Of The Decade: Best Plays Part I Comment Count

Brian July 29th, 2010 at 1:39 PM

Previously in this series: ESPN Images, Michigan's offense, Michigan's defense, Worst Plays of The Decade 7-11, Worst Plays 1-6.

This one goes to thirteen because we aren't dead yet. Again, a combination of overall impact with a heavy emphasis on how awesome that moment was—if eligible the Donovan goal against Algeria would be the perfect candidate. #13 is admittedly valedictory.

13. Intangibled

Michigan State, 2007: Mike Hart scoops up a Mallett fumble and conjures a first down from air.

If Mike Hart did anything other than run for thousands of yards at Michigan it was pick up blitzers on the most famous Michigan plays of the decade. There weren't any Mike Hart runs on this list because the guy always got caught from behind and Michigan's offense was set up to get its big plays from the passing game for the duration of his tenure, but Hart will block on three of the top four. This had to be rectified, but how? There was that eight yard run against Penn State, but that lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. It was in the first half, for one.

How about this rescue instead?

This may be the most Mike Hart play of Mike Hart's career. Ryan Mallett's come in the game for one play after Chad Henne limped off, and Mallett does what he always did, which was fumble. Michigan's about to be facing a second and forever even if they  get the ball back when Hart pops out of the pack, ball in hand. He then jukes one Spartan out of his shorts and plows over two more for a game-changing first down. He then heads to the sideline because he's so injured he shouldn't even be in the game.

breaston_bird 12. Black Jesus

2003 Illinois: Steve Breaston fields a punt on one sideline and glide-cuts his way all the way across the field, juking six separate Illini before finding a seam and setting sail for the endzone. NOTE: Unfortunately, I can't find this in an embeddable form. It is 15 seconds into this Breaston highlight reel. Picture not relevant.

…was the name message board posters sarcastically bestowed on Steve Breaston as he redshirted and reports of his practice exploits became progressively more ludicrous. "Freshman you've never heard of fails to live up to epic practice hype" is perhaps the most common fall storyline across the country, and Michigan has had more than its fair share of epic busts from Grady Brooks to David Underwood to Kevin Grady. The nickname was a shield against disappointement

When Steve Breaston took the field, though, he somehow managed to exceed the expectations built up over the offseason. This return was the crowning glory; after a half-season full of almosts where he'd get tackled at the five or have something called back on a penalty he didn't need, he waited and waited, making two of those looping back-cuts that would become so familiar and exploding up the sideline.

For the most part teams stopped punting to him after this play, and though he remained amongst the country's most dangerous returners for the duration of his career he never quite recaptured the magic of the first two-thirds of his freshman year. At the moment he did this, though, he could do anything.

11. Ernest Shazor just killed a guy. No, seriously, he's dead

Purdue, 2004: Michigan has a narrow lead in the dying minutes but Purdue wins with a field goal and is driving. Dorien Bryant, then merely a freshman and not yet the Brooks Bollinger memorial eighth year senior, grabs a ball over the middle and starts picking up tons of YAC. Purdue is already in field goal range when Brandon Williams grabs at Bryant's feet, sending him into the air. This is where Ernest Shazor murders him. Bryant coughs up history's most understandable fumble; Leon Hall recovers, ending the game.

I've seen a lot of murderous hits in football, but they're mostly for show. Football's violence is a thrilling, sometimes sad sideshow to the main event; only rarely does the sheer intimidating force of a guy running directly at another guy matter immediately. Not so here. This hit turned a very likely loss into a sure win and ranks as the most CLICK CLICK BOOM play of the decade.

After the hit Shazor evaporated, providing only theoretical resistance against the first terrible appearance of That God Damned Counter Draw in the Michigan State game, about which more later, and entering the NFL draft early only to be passed over entirely. Despite being dead Bryant would go on to be probably Purdue's finest receiver of the decade, though I'll leave that judgment to the Purdue blogs' decentennial glazomania.

This play is lower than I expected because the feelings were more relief and frustration at the defense. A close call against a Purdue team that wasn't at all good (7-5) nearly derailed Michigan's season. Other plays in crappier seasons were fraught with less expectation and more enjoyable, like for instance…

10. The Blip

MGoRetro: We're From Phoenix

Wisconsin, 2008: Donovan Warren breaks up a slant, sending the ball on that parabolic trajectory that screams interception but often ends up hitting the turf. In this instance, Johnny Thompson is in the right place in the right time, catching the ball and picking up a defense's worth of escorts.

Exactly one good thing happened in the entirety of 2008, and this was it. Michigan had just gotten a touchdown thanks to a supremely ill-timed Wisconsin blitz that set Brandon Minor free. One play later Michigan would be in the lead:

Michigan would add another touchdown thanks to a 60-yard Steven Threet read option keeper and hang on for dear life, surviving a two point conversion that tied the game thanks to an illegal formation penalty and stuffing the second attempt.

At the time, the win over a top-ten Wisconsin team seemed like an indicator that even in this season of transition and quarterback incompetence something of Michigan would persist. It seemed super important, and then Toledo blew everything to hell.

9. Chad Henne robot apotheosis

MGoRetro: Nails.

Michigan State, 2007: Chad Henne completes his transformation from inept and injured to flawless robot incapable of understanding pressure by shouting "reprise" and pretending Mario Manningham is Braylon Edwards, completing an improbable Michigan comeback.

I'd somehow managed to get tickets on the 50 yard line in the Michigan student section at Spartan Stadium, and things were tense. Some unlit-cigar-chomping State fan was in my seat and insisted it was his seat to the point where he called the cops over so they could look at my ticket and shrug. He'd eventually switch places with a few Michigan fans outside of the section. At some point early in the second half a woman who looked like she watches a lot of Jenny Jones turned around and screamed something incomprehensible but very angry. She proceeded to do this every five minutes until someone figured out the thing she was saying was "Art Fag U," at which point the guy standing next to me went off about how bigoted that was whenever given an opportunity for the rest of the game, which was every other play.

Meanwhile on the field, Michigan was busy blowing a 14-3 lead in the immediate aftermath of Mark Dantonio's "pride" comments. They gave up three straight touchdowns while managing only one play of significance, a hopeful downfield jump ball that Mario Manningham came up with. With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Michigan was cooked.

In my head, this is when Hart went over to Henne and slapped him really hard. Michigan State backed off their coverage and Michigan marched down the field for a touchdown, dodging the Mallett disaster above, got the ball back, drove some more, and then decided to inflict the maximum amount of pain by joining the Braylon Edwards Historical Reenactment Society:

This is why Michigan State bloggers won't ever delve into their version of the Worst Plays of the Decade. As bad as you thought that was, Michigan State's edition would be typed equivalent of the Hurricane Katrina Valenti rant.

8. "I Saw Cover Zero"

TateMoxie_thumbMGoRetro: Moxie and MacGyver.

Notre Dame, 2009: leading 24-20 early in the fourth quarter, Michigan faces a 4th and 3 in the no man's land where field goals are dodgy and punts get you put on the Worst Plays of the Decade list. Michigan goes for it, calling a bootleg pass for Forcier. Notre Dame's Stephen Filer cuts off the angle, so Forcier breaks his ankles and cuts up into the wide-open middle of the field.

This could have been one of Forcier's scrambles on the game-winning drive or the touchdown that won the game or Charlie Weis's decision to call a 40-yard fly route during Notre Dame's attempt to kill the game—miss you, big guy xoxo—but for sheer impact it's Forcier rewarding Rich Rodriguez's ability to do math:

Forcier's moxie would see Michigan through another two games of desperate fourth-quarter action before disintegrating in overtime against Michigan State and the fourth quarter against Iowa. In this it's similar to the Thompson interception, where early-season hope gave way to the cruel reality of the situation and the opponent turned out to be something less than they were supposed to be.

7. A Knee On The Ground

MGoRetro: Sort of Happy Super Chinese New Football Millennium, but mostly You Were Killed By A Bear And I Am Sad

Citrus Bowl, 2007 season: with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Chad Henne takes a snap and falls to the ground.

The definition of bittersweet.

Michigan had just finished racking up 91 yards of offense against Ohio State, so of course they come out in a shotgun spread attack and put up 41 points on Florida en route to yet another bowl victory over the SEC. Every downfield strike conjured forth a cauldron of mixed emotions: immediate joy. Fist-shaking at the general bloody-mindedness of the universe. Depression about the missed opportunity represented in Chad Henne's healthy shoulder. An entire extra layer of confusion about Mike DeBord. It was like being 15 again, like being 15 again and stuck in a never-ending afterschool special.

But when Henne kneeled and Marques Slocum, of all people, was the first to get Lloyd Carr up on his shoulders, well… IT IS VERY DUSTY IN HERE RIGHT NOW. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR AIR FILTERS. I have allergies, you know. Severe allergies.

At some point you just have to let that frustration go and accept the program for what it is, accept Carr for who he is, and say thanks. He did hole up and punt with a six point lead against Tim Tebow, but how could he go out any other way?


Six Zero

July 29th, 2010 at 1:48 PM ^

That read was as emotional as it was entertaining.

Imagine if there was a St. Brian somewhere in heaven who, every decade or so, posts a killer blog highlighting all of the good things that you did in the past ten years.  And then, of course, compare it to Michigan highlights of the same time period and ask yourself which one is more enjoyable to reminisce.

Go Blue, of course...


July 29th, 2010 at 1:49 PM ^

I've been waiting for this since before the "worst" lists. And these are worth it. I agree, seeing Lloyd get carried off made everyone feel dusty, and the fact that his reaction was "Put me down!" makes it all the better. 

Can't wait for tomorrow


July 29th, 2010 at 2:03 PM ^

I was at a wedding during the 2nd half of the Wisconsin game. I caught the first half at a hotel before the ceremony started. Imagine my surprise when some kid came up to tell me the final score after about 8 drinks during the reception.


July 29th, 2010 at 2:34 PM ^

I understand your point about lack of great runs because he got caught from behind, but hopefully there will be an honorable mention for his awesome run against Penn St in 06 when he pretty much carried the entire PSU defense down to the five.  Probably my favorite Mike Hart moment.


July 29th, 2010 at 3:23 PM ^

forgotten in the horror is a great 4th quarter Hart run where he zigs, zags, almost goes down on a knee and then pants into the endzone.  after that run was the last time everything felt right in the universe.  moments later...

Other Andrew

July 29th, 2010 at 5:09 PM ^

To me, that will always be the great, overlooked tragedy nestled within the mega-tragedy that was The Horror. Michigan played as badly as Michigan has every played in any game, but Mike Hart done everyone the courtesy of winning the game all by himself. And they still managed to piss it all away. I know it was Appalachian State, and it never should have come to that, but "Mike Hart winning the game all by himself" should have been the kickoff to his Heisman campaign. Instead, as you say, it was the beginning of all ensuing awfulness.

Hart also that that fantastic screen-pass reach-the-ball-across-the-goalline TD against Purdue (same game as Shazor's decapitation act). I was in the stadium, and for me, it was the moment that I realized he was going to ascend to greatness as a Wolverine. Shazor's hit was more the moment when he kept me from shitting my pants with rage.


July 29th, 2010 at 2:21 PM ^

the Kool Moe Dee track to go with the Breaston highlights. And what an unreal run.

Always loved that guy, always felt fans were kinda hard on him.


July 29th, 2010 at 2:22 PM ^

No disrespect to Wolverine Historian, but Steve Breaston set to Kool Moe Dee is about the coolest M video ever.

"I go to work like a doctor"... Indeed.


July 29th, 2010 at 2:27 PM ^

We have been blessed and spoiled by these teams and individual efforts.

(Imagine if we were Indiana... Greatest two plays of the Century... Yikes

There are more of these moments to come, Wolverine fans!  Many more...


July 29th, 2010 at 3:06 PM ^

He did something similar in the game against Purdue the previous year (2003), except on the QB (Orton?) on a blitz. Orton was kind of bouncing in the pocket and never saw Shazor coming from his right. He almost took his head off and the ball came flying out.


That game is up there for one of the more enjoyable beatdowns I've been to. Purdue fans were talking a lot on the way into the game, and they were ranked pretty high (top 8?) and we'd had the two punt fuck-up losses that year. Then we just destroyed them, 31-3, IIRC.


July 29th, 2010 at 2:35 PM ^

to say the least, watching McGuffie score against Wisconsin. We Michigan fans have endured a lot the last few years. Hopefully it will make killing people again all the gosh-danged sweeter.


July 29th, 2010 at 2:36 PM ^

I will never, ever forget that shit eating smirk on Dantonio's face when Sparty extended their lead to 10.  The gratifiction of watching him and the rest of the suicide nation (Sparty fans) sulk after another disappointing, yet not totally unexpected, blown lead gives me enormous satisfaction.  Wood, if you will.


July 29th, 2010 at 2:44 PM ^

"This is why Michigan State bloggers won't ever delve into their version of the Worst Plays of the Decade. As bad as you thought that was, Michigan State's edition would be typed equivalent of the Hurricane Katrina Valenti rant."


Seriously.  We've done some horrible, horrible things to them over the years.  I forgot how ridiculous that last TD was.  3rd and 12 from the 30?  That might be even worse than anything OSU did to us, and we're not even to the top 6 and Braylonfest yet.


July 29th, 2010 at 2:44 PM ^

"oh my wide open" from norte dame 06 (could be burgess or woodley tds too)

"new math" penn st '05

brabbs game wasington '02

navarre buffalo stampede from minn '03 (could be leon hall's td return too)

pick your braylon play from bralyonfest '04 msu

tate to matthews 09 nd

I feel like i may be missing an obvious one, but no really great plays belonging here from 00 or 03 osu stick out in my memory


July 29th, 2010 at 2:48 PM ^

Weird, but you are right about 03.  That seemed like no big deal at the time- of course we'll beat them, we're awesome this year and we are at home.  I guess the defiant Chris Perry injury might count. 

I'd put the tying TD from '04 at number 1.  Quite possibly the most exciting day of my life- I was a senior, and had gotten my parents (who were in town from NJ) 2nd row tickets for the game.


July 29th, 2010 at 5:02 PM ^

I don't think I've ever been more nervous before a game (1997 excepted) than before the 2003 OSU game.  We'd lost two straight to Tressel, and while that might not seem as big a deal now, it was a shock after dominating the series before that.  That one game would write Navarre and Perry's legacy.  When a fan behind me said "Please sit down" I turned and screamed at the top of my lungs at him (he was two feet behind me).  Only time I've ever done that.  We needed that game in the worst way. 


July 29th, 2010 at 6:24 PM ^

But those two games were probably the two I was most jacked going into.  I've never screamed louder and more into a game than the '97 OSU.  Wanted to know I left it all out "on the field" too, doing whatever I can to help our team.  And 2003, yes, lots of people were nervous...but I was excited.  I kept telling people, "This is what it's all about. Michigan. OSU.  For all the marbles."  Till I really learned what all the marbles was in '06.  But then, that was down there, and a BIT harder to act really exuberant for.

But I know the feeling.  My twitchy moment was actually the Rose Bowl after '97.  I knew we were better.  But we had found so many ways so many years for it to get screwed up...I don't know if I could have taken it if it had crashed and burned at that point.  I was oddly quiet and nervous at that game.  Till they didn't call the offensive pass interference.  Then I could have killed somebody.


July 29th, 2010 at 2:52 PM ^

though I had different plays and different orders.

6) Field goal to complete 2003 Minnesota comeback.  Not a very exciting play in itself, since the game was tied and there were still ticks on the clock if I recall, but it finished off the biggest comeback in Michigan history.

5) 2006 Notre Dame game, Burgess interception for a touchdown in opening minute.  It happened very early in the game, but it set the tone for one of the best ass-whoopings of all time, and launched momentum for 11 straight wins.

4) Field goal to win 2002 Washington game

3) One of the touchdowns to win the 2004 MSU game.  Not sure which one in particular stands out.  I guess the clinching TD in 3OT, but we still had to play defense after that.

2) 2009 Notre Dame, Forcier to Matthews.

1) Penn state 2005 Henne to Manningham.


This has to be wrong though because Hart is supposedly blocking on 3 of the top 4.


July 29th, 2010 at 3:01 PM ^

Thats why i went with the Oh my wide open from the nd game, i'm assuming hart picked up a blitzer per Brian's teaser.  Also assuming hart picked up blitzers on the braylon fest td we see tomorrow and on new math play.

Mine were in no particular order.  I agree with your number 1.  Prob like braylon fest at 2 and nd 06 at 3, but who is kidding who; they were also tremendous/

Space Coyote

July 29th, 2010 at 3:12 PM ^

Maybe a sweet David Terrell play, or maybe the botched extra point.  Either way, it gave us a BCS bowl victory.

Probably not top 10, but another honorable mention should be Jerome Jackson against Iowa, any carry from Perry in '03 MSU/OSU games.

Honorable mention if they would have worked: the reverse pass to Jake Long against Florida.  Oh how I wish that would have worked.


July 29th, 2010 at 3:16 PM ^


2000 OSU - Henson bootleg.

2002 PSU - OT! (And MSU...impossible to pick one play from the blowout..but I'll take every one). And people forget how good a game beating Florida the FIRST time was.

2003- the mentioned MSU and Minnesota and OSU games.

2004- MSU. Nuff said.

2005 - has some fun ones with MSU pt 2, Penn State, and Iowa.

2006- The games weren't close...but there were some fun ones.

Goes to show how exciting the Wisconsin and ND games were the last two years (two games really low on the ending significance factor) to make the list vs. these.  They were thrilling.


July 29th, 2010 at 3:48 PM ^

In the '03 OSU game, a big moment was when Perry went to the ground after a run (heading to the South endzone) and the 118,112 chanted "Per-ry, Per-ry" continuously until he rose from the turf and danced around like Happy Perry Being Happy!

los barcos

July 29th, 2010 at 4:06 PM ^

something has to be included from the 2003 msu game where perry ran the ball, i think, 87 times. 


also, IMO, as awesome as the 2009 nd game was - the false hopes that we might finally be back - it wound up being a good game against two teams who didnt even go to bowl games.  to have two plays from that game, including having one being the "top play of the decade" would be watering down the list.