line looking for him. Finally, I tracked him standing practically alone near the sideline. When I showed him the photo his first reaction was to ask how I took it (from my seats) and how cool it was that it showed all three players together in the same shot. I found out later that Aaron Shea was one of his best friends in college which helps explain why he liked the photo so much.

He signed the photo and said, “Go Blue!” and thanked me for taking the picture.

It always struck how classy he was. At the time there was a huge line of people waiting for Drew Henson’s autograph while Brady, the starter, stood by watching.

A lesser man may have been resentful, but Brady was a Michigan Man.

I wondered how he felt when he found himself drafted by the Patriots and was again overshadowed by  another quarterback phenom named Drew (Bledsoe).

I have no doubt that he handled himself with the same class he showed at Michigan.

And his hard work and dedication have made him one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.