A Game of Inches

Submitted by wolvrine32 on June 11th, 2009 at 12:17 PM
Editor's note: Lo siento for a day short of content; I am going to New York for a sportsblogging conference, which yes what a strange life I lead. I may or may not have time to get something up in the late afternoon; tomorrow should be a regular day.

Instead of my content, here's a fun diary I've bumped. Actually, wait, this is extremely painful. Dammit.

Football is such a game of inches. If you could go back in time and gently nudge a single play in Michigan’s favor, which would you choose to change? I’m not talking about randomly adding 7 points to a game, but rather a minor change to an actual play that has a huge effect. This is my list:

10. Michigan v Nebraska, 2005 Alamo Bowl
– Steve Breaston is RIGHT THERE and you don’t flip the ball to him? Oh Ecker. I would go back and have you make one little pitch. Although this game had no global impact or anything, it would’ve been nice to beat Nebraska.

9. Michigan v Northwestern, 2000 -
Did we really deserve to win this game? Probably not. But we certainly would have but for one little fumble, almost an unforced error by Anthony Thomas (one of my favorite players.) If he just puts both arms on the ball in the waning minutes, Michigan wins an odd Big Ten shootout.

8. Michigan v Michigan State, 1990 – We got jobbed on the 2-pt conversion. If Desmond can hold on for just another .5 seconds, it’s good. This game marks my first sports bet. It, um, wasn’t my last.

7. Michigan v Ohio State, 2006 – How many plays in this game could’ve gotten us a victory? I’ll focus on 2, though both involve the same player, Shawn Crable. Crable had Beanie Wells for a loss in the backfield, and let him get by for 7. Then he gets the infamous penalty on Troy Smith, and if his head were just a few inches lower he’s probably in the clear and we have a shot at the win. This game isn’t on the list as a guaranteed win, but I’d just have liked to see us with the chance at the end. That’s why it isn’t higher.

6. Michigan v Texas, 2005 Rose Bowl –
Vince Young loses if Dusty Mangum’s FG attempt is blocked. I forget which defender it was, but one Wolverine was literally an inch or two from blocking it. It certainly appeared to me that if he didn’t touch the football, he felt the breeze on his hand as it went by. Would’ve been nice to have won this one, and we were maybe an inch away.

5. Michigan v ND, 1990 – This game was on ESPN Classic the other day. Michigan was leading by 28-14 in the 4th quarter and driving deep in Irish territory. I’m thinking, how the hell did we lose this game? Then Elvis tossed a bad interception to Michael Stonebreaker, and the rest is history. If that ball is just tipped or dropped, or sails over his head, we kick a FG and win easily. Sigh.

4. Michigan v ND, 1988 –
Mike Gillette’s field goal attempt sailed wide by inches. Lou Holtz goes on to win a MNC, and I generally hate life for awhile. This one was personal, though Michigan only lost 2 games (and tied Iowa) and had a great season.

3. Michigan v Appalachian State, 2007 – Shawn Crable, can’t you just block the guy? Seriously? Or Steve Brown, can’t you just tackle the guy in the first quarter? Really? Truth is you could probably pick 10 plays from this game an inch here or there and it goes the other way.

2. Michigan v Iowa, 1985 - If that damn field goal at the end misses, or one Wolverine hand gets on it, chances are Michigan wins a National Championship for Bo a year after going 6-6. Yes, Michigan tied Iowa, but I personally believe that if we’d topped Iowa we’d have beaten Illinois. Just the impact of that game alone warrants being very high on this list, but for me personally, well. We all have that first loss when you’re old enough to know what’s really going on and you’ve developed enough of a passion that it *matters*. This was that game for me personally. It hurt. A lot.

1. Michigan v Colorado, 1994 - I don’t even really have to say which play, do I? It would be nice to avoid sitting there in the stands for a half hour after the game just looking at the crumpled up freebie program and thinking about the meaninglessness of existence. Feel free to share your own, I'm sure I've forgotten a ton. And please let me know if you have a time machine I can borrow.



June 10th, 2009 at 10:18 PM ^

Yeah, but there were about 500 different ones in that one. I was there. I graduated from Toledo, but Michigan has always been my school. What I WANTED was for Michigan to win, but Toledo to play epically well, and both schools use it as a springboard to a great season.

Instead, both sucked, and Michigan sucked just a little more. A few inches more, to be precise.


June 10th, 2009 at 11:54 AM ^

How about squibbing a kick, or even kicking it OOB once or twice in the 1989 ND game?

Thats gotta to be on my list somewhere.

And, regarding the 1985 Iowa game. I'd like to focus, not on the FG make at the end, but the INT that went right through Brad Cochrane's hand on Iowa's eventual game winning drive.

Thats the play in that game I'd like to have back.


June 10th, 2009 at 5:02 PM ^

IIRC, we dominated that 1989 game statistically, just couldn't get a tackle on a KO.

I was a young teen in 1985 and was so frustrated with the game that I picked a fight with my younger brother. I wound up punching him in the head hard enough to warrant an ER visit. That was a life lowlight in many ways.

Number 7

June 11th, 2009 at 10:13 AM ^

I remember this clearly - one of my first sports memories in fact. I was certain, after watching the replays on the old black-and-white, that once the refs saw what had happened, they would overturn the call and replay the game from the point of the TD-turned-fumble. When I found out, the next morning, that the play -- and the score (17-10, USC I believe) would stand -- I realized that actually, life isn't always fair. A big deal for me at the time.


June 23rd, 2009 at 9:44 AM ^

and a ND fan sold me the tix. I was sitting in the endzone screaming, "the ball never left the four yard line!!!" I can vividly remember the UM player holding up the ball at the four while Holiday scampered into the endzone holding nothing but his elbows. That was the cheapest, worst BS play ever IMO. If only replay was around then....

The Texas game mentioned above had another play that would have made the difference. How about Pat Massey with a bear hug on Vince Young in the final drive, and somehow he slithers out of it and runs away? That should have been a sack, Massey was plenty big enough to muscle Vince down. That was still a great game though, and it made me feel better watching Vince do the same number to win the title the very next year.


June 10th, 2009 at 12:11 PM ^

that game that just hurts you inside, I have a couple of those as well. Obviously 2006 Ohio State hurt me a lot. In other sports, there was Game 7 of the NBA Finals. That took me a while to get over. Also, Game 5 of the World Series in 2006. Watching St. Louis celebrate after beating my team literally brought a tear to my eye. It was one of the hardest things I've had to watch.


June 10th, 2009 at 12:20 PM ^

No exactly "inches", but a fumble on the 2 yard line on 1st and 10 after a 80+ yard drive as the half expires in a 3-0 game... killer. Especially since it was the first and only carry for DT Will Carr that year. Still mad at Lloyd for that call.

Fuck Lion

June 10th, 2009 at 12:28 PM ^

The 1999 Superbowl against the Rams truly defines a "game of inches" for me. I watched it as a kid, and yea I cried a little. I still get emotional every time I see the replay.

As far as the Wolverines go, that Michigan-Texas Rose Bowl was great to watch. They sure could have used an inch on blocking that field goal. But how great was having all those USC fans feel the same thing the next year? That awful feeling of knowing something is coming but being unable to stop it.

Coming full circle, I was thus pleased when the Titans picked Vince Young in the draft. Too bad he hasn't lived up to that Bowl game magic since.


June 10th, 2009 at 12:30 PM ^

it was Prescott Burgess that partially blocked the FG IIRC.

Another one was Michigan - Ohio State 2005. Anthony Gonzalez made that catch on 3rd and 11 (?) that eventually led to the game winning touchdown. It was a great catch in front of Grant Mason that if he would have been positioned a little better or the pass had just sailed a little bit farther behind him, Michigan could have walked away with a upset that would have saved an otherwise disappointing season.


June 10th, 2009 at 12:31 PM ^

1973-Mich-OSU- Give Landry the FG(which from the camera angle looks good anyway) Mich may win a NC.

1988-Mich-Hurricanes-If LB wraps up back on crossing route time probably runs out on the Canes as opposed to them scoring...hurts still.

2006-Pick anything but the Henne overthrow to Manningham just off his fingers could have switched momentum in the 1st half.

2002-Push off call on Braylon prevents TD and gives Buckeyes NC

1989-Horesshit holding call on fake punt steals Bo's final victory..how much did that ref have on the game??


June 10th, 2009 at 2:07 PM ^

I almost never miss Michigan football, ever. The list of what I've missed since 1984 is extremely short, and only includes parts of 4-5 games.

We were up by 2 TD's in the 4th, and I had something going on that was important (who can remember now?) I remember distinctly thinking "well, we've got this one in the bag, and even if Miami were to come back, would I really want to see that? Ha ha. That's not gonna happen." I quit watching and left.

So I missed it.


June 11th, 2009 at 3:00 PM ^

That was my first M game ever, 14th birthday, the first year my father had season tickets. Every local bandwagon jumping Miami fan was there and horribly obnoxious. M was up 16 points with six minutes left over a Hurricane team that featured Steve Walsh, gave up two TDs, an onside kick and a gut punching game winning FG with seconds left.


June 10th, 2009 at 12:39 PM ^

Michigan V Texas was Shazor. I think the closeup showed that he got a piece of it, which is why it looked like such a wobbly duck.


June 10th, 2009 at 12:54 PM ^

It was the last game of the state finals. We were tied -
in the end of the third period. Sure enough, I get a penalty shot. I go in, I triple deke. Faked the goalie right out of his pads.

The puck's headed in, and then... Clang! Hits the post. We ended up losing in overtime.

We lost the state title for the first time ever that year. Just a quarter inch the other way and it goes in...


June 10th, 2009 at 2:38 PM ^

Yeah, but a quarter inch the other way and you would've missed completely.

I always hated that line. Since when do they give points for hitting the post?

As to the original post: Definitely 2006 vs. OSU. 'cause I was going CRAZY when he got that stop, only to have it called back on a helmet to helmet. And mark my words, we were a WAY better matchup in the NC game than OSU was.


June 10th, 2009 at 5:40 PM ^

It was Game 6 on the road. 3rd period. I received a pass on the blue line and carried it towards the goal on my backhand. Just as the defender tried to poke at the puck, I went under his stick to my forehand and lifted a quick shot over the goalie. Beat him cold.

The puck's headed in, and then...Clang! hits the post, and the goalie gets lucky enough to sit on the puck instead of knock it back into the goal. We end up losing by 1 instead of going to overtime.


June 10th, 2009 at 12:57 PM ^

IIRC didn't Marquise Walker just DROP the ball as he was running down the sideline when we lost to them out there in '01?

Also, that darn '05 Notre Dame game that started the avalanche of losses that year, Michigan left at least 21 points on the field with Henne's supposed fumble .0001mm away from the endzone and a few other redzone trips that came away empty, and Mike Hart's stupid knee, or ankle or whatever it was that held him to something like 3 carries for 4 yards probably would have done us a favor by staying healthy.

North Star

June 10th, 2009 at 2:04 PM ^

There were 2 plays in 1985 between undefeated season and the one loss - one tie actual record: (1) first series on Iowa's final game winning drive, Brad Cochran steps in front of out route and a sure interception bounces off his chest - Iowa drives on to kick FG, wins 12-10; (2) on the road v. Illinois, Gerald White fumbles on the Illinois 1 yard line w/ game tied 3-3 late in 4th quarter (he falls into end zone w/o the ball, so 10-3 lead never happened - change those 2 plays and M goes to Rose Bowl for national title.

In 1986, Ricky Foggie busts 30+ yard scramble on 3rd and long, setting up game winning FG - a crushing preview of M defense's future struggles w/ running QB's

The 1985 team was better - possibly the best defense Bo ever had.

Big Boutros

June 10th, 2009 at 3:55 PM ^

I think all of the above choices are spot-on, so for the sake of novelty I will go with Minnesota 2005 and Gary Russell's unintentional 70-something yard touchdown.


June 10th, 2009 at 6:07 PM ^

One game I would change, Michigan didn't even play in it. The play I am thinking of is the catch in the Nebraska/Missouri game in 1997. The receiver kicks it in the air and another Nebraska receiver scoops it before it hits the ground. Literally cost Michigan the outright title.

North Star

June 10th, 2009 at 9:57 PM ^

actually, the Iowa score was 12-10 in 1985 - original post had both right (I was at both games). In any event, there are a lot of near misses. How about the ones that went the other way?

1. Penn St. - Manningham makes winning TD catch as time expires
2. Braylon Edwards several times in the classic OT game v. Sparty
3. Desmond Howard v. ND catching the pass in the corner at home to pull out the win
4. Last second TD pass to beat Virginia - don't recall who caught it
5. M beating Iowa on last second field goals at home in 1983 (Bob Bergeron) and 1986 (Mike Gillette)
6. Anthony Carter catching winning TD to avert loss to Corso-led Hoosiers in 1978 (not bad for a freshman)


Apologize for forgetting the years on some of these - I'm getting old


June 11th, 2009 at 8:14 PM ^

Ah yes, the infamous play before the play. Corso complains about whenever it gets brought up, but i was under the historical impression that that play was legal in 1979.

Oh, and, correction to the correction to the correction. The game was in 1979.

UM lost to ND earlier 12-10 on a block FG when Bob Crable (no relation) climbed on the back on the DT. Rule changed in the offseason afterwards so you could not do that anymore.

I add that because I always thought that 1979 was an interesting season for UM because 2 of its games were decided on plays in the final possession that were made illegal in the offseason.

I could be way wrong, though. Memories are a hazy thing, after all.


June 11th, 2009 at 10:54 PM ^

I wonder if there's a metric on this somewhere: UM games have led to at least 2 rule changes and 2 policy changes that I know of, off-hand. There might be more. Here are the 4 I know:

1) The 1974 loss to OSU on the last-second FG by Mike Lantry that was (erroneously) called wide. Up until then, only one referee was stationed under the uprights. Ever since that fiasco, there have been two. Thanks, fellas...

2) This game (plus the ones in '72 and '73, and yes the lure of TV $$) led to the Big Ten finally abandoning their Rose Bowl-only policy after Michigan teams that finished 10-1 and 10-0-1 stayed home for the holidays.

3) The '79 Indiana game mentioned here, which led to at least a clearer rule about intentional fumbles.

4) The Sparty game in 2001 -- when time stood still -- led to the change in the Big Ten's policy for clock-keeping.

Any others anybody know of?