Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back — 1999

The second installment of the series looking back at the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us to 1999. The economy had been roaring for several years, and so had the Wolverines, who had a perfect season and a share of the national title just two years before, and were playing very strong football in ’99. Opponents had few answers for the Michigan offense. In fact, the biggest challenge the Wolverines faced on offense was which quarterback would get the most snaps.

While most teams hope to have just one competent quarterback, the Wolverines had two in, senior Tom Brady and sophomore Drew Henson, who had been one of the top recruits in the nation just a few years earlier. Head coach Lloyd Carr used a platoon system for the two quarterbacks, with each getting playing time each game. The strategy developed depth at quarterback, but it might not have been the best strategy to use for that season.

The game started off with a matchup problem for the Michigan defense. Simply put, the Wolverines didn’t have anyone who could cover 6-foot-5 Michigan State wideout Plaxico Burress. The Wolverines even attempted to use wide receiver David Terrell at cornerback to stop Burress, but that didn’t help. Compounding the Wolverines’ problems was the Michigan State pass rush, which harried and hurried Michigan quarterbacks for most of the day. When Michigan State running back Dawan Moss scored from 14 yards out with 12:19 remaining to give the Spartans a 34-17 lead, things looked bleak for the Wolverines.

On the ensuing possession, Brady began to work his magic, spreading the ball around the field, and throwing downfield to Marcus Knight for 26 yards. When Brady connected with Terrell for a 19-yard touchdown pass with 8:11, the Wolverines were back in the game, albeit with a steep mountain to climb. Brady then found senior Aaron Shea in the end zone with less than three minutes left, and Michigan was within striking distance, needing a stop on defense to get the ball back.

Unfortunately, the Wolverines didn’t get what they needed. When Burress caught a pass on the sideline, the party was over, and Michigan State held on for a 34-31 win.

Through the years, there have been numerous controversial endings in games between Michigan and Michigan State, but this loss hurt the Wolverines as much as any loss in the series. Yes, Burress had a tremendous game, but if Brady had played the entire game, the odds are he would have gotten into his rhythm earlier in the game, and there’s a good chance Michigan would have won. For that matter, had Brady been the primary QB all season, with no platoon system, there’s a good chance that Michigan would have run the table and won its second national championship in three seasons. Instead, the Wolverines finished the season with 10 wins and 2 losses, including comeback victories over Notre Dame, Penn State, Ohio State, and Alabama. Talk to any Michigan fan or alum who watched Brady play his last half dozen games in a Michigan uniform, and you won’t find one of them who would be surprised by his success in the NFL.

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

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.