The question this week is a simple one. Of the Michigan games you've attended, which one is your favorite, and what makes it stand out so much?
Seth: I've got so many Michigan memories with my dad that I can't separate (or I'm just not ready to think about) them, but even if I could it would still be the one when I started going without him that sticks out: The '98 Penn State game.
It was a chilly, kind of overcast, sweatshirty Michigan fall afternoon and I was a first-year flying solo. My freshman year came right after the national championship and the "Halo" stadium expansion, and that meant fewer student seats available with way too much demand. The freshmen were at the bottom of that list, thus I wound up with the option of getting only a "half-pack" or no tickets. Since I went to all the games with my dad and his friends anyway, what did it matter? So it wasn't until the PSU game, when my dad wasn't going, and Steve Kyritz offered me his ticket, that I got to see my first game from the student section. Since I'd been informed not sitting in your seat was SOP in that mass of human bodies, I wound up squeezed and standing sideways on a bench in the 30-somethings.
And it was a hell of a game to do that. That PSU team was very good (they came in ranked #9) and the last time we'd faced them was Judgment Day/Party at Bollinger's House. Michigan was still floundering in the #20s because of the two losses to open the season.
What made the day was each time Penn State got near us they'd get blown back by three sections of 18- to 21-year old raging psychotics possessed of toilet paper rolls and marshmallows. The Nits didn't arrive until later in the 1st quarter, and Michigan blocked a FG. They came down again and Michigan stood them up on the goal line three times before PSU let time expire in the quarter to get the hell away from us (they didn't get in on 4th down either). In the 4th quarter Penn State kept getting pinned deep against us, and the linemen couldn't hear the calls, meaning we were treated to a TFL fest. Michigan won 27-0 and by Mondaywas back in the top 15.
Michigan with my dad was this paced thing we enjoyed like a baseball game while he and his best friend worked through their complicated lives. His standard cheer was a clap-clap-fistpump. PSU '98 was the first time I experienced the Big House as a visceral thing I did with my whole body. I still sat with my dad at least a game a year, but when it came time to sign up for '99 student tickets I was one of the first in line.
The Mathlete: I don't think that was the real ticket, I didn't see the official game sponsor noted anywhere.
[Hit THE JUMP for the obvious answer, a far less obvious answer, and one that falls somewhere in the middle.]
Brian: There are different answers for this depending on whether you're talking about how I felt in the immediate aftermath of the game or how I feel about it now.
Immediate aftermath is easy: 2010 Notre Dame. I was there, Denard ran towards me on his "shoelaces flapping in the wind" Bergkamp run and dove in that endzone after engineering the drive that didn't seem possible en route to 500 total yards... 500 total yards at ND. I mean, you guys. The possibilities were absolutely endless right then.
We lingered in the stadium as long as possible, finally leaving when the band did. We ended up going in the same direction, so we just trailed them as they did their cadence. By the time we got to some random Indiana Chili's I was completely exhausted and just so, so happy. It was the best time at a Chili's ever. By anyone. I had the best time anyone has ever had at Chili's.
Unfortunately, it just didn't really work out, man. For various reasons from elbows to Greg Robinson to Al Borges Michigan frustratingly wasted that guy, and so there's a bittersweet tinge to those memories.
So let me put on the old man cap and say the obvious one: 1997 Ohio State. Beating OSU to go undefeated and put yourself in position to win a national title with a defensive performance so ridiculously dominant and that punt return was electric. You could feel the crowd progressively lose its mind, relax, and then tighten up again as Michigan raced out to 20-0 lead and then let it slip back to 20-14. When it was finally obvious that no one was getting 20 on this Michigan D, the validation of Woodson--his coronation--was complete.
Photo credit: Lon Horwedel/AnnArbor.com
The Mathlete: As the non-legacy non-local Michigan fan, I didn't even make it to my first game at the Big House until the 2010 Michigan-Illinois shoot out. I brought my dad with me (decked out in his Kansas State gear everyone mistook for Northwestern) and spent the cold morning tailgating with JamieMac featuring guest appearances by Tim Sullivan (of MGoBlog at the time) and Seth (not of of MGoBlog at the time).
The game itself, well it was something. It turned out to be the last fun moment of the RichRod era. 130+ points, three overtimes and the closest thing to a defensive stand the Greg Robinson era ever produced. There was no Rose Bowl at stake, no Big Ten title. No one knew what the future held but the luster from the Notre Dame game Brian mentioned was long gone, but this was a fun Saturday. Denard had a head injury of some sort and with his job on the line, RichRod threw Tate Forcier back into the fire and still managed to score on virtually every possession.
Within two months Forcier, Rodriguez and [GERG] Robinson were all long gone and everyone quickly moved to forget an ugly era of Michigan football. But it was a great day for my dad and I and one I'll never forget. It was a great day for my dad too and we even made it back to the hotel in time to watch Kansas State throttle Texas behind 9 yards passing.
Seth: "Seth (not of of Mgoblog at the time)."
Of MGoBlog was I, but went I then by a different name.
Ace: I had much the same quandary as Brian when coming up with an answer to this question—perhaps even more so, since my time in the Michigan student section spanned from 2006-2010, and U-M's home schedule in 2006 was rather underwhelming. Think back on the rest of those years and you understand my plight.
That's an issue, since I'd really like to pick a game from my time as a student. While I was lucky enough to start going to games at the Big House in 1994, and saw such classics as the Biakabutuka game and the aforementioned '97 Ohio State and '98 Penn State contests, my youth-clouded memories of those games are almost entirely reinforced by subsequent rewatchings later in life. Choosing one of them, for me, would be akin to picking the '98 Rose Bowl, and I watched Woodson intercept Leaf from the comfort of my neighbor's living room.
Part of me wants to cheat back a few years before college and pick the 2003 Ohio State game, but that took on much more significance in the rivalry drought to come. (Also, by that point I was truly spoiled by Carr's dominance over Cooper, and hadn't yet recalibrated expectations for this Tressel fellow.) Another part wants to say Under The Lights I or the 2011 Ohio State game, but I worked both of those games; as much as I love my job, it's tough to say my greatest Big House experience came during a game in which I wasn't allowed to cheer.
I'm left with games that were best appreciated in the moment. I considered the 2008 Wisconsin game, the most fun I had in the student section at U-M. The 2009 Notre Dame game came to mind, as did Denard's coming-out party to open the 2010 season against UConn.
In the end, though, I have to go with a game that didn't take place in Ann Arbor. After suffering through The Horror, The Dixoning, and the subsequent questioning of everything I ever thought I knew about Michigan football, I nevertheless joined a group of friends in a caravan to East Lansing, where we were greeted my many a green-and-white "34-32" T-shirt.
Our seats were in two different pockets of the exceedingly confident MSU student section; Spartan students had been given inflatable spears upon entering the stadium, which predictably led to constant poking of the Michigan fans seated among them. Proverbial fightin' words were uttered.* This was my first road game, and it had all the components necessary for an intense, potentially glorious one: an evenly matched rival, a seat deep in enemy territory, and the pure adrenalin rush that comes from willingly being in a place where one may not be entirely safe.
It didn't pay off until the end, of course, but when it did—it's tough to even describe the feeling. MSU scored 21 straight points to go up by ten with just 7:40 remaining. Mike Hart, by far my favorite player during my time as a student, saved the day by recovering a Ryan Mallett fumble when the freshman had to replace a banged-up Chad Henne for a snap. Then RoboHenne activated, floating the most beautiful pass I've ever seen in person to Greg Mathews to bring Michigan within three, then winning the game by lobbing one up for a leaping Mario Manningham.
The stunned silence in Spartan Stadium as State's final drive petered out was my everything. The walk back to the car, heads held high, as we gleefully reminded any MSU fan idiotic enough to bring up The Horror that they'd just lost to the team that lost to that team was wonderfully cathartic. I love the Big House and have countless memories from that beautiful building, but there's something about the road game experience that's tough to top.
*One such verbal foray by an MSU student aimed at one of my friends—which I cannot reprint here for a multitude of reasons—backfired so hilariously that he was disowned on the spot by his group of friends. He stood silent, horrified, for the rest of the game. Few moments in the stands have been more rewarding than seeing his face go sheet-white when he realized his attempted insult was really a self-mocking for the ages.