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"I love it that Ivy League coaches are coming to our camp and Big Ten coaches are coming to our camp. South Florida is coming. We've got about 70 schools that are coming to our camp."
This one goes to 11 despite my intention to make it a top ten list because I wrote them up piecemeal and at some point after too much effort had been put into each to throw any away I realized I had an extra item. This is obviously fate, so here they are.
These are ranked by gut because you can't put a number on the special sort of misery football can inflict. How to rate high on thie list:
And now on with the hairshirts!
11. Unblocking That Field Goal
Dusty Magnum lines up for a 38 yard field goal on the last play of the 2005 Rose Bowl. Michigan charges hell-bent after the kick and gets two players in position to block the thing, but the ball manages to split Ernest Shazor's arms, taking a deflection off his elbow. The slightly redirected ball squeezes through Prescott Burgess's hands and through the uprights. Michigan loses 38-37.
A lot of these moments to come are going to be events that cost Michigan some opportunity in the future. This one was simple: if Shazor's dive takes him an inch to the left or right, Michigan wins one of the classic Rose Bowls of all time and I don't spend a couple hours making "The Five Stages of Vince Young" in a South Park character generator.
Despite that, the play is mostly notable for how close Michigan came to doing something that is hard to do, does not involve a Michigan player or coach making a terrible decision*, and did come at the end of a classic someone had to lose. I don't know… it just doesn't rate compared to the rest of the stuff enclosed herein. Losing a close Rose Bowl is hardly the worst thing that's happened to Michigan in the last ten years.
*(Michigan did not attempt to save itself any time in case the field goal was good but Mangum was somewhat shaky and Vince Young was unstoppable the whole night; if Texas was willing to take a 38-yarder I would have been happy enough to let them if I was coaching.)
Late in the 2005 Minnesota game, Jim Herrmann lines up LB Prescott Burgess as a DE opposite the Gopher right tackle. With face-crushing tight end Matt Spaeth also to that side of the field, a 230 pound linebacker who's never played DE is one-on-two versus the best run-blocking line in the conference. Herrmann's playcall is a blitz from the other side of the field that sucks the safety on Burgess's side back into a centerfield position, and a simple off-tackle run goes for 60 yards, allowing Minnesota to kick a game-winning field goal.
Unquestionably the dumbest single playcall any Michigan coach made during the last decade. Michigan was tied with Minnesota 20-20 when Lamarr Woodley decapitated Gopher quarterback Brian Cupito. Minnesota ran a couple times with the backup quarterback, punted, and got the ball back after Michigan's drive stalled out. Stuck around their own 20 with around three minutes on the clock, Minnesota runs twice more, petrified of letting backup and redshirt freshman Tony Mortenson do anything other than hand off.
Mortenson's career numbers: 14 of 39 for 179 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs. At the time his most extensive run had come in an 0 of 4 performance against Florida Atlantic. Since Cupito has gone out Minnesota has run six straight times. It's third and ten. Minnesota is clearly playing for overtime and will just run it off tackle and punt. An injury to Willis Barringer has forced true freshman Brandon Harrison into the free safety spot, where he pairs with true freshman Jamar Adams.
Jim Herrmann decides to put Burgess in as a down lineman in a nickel package, lines him up on the strong side of the formation, and blitzes away from Burgess. The rest is Gopher history:
Burgess ended up ten yards downfield and still couldn't get off his block, but that was not exactly his fault.
In the long run this did not matter since Michigan stumbled to 7-5 in and though they could have easily won three more games, this one included, they could easily have lost three more. Herrmann would be shipped off to the NFL after the season, clearing the way for Ron English to give everyone the wrong idea for ten games. Speaking of Jim Herrmann's failings during 2005…
9. Carr punts from the Ohio State 34
Leading 21-19 in the dying minutes of the 2005 Game, Michigan has a first down on the Ohio State side of the field. Two runs to bleed OSU's timeouts get nowhere. They're followed by a six-yard WR screen that uses the last OSU timeout. On fourth and four from the OSU 34, Carr brings out his kicker to do the fake-kick-actually-punt thing, which goes out of bounds at the OSU 12.
Of all the awful math-spurning things I ever saw Lloyd Carr do this was the worst. Ways in which it was a terrible idea:
Instead of taking a solid shot at ending the game, Carr chose 22 yards of field position that Michigan gave back in three plays by playing soft. I shorted out in the aftermath. Under pressure Carr reverted to the sort of call that hadn't been right since 1979 and it cost Michigan its best shot to put a dent in this agonizing OSU winning streak.
8. Pitch it to Breaston!
Michigan's attempt to replicate The Play is 15 yards from working when Tyler Ecker runs directly into a Nebraska defender on the sideline instead of pitching the ball to Steve Breaston, a man with a plan in the open field. Panama.
We end our Year of Infinite Pain trifecta with this:
I actually ended up at a tailgate that Tyler Ecker was at once, and all I could think was "why didn't you pitch it?"
Michigan was really, really good in 2003. John Navarre had molted from an inept flamingo into a laser-chucking flamingo. Chris Perry made one of those senior-year explosions you always hope will happen but almost never does. Braylon Edwards announced his presence. The defense featured Marlin Jackson, Ernest Shazor before he went up in smoke, Pierre Woods before he went up in smoke, and Lawrence Reid before his back imploded. (Unsurprisingly, the yardage defense would sag from 11th to 33rd the following year.) They were good.
But it all blew up on special teams. A grad assistant named Jim Boccher was placed in charge of it; by the end of the year he'd be in real estate and (probably) therapy. Things first went poorly against Oregon. Oregon blocked an Adam Finley punt for a touchdown. A fake punt attempt ended in a fumble. Oregon returned a punt for a touchdown. Despite getting a special teams touchdown of its own on a blocked chip-shot field goal, Michigan gave away ten points on special teams in a four-point loss.
That could have been random fortune, but what happened against Iowa was not. Boccher was an eager beaver who was actually ahead of the rugby punt curve that has spread through college football; stodgy Michigan was one of the first teams to try this high school thing out. The announcers openly wondered what the heck was going on. The intervening years have proven that it's a good idea if you can do it right.
Michigan could not, and was immediately reminded of why it liked being stodgy. Iowa almost blocked a punt, then almost blocked another one, then deflected a third; Michigan was fortunate that the deflection was partial. Along the way Michigan had given up a 43-yard punt return to Ramon Ochoa that set up a nine-yard Hawkeye touchdown drive. When Rivas wandered out with five minutes left in the third quarter, the whole stadium could feel it coming, and it did: Iowa finally returned one to sender, setting up a one-yard field goal drive. Michigan lost by three despite outgaining Iowa 463-295.
Boccher sought other opportunities before Michigan fans had the opportunity to seek him; the 2003 team would go undefeated outside of games in which their special teams cost them at least ten points until meeting USC in the Rose Bowl. That was the year in which USC got booted from the title game despite being #1 in both polls; if Michigan's special teams hadn't imploded so spectacularly an undefeated Michigan would have featured in the national title game against an Oklahoma team that had just blown the Big 12 title against Kansas State; Kansas State got blown out by an OSU team that Michigan had just handled. Competency on special teams could have resulted in a national title.
Tomorrow: The top six. Wear a cup.
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6) 2002 Ohio State game - Braylon Edwards Offensive Pass Interference
5) 2001 Michigan State game - personal foul penalty on 4th and 15 on the final drive
4) 2006 Ohio State game - Shawn Crable personal foul on Troy Smith
3) 2009 Illinois game - Roy Roundtree is caught from behind starting a downward spiral for the end of the season
2) 2007 Appalachain State game - Armanti Edwards 24 yard pass to our 5 yard line with 30 seconds left (App. State kicked the field goal on first down with 30 seconds left, we should never even have gotten the ball back to have a blocked field goal in the first place)
1) 2000 Northwestern game - Anthony Thomas fumble
Not a bad list, but I don't think #6 will make it - that was more a controversial call than a clearly bad play by Braylon. Speaking of that game, though, on the very last play Navarre missed an open Avant in the endzone to throw to a double-teamed Braylon, and it was picked off. I can't really fault him for going to the proven star, but Avant was all alone.
Not most boneheaded screw ups. That was a horrible play and change of events. I mean, by your reasoning, Texas Rose Bowl has no business being up there...because was it that bad a play because a couple of players arms weren't an inch one way or another? No way, just unfortunate. From his definition and Brian saying it was lower because there wasn't someone to blame, it may make it less egregious, but it's still a worst play. And that game carried tons of weight.
Yeah, I wouldn't put that at #6, but I thought something from that game would have been top 11. I think I will change my guess to be one of those FG block/Interception returns vs Washington.
was an absolute debacle, just sickening. It was literally an impossibility to lose that game in regulation, seriously.
Well, it couldn't have been literally impossible, or we wouldn't have lost.
If I had the power to change the outcome of just one event in all of history, I'd be very tempted to use it on the 2005 Alamo Bowl.
But, for me, it would have to be the personal foul call against tOSU in 2006, (you know which one I'm talking about). That doesn't happen, and Michigan probably wins the game and plays Florida. Sure, we might have lost to Florida also, but we just as well could have won it all. It would have given Lloyd two NCs, and he'd have gone down in history as the most beloved U-M coach in anyone's recent memory.
that'd be the one UM play i'd change.
though several cleveland indians plays may be ahead of that one.
Well...that wasn't depressing at all.
tomorrow might be a good day to go radio silent. I think I may just swim to catalina and back and hope the story is swallowed by the time I get back.
To me that will always be the worst play ever. That game produced the most epic alcohol-induced-postgame meltdown of any Michigan game that I can remember. So much so that every bad loss since has been almost a walk in the park.
I had long since buried these memories into the deepest recesses of my mind.
4 OSU linemen passing through 5 Michigan OLs as if they were turnstiles. Of course it wasn't a game changer, but it was just so profound. The photo Brian posted and wrote about was such an tragic and lasting image of the end of the Schembechler era.
beyond that, I'll go with:
Thomas' fumble against NU
Edwards drop of a sure touchdown in the rose bowl
the play that sparty ran after the clock hit zero
Crable's helmet on Smith's helmet
Crable's failure to block the app state FG rusher
i am going to click on the beveled guilt button and enter -$1,000,000
I'm 2-0 going to MSU bowl games with a good friend who graduated from State. The last one being a delicious trip to the Alamo Bowl last yr and watching the Techsters from Lubbock defeat Sparty.
The frustrating part of reading this series is knowing that a couple of these plays were so close to being a part of the best plays of the decade for us. Just imagine if that field goal was actually blocked against Texas or Breaston got a hold of that ball at the end of Nebraska game.
I guess that's the point of this series.....off to get a beer and a shot (or six).
1. 2004 Rose Bowl (2003 season) - Navarre's pass that bounces off of Edwards shoe and is intercepted and returned inside UM's 10 late in the second quarter. Even though USC has had a better first half, UM is only trailing 7-0 at this point. I know for me this play and the subsequent TD really seemed to take the wind out of the sails.
2. 2001 OSU game - Marquis Walker not catching the 3rd down slant over the middle near the OSU endzone at the end of the third quarter. To add insult to injury on this play, the UM kicker misses a chip shot FG on the next play. Uncle Mo had manuevered over to UM's side at this point in the game and a first down (and quite possibly TD) on this play would have had Uncle Mo completely on UM's side.
3. The 3rd down play against Purdue with a little over a minute left in 2000. The one time I can clearly remember Carr going away from the conservative call and it bites him. Purdue is out of time outs. The two options are: 1) go with the conservative running play and take 35-45 seconds off the clock and leave Purdue little time to cover a lot of ground to get into FG range (keeping in mind the Purdue kicker had just minutes before missed a relatively easy FG), 2) go for the first down with a pass. If you get the first down, game over. If you don't you leave Purdue a minute and change to get into FG range. Carr goes with the second option. UM calls what I remember as a waggle. Henson's pass is just out of reach for the TE.
As a sidenote, the Purdue game in 2000 is more frustrating to me then the Northwestern game. UM absolutely dominated the first half against Purdue and was up 28-10. That might have been one of the most impressive displays of offensive football UM has had for a half. They had the ball 4 times and each time marched 65+ yds for a TD. Unfortunately, UM was only able to muster a FG in the second half.
but it's a double-whammy for Michigan fans of my vintage—going through all these painful losses means I can't help but dredge up the equally painful losses from the 1970s and early '80s. And believe me, they were just as painful when losing (or tying) OSU three years in a row meant no bowl game at all. No soup for you Michigan fans!
For me, the most painful bowl loss of all still is the Jan. 1978 game against Washington and Warren Moon. I still can feel the gut-ache.
Pain is weakness leaving the body, just remember that.
ECKER...PITCH THE BALL!!! even if Breaston isnt there, and nobody is...you DO NOT get tackled or go out of bounds...ITS THE LAST PLAY OF THE GAME...that for me is top 3 material, just because of the stupidity.
I dont know if this will be there tomorrow, but Crables hit on Troy Smith has to be up there, although i still dont believe he lead with his head.