Previously: 1984 Miami
The Highlights: WolverineHistorian
The Setup: We left off with Michigan's opening game from the 1984 season, so there's clearly some catching up to do. After knocking off #1 Miami, the Wolverines fell back to earth the next week with a 20-11 defeat at the hands of #16 Washington, and a few weeks later they'd suffer their worst loss when Jim Harbaugh broke his arm diving for a fumble against Michigan State. Michigan went on to lose that game, and with Harbaugh out for the season the Wolverines stumbled to a 6-6 record, their worst under Bo Schembechler.
In Natural Enemies, John Kryk laid out the stakes for the 1985 season opener against Notre Dame:
Never was a Notre Dame-Michigan game more pivotal for both teams than the one played at Michigan Stadium on September 14, 1985.
Michigan was coming off its worst season in 17 years, 6-6, and its fourth straight with fewer than 10 wins. Some critics were suggesting the game had passed coach Bo Schembechler by.
Notre Dame was coming off another mediocre campaign, 7-5, and coach Gerry Faust was entering the final year of a five-year contract. It was believed Faust had to take the Fighting Irish to a major bowl game to have any chance of staying.
Thus, for both teams, for both coaches, this game was the crossroads. The winner would spring toward the path of rejuvenation; the loser would turn back and battle the same old demons for yet another season.
The mood was so tense in the week leading up to the game that after Harbaugh threw a couple picks in a scrimmage against the first-team defense, Schembechler threatened to bench him for Chris Zurbrugg, who'd filled in for Harbaugh the previous season with middling results.
Despite both teams' mediocre results the year before, this matchup wasn't short on talent. Michigan had Harbaugh, Jamie Morris, and a pair of All-Americans in defensive lineman Mike Hammerstein and cornerback Brad Cochran. Notre Dame featured longtime NFL QB Steve Beuerlein (though coming off major shoulder surgery), a Heisman Trophy candidate at running back in Allen Pinkett, and future Heisman winner Tim Brown at receiver.
[Hit THE JUMP.]
The Game: Bo didn't bench Harbaugh, of course. The motivational ploy didn't produce instant results, however, as Notre Dame controlled the action in the first half. While Michigan's defense couldn't prevent the Irish from moving the ball in the early going, they stiffened up in the red zone, twice forcing John Carney field goals after ND had advanced into the red zone. Carney hit all three of his field goal attempts in the first half, adding a 47-yarder just prior to halftime.
Michigan, meanwhile, couldn't get anything going. Harbaugh completed just two of his ten first-half passes, and the Wolverines crossed midfield only twice, resulting in two Mike Gillette field goal attempts. Gillette split the pair, and Michigan went into the locker room down 9-3.
The game swung with the opening kickoff of the second half. Notre Dame returner Alonzo Jefferson fumbled Rick Sutkiewicz's short kick off his knee, and Michigan's Dieter Heren pounced on the ball at the Irish 14-yard line. In Irish Eyes, Notre Dame's review of the 1985 season (PDF link), Schembechler is quoted as saying, "it was the only time the Lord looked down on somebody other than Notre Dame."
Facing a third-and-six on the ensuing drive, Michigan dialed up a gorgeous quarterback draw. Harbaugh capped off the ten-yard run with a headfirst dive into the end zone and an exuberant celebration:
Notre Dame's next drive stalled quickly, but they got new life when Erik "Soup" Campbell muffed a punt that Cochran had nearly blocked, setting the Irish up inside Michigan's 30-yard line. Again, the defense came up huge in the shadow of their own goal posts, stuffing Pinkett on three straight carries to force a fourth Carney field goal.
Harbaugh finally got the passing game going on the next drive, spearheading an 80-yard touchdown drive with first-down throws to Paul Jokisch, Jamie Morris, and Gilvanni Johnson; he picked up another with the wild reverse-field scramble at the top of this post. The running game clicked, Notre Dame picked up a roughing the passer call to extend the drive, and Gerald White finally scored from three yards out after Michigan had run 7:02 off the game clock.
Another long possession, this one 7:18, ended in a Gillette field goal after an Irish goal-line stand. Michigan led 20-12 and left Notre Dame with few opportunities to even the score. A last-gasp drive from the Irish got all the way to the 11-yard line. Yet again, the defense came up huge. Mike Hammerstein, a dominant force all game, and Mark Messner combined to sack Beuerlein. That set up a fourth-and-16, and the two D-line stalwarts blew it up—Hammerstein exploded off the ball, forcing a hold, while Messner tore off the left side to induce a back-footed throw easily intercepted by Doug Mallory:
Michigan ran out the clock to preserve the critical win and break into the top 25 after being left off the preseason polls.
As many anticipated, this game set the tone for both programs in 1985. The Wolverines would finish 10-1-1, losing only to then-#1 Iowa despite not giving up a touchdown, with a season-ending victory over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl. The Irish stumbled to a 5-6 record, capped by a 58-7 blowout against Miami in the season finale. Gerry Faust, who'd jumped straight from Cincinnati Moeller High School to Notre Dame in 1981, would be replaced by Minnesota coach Lou Holtz in the offseason.
The Harbaugh: Harbaugh's passing numbers were a little rough—7/17, 74 yards—and he did almost all of his damage through the air on the long touchdown drive. Instead, he did his best work as a runner, rushing nine times for 60 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.
The Most '80s
Screencap Segment of the Game: Eventually these won't be the intro graphics, but this is too good to overlook:
The X's and O's playing out an insane QB sweep with motioning TE misdirection is just perfect.