This thread is a total rip off of IronDMK's excellent thread "Changing Michigan football history one play at a time" from yesterday.
This one focuses on the positive side of big plays in Michigan history. What successful plays changed the history of Michigan sports? Not just big plays in big games, but plays that changed the very trajectory of Michigan sports . . . plays that define who we are.
Here are some candidates for consideration:
1991 - Michigan vs. Ohio State football: Desmond Strikes The Pose. Like Brandi Chastain in her sports bra, it produced an iconic image that transcends the actual sport itself.
1997 - Michigan vs. Ohio State football: Charles Woodson's punt return TD. It broke open a tight game against OSU and provided just enough buffer for a 20-14 win. After that play, an undefeated season, Heisman Trophy, and National Championship were merely destiny.
1989 - Michigan vs. Seaton Hall basketball: Rumeal's free throws to win it all in OT. If you had told anybody that year that Michigan would win the National Championship, on free throws no less, you would have been committed. It was Michigan's first NC in any team sport since 1960.
1969 - Michigan vs. Ohio State football: Barry Pierson's punt return down to the 3 yard line in Bo's first game versus Woody. Don Moorhead scores two plays later on an option play, to shockingly put Michigan up 21–12. It was those 2 plays that put the seed of doubt in Ohio State's mind that this was not going to be the walk over they thought it was going to be. The win over an undefeated "best college football team ever" Ohio State put Bo's program on the map and launched the Ten Years War.
1996 - Michigan vs. Colorado College hockey: Brendan Morrison's 3-2 goal 3:35 into overtime to give Michigan its long-elusive National Championship win. After multiple overtime failures to reach the Frozen Four, and in the Frozen Four itself, Michigan finally gets its breakthrough win, gets the Monkey off Red's back, and gets the Hobey Baker Award to boot.
1990 - Michigan vs. Ohio State football: Michigan stonewalls Ohio State on 4th and 2 in OSU territory. The game is tied with Ohio State having the ball in their own territory and time running out. A tie would prevent Ohio from winning the Big Ten, so Cooper decides go for it on 4th down. He calls an option play which Michigan immediately shuts down behind the line of scrimmage. We then kick a short field goal to win the game. It was this loss that cemented the reputation of Cooper as Michigan's perpetually befuddled pawn.
1950 - Michigan vs. Ohio State football: The Snow Bowl blocked punt. With 47 seconds remaining in the first half, Tony Momsen of Michigan blocked a Buckeye punt and fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown. That was all the "offense" Michigan would need to beat Ohio State in a Rudolophian blizzard of epic proportions. Every time it ever snows during a football game, we get to see a clip of that punt block against a hapless Ohio State team and its glum frozen fans.
2013 - Michigan vs. Kansas basketball: The "Trey". Up until this season, Beilein had never won more than one game in the NCAA tourney with Michigan. The breakthrough to finally get out of the first weekend and reach the Sweet Sixteen would have probably been good enough for most reasonable Michigan fans. But Trey Burke's 3 pointer to tie the game with only seconds left, after being down 12 with under 2 minutes to play, changed the trajectory of the entire season and the program itself. It was all destiny after that. The team caught fire and the Final Four seemed almost inevitable. The National Championship game has put Beilein and his team on the map of elite programs, triggering other programs to rush the court when they manage to beat us in mid-November. That's rarified air reserved for the Dukes and UNC's of the world.