The Climb, Part IX: Judgment

The Climb, Part IX: Judgment Comment Count

Dr. Sap November 6th, 2017 at 4:54 PM

[Ed-Seth: This being the 20th anniversary of the 1997 National Championship, Michigan historian Dr. Sap is taking us game-by-game through it. Previously: Those Who Stayed (Colorado); The Hit (Baylor); The Stop (Notre Dame); The Captain’s Down (Indiana); Vengeance (Northwestern), Gut Check (Iowa), Six Picks (Michigan State), The Trap (Minnesota)]


November 8, 1997: #4 Michigan 34, #2 Penn State 8

  • also #1 Nebraska 45, Missouri 38 (OT) thanks to the “Flea Kicker”
  • also also #3 Florida State 20, #5 North Carolina 3

Materials: Articles. WH Highlights Part II. Entire broadcast by j bakkar:

watch the whole thing if you’ve got time.


Week #8 was barely in the books when ESPN’s Beano Cook lit the fuse for the much anticipated match-up between #4 Michigan and #2 Penn State. While Michigan easily took care of Minnesota the week before, Penn State held on to beat Northwestern by only a single point. Much like UM, perhaps PSU had a “Trap Game” of their own?None of this mattered to the Howard Cosell-like curmudgeon, Cook.

To Beano, the unabashed East Coast lover of all things Notre Dame and Penn State, victory for JoePa was a mere formality the next week against Lloyd Carr and his Wolverines. So much so that on Saturday night, one week before the big game, he uttered the now famous phrase: “Don’t even bother showing up next week, Michigan. JUST SEND THE BAND!”

The buildup to the titanic clash of undefeateds was raised up another notch when at the Monday press conference in Ann Arbor, Charles Woodson didn’t shy away when asked what was on everyone’s minds:

just the nation?

Prophetically, Woodson also offered this nugget: "If everybody says that the Heisman Trophy is given to truly the best player in the country, I would think I'd have a legitimate shot at winning," he correctly offered.

Penn State vs. Michigan’s band

No one in that room argued that point, and neither did Penn State head coach Joe Paterno when he said that he thought #2 was a great athlete and quite possibly the best EVER in college football history! JoePa’s compliments on Woodson start at the 5:17 mark in this clip here.

To ratchet up the pre-game hype even more, ESPN dubbed the historic weekend, “Judgment Day.” This wasn’t just because of the UM-PSU tilt. The ACC had their own epic clash of undefeateds as 3rd-ranked Florida State (8-0) was playing at 5th-ranked North Carolina (8-0), in Chapel Hill, NC. For all you Husker lovers out there, #1 Nebraska was playing at Missouri this same day and was expected to win rather easily.

The historical significance of this type of day in college football occurring so late in the season was best described by Beano Cook (at the 2:50 mark in this clip):

For those of you too young to know what Hale-Bopp was, there was a comet we could all just go outside and stare at for over a year

[Hit THE JUMP for the best game Michigan ever played]


For Anyone Who's Ever Known a Penn State Fan

For Anyone Who's Ever Known a Penn State Fan Comment Count

Seth October 4th, 2013 at 5:04 PM

NotMyFault_1024x1024I forgot I promised Brian to do a post about this before I went ahead and launched it in Guess the Score. Anyway, meet my favorite shirt we've ever made except maybe the Space Emperor ones. Zoom? Zoom:


To relive the excuses hit the jump. To order the shirt hit the link. We're going to preorder a bunch of these for people who'd like them in time for the game.


Q&A: The Hit, 15 Years Later

Q&A: The Hit, 15 Years Later Comment Count

Ace November 2nd, 2012 at 4:59 PM

On November 8th, 1997, Michigan traveled to Happy Valley to take on Penn State in a battle of unbeaten squads. The Wolverines pulled the upset, 34-8, led by Chris Howard's 120 rushing yards and the exploits of eventual Heisman winner Charles Woodson, who caught a 37-yard touchdown pass.

The lasting image of that game, however, was the violent collision between Michigan safety Daydrion Taylor and Penn State tight end Bob Stephenson on an otherwise-innocuous first-quarter completion. The hit, perhaps the hardest in Michigan history, ended the football careers of both players.

During the pre-game show before tomorrow's Michigan-Minnesota game, the Big Ten Network will mark the 15-year anniversary of that play with a feature on the hit, with exclusive interviews of Taylor, Stephenson, Woodson, Brady Hoke, and others who were there to witness it first-hand. I've had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at the piece, and also had the pleasure of speaking with Julian Darnell, the producer of the feature, and Bill Friedman, the BTN's coordinating producer of original programming. The feature is powerful and sheds light on how Taylor and Stephenson have both moved on from the hit—both, in fact, are now coaching youth football—and I highly encourage you to check it out tomorrow. Below are excerpts from my conversations with Darnell and Friedman:

What was the purpose in putting this piece together?

Julian: I guess the purpose on my end was to reflect on the events—it's certainly newsworthy considering what we've seen in football nowadays, you look to the next level and you see everything in regards to head-first football in NFL, the changes they've made to the football that I was used to seeing when I was coming up, and it just made for an interesting story.

It really piqued my interest, especially when you see, for me, the names that participated in that game. On one side you have Curtis Enis, who was a number one pick, you have Joe Jurevicius, who was a future world champion with Tampa Bay, Charles Woodson, who was the eventual Heisman Trophy winner that year and a Super Bowl champion, Dhani Jones, whom we know very well, Jon Jansen, whom we know very well as well, just so many great names. And it was a great win by Michigan, no question about it, but just that hit, when you see it, it still resonates today.

It really resonated for me when I had the opportunity to talk to Charles Woodson. I had a chance to interview him at Green Bay. During the pre-prep interview when he came in, I was going to show him the hit, because, you know, it's been 15 years. And he's like, "I don't need to see it, I remember." And he did. The details, he remembered it, he didn't need to see it. And this is a guy who's played a whole lot of football since Michigan, and to remember it in the detail that he did, and he didn't even need to see it or want to see it, just resonated to me that, "Okay, I'm really onto something that can really be everlasting," in my opinion. That's what stood out to me.

Bill: The collision between Daydrion Taylor and Bob Stephenson happened 15 years ago this season, so that was kinda the time hook to it. With concussions being a bigger subject matter every day in the national football landscape, we though it'd be an interesting piece, too.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Q&A.]


Unverified Voracity Reminisces About Defenses Past

Unverified Voracity Reminisces About Defenses Past Comment Count

Brian October 28th, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Podcasting. No podcast this week due to a fiasco involving a flight to Ireland out of Chicago and the MGoFiancee's unwise decision to leave her passport in Ann Arbor, but I do appear on the latest edition of the Solid Verbal. My bit is at around the 23 minute mark.

Blood Battle. Michigan's annual contest against Ohio State to see which school can donate more pints of blood* is awwwwn. Hit up their website for details. Michigan won 2449-2350 last year—I should put up a ticker that says 1343 DAYS SINCE OHIO STATE BEAT MICHIGAN AT BLEEDING. Ain't got no other tickers to put up.

BONUS: There's an organ donor challenge going on too, and Michigan is winning that too.

*(Attention OSU fans: cutting yourself with a broken bottle in a bar fight and oozing all over your Busch Light totally counts this year.)

Penn State past. MGoVideo's put together every snap videos from the '97 Judgment Day demolition:

There's also the 2006 defense. WARNING: watching these videos may make you powerfully nostalgic for defenses that have people on them who play football.

Lack of Cox explained. If you've been wondering why Michael Cox can't get a snap this helps explain it:

Rodriguez disclosed Wednesday that running back Michael Cox has had “a knee issue” for the past few weeks, and that his growth and practice has been limited.

He probably won't play much the rest of the year since he was a guy who really needed the practice reps for mental sharpness—Rodriguez said something about him needing to know the whole playbook before he sees the field. Also there are three guys in front of him. With Mike Shaw healthy and Stephen Hopkins easing into more playing time snaps are going to be fought for tooth and nail.

Also, Devin Gardner's back injury is still hampering him but they will bring him to Penn State in case there is an emergency.

Bolden yes no question? Robert Bolden was go, then he was no go, and now he's go?

Penn State freshman starting quarterback Rob Bolden has passed his Wednesday test intended to determine whether he is over effects from an apparent concussion suffered on Saturday at Minnesota.

Probably not. Penn State insider types (and Bolden's dad) are saying that Bolden has not practiced since the Minnesota game. There's little chance a guy who can't practice Wednesday will be ready to go Saturday, or prepared even if he is. Bolden's mom:

"He really wants to play against Michigan -- his heart is just going to be really broken since he can't," Williams said from her home in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Mich. "He failed that concussion test Sunday, which is not good.

"I think it's best for him if they sit him down this week. Hopefully, he can play next week [Nov. 6 against Northwestern]."

Beating Penn State without Bolden would cheapen the victory but right now the program needs a win of any variety, cheap or not. Also, did I mention that DE Jack Crawford is still out? That leaves Penn State starting either that freshman DT or a really bad veteran or stuffing lightweight pass rusher and doghouse resident Sean Stanley into the starting lineup. If Penn State goes with the DT Michigan should tell Robinson to keep it every time he tries to keep contain.

At least one thing has not gone horribly disastrously wrong. FO's Brian Fremeau has finally done the thing that I always thought should be done with punting stats: measured the average result of punts from every yard line on the field and ranked teams by how much above or below they are that break-even line. Michigan's standing in that advanced measure:

Punt Efficiency Top-10 Punt Return Efficiency Top-10
Rank Team PE Punts Rank Team PE Punts
1 Oregon -.192 19 1 Utah .528 41
2 Middle Tennessee -.136 37 2 Maryland .340 27
3 Missouri -.135 28 3 Oregon .336 29
4 Michigan -.132 22 4 UNLV .335 22
5 Florida State -.129 22 5 Michigan State .270 37
6 Nebraska -.116 20 6 Northern Illinois .260 27
7 LSU -.109 30 7 Texas Tech .248 35
8 UTEP -.098 23 8 Boise State .243 28
9 Alabama -.097 18 9 Kent State .237 35
10 South Carolina -.095 19 10 Fresno State .233 33

Fremeau doesn't provide a link to a list of all I-A teams so we can't find out exactly how terrible the punt returns have been but… dang. Fourth nationally is a huge difference from the conventional net yardage measure, in which M has dragged itself up to 44th after starting the year in triple digits thanks to Will Hagerup's nervy start. 

I wish Fremeau would provide an alternate measure that assumed an average number of punts per game and approximated how many points per game being 13% better than average is worth—my slightly educated guess is it's around a field goal. Net punting average is about 37 yards. 13% of 37 yards is about five yards, and this Advanced NFL Stats post estimates that a season-long four yard advantage in field position is worth 2.8 points per game. Michigan's yardage difference is bigger but punts are less frequent, so… yeah. Will Hagerup is worth two or three points a game.

Meanwhile, Michigan is a shiny 120th in field goal efficiency, which is bad.

Ufer. A couple days ago was the anniversary of Bob Ufer's death in 1981.

Etc.: If you need a photo of the band, or six billion of them, there is an official site dedicated to doing so. Hey, Michigan Hockey Scheduler guy: don't put a home hockey game smack dab in the middle of a football game, thanks. This MZone post about college fooball coaches's Halloween costumes is horrifying. MNB compares Michigan players to characters in the Wire. Demerit: somehow gives Snoop to someone other than Jeremy Gallon. Merit: members of the secondary are Namond, Randy, Michael, and Dookie.