Changing Michigan football history one play at a time

Submitted by IronDMK on November 21st, 2013 at 11:01 AM

Sometimes it’s fun to think about how one little play can change the outcome of a game, or perhaps an entire college football season.  The 4th quarter against Northwestern this past Saturday provided several examples.  I began to think about certain plays in Michigan football history that likely had a large impact on the respective team.  Obviously there are plays that caused Michigan fans to rejoice (2005 Penn State for example) but there are certainly some that live in infamy.  So I wanted to bring this to the MGoBlog community: If you could change the outcome of any ONE PLAY in Michigan football history, which play would it be and WHY?  This is not meant to be a “woe is me” sort of post.  I just had fun with it and thought some others might too.  For me, it’s probably the Hail Mary from Kordell motherfuckin Stewart in 1994.  I believe that single play cost them a special season… and I hate seeing it replayed.

I came up with a short list to jog your memories (though I doubt you need any help).

1973 Michigan versus Ohio State – Lantry misses last second field goal

1979 Rose Bowl versus USC – Phantom touchdown

1987 Rose Bowl versus Arizona State – holding called on successful fake punt

1990 versus MSU – Desmond tripped and pass incomplete on 2-pt conversion

2000 versus Northwestern – Anthony Thomas fumbles on “game clinching” possession

2001 versus MSU – 12 men on the field, Spartan Bob, you pick

2005 Rose Bowl versus Texas – Last second field goal is good

2006 versus OSU – Shawn Crable hits Troy Smith OOB

2007 versus App State – Last second field goal blocked

These are just the first few that came to mind.  I’d love to read your contributions.



November 21st, 2013 at 11:05 AM ^

Probably the 1973 game cause it would've put Michigan into the Rose Bowl undefeated and playing for the MNC.  

For the record though....the phantom holding call was in the 1990 Rose Bowl (Bo's last game) and not the 87 game.  

Oh....GREAT post by the way.  If you like history I highly recommend the book "What If" which takes the same counterfactual look at historical events and changes the outcome.


November 21st, 2013 at 11:10 AM ^

For me that one hands down. Even if we still got destroyed by Oregon the following week, it'd be nice to not be the first ever ranked team to have lost to a FCS school. The other losses were bad yes, but at least to respectable teams. Losing to App State made us a laughingstock nationally. I'm still mad at DB for scheduling them again.


November 21st, 2013 at 1:44 PM ^

Couldn't agree more. That game changed the entire football landscape. If Crable doesn't get that flag, I'm 100% confident we go down to score. The offense was unstoppable in the second half. After that, we were totally deflated and had no chance of winning the rose bowl, which was a home game for USC. Then Florida pounds OSU in NC, and that began the SEC's dominance. Then on top, our next game is App State... 


November 21st, 2013 at 8:48 PM ^

"... ours and OSU fortunes would be flipped."

I doubt it very much. Most likely we would have been pounded just like OSU, if not worse.

Maybe we don't pounded. Maybe it's a close game. How does that have anything to do with the first two debacles of the following year?

Michigan's high ranking was based largely on beating an overrated ND team at the beginning of the year.


November 21st, 2013 at 11:15 AM ^

1997 Nebrasks Vs Mizzou.  If the intentional kicked ball is called correctly the coaches poll has no grounds for offering Nebraska the Tommy Osborne memorial trophy for his life's work and M does not split the MNC.


November 21st, 2013 at 12:22 PM ^

I'd say if you could find one play that would have deifnitively won the 2006 OSU game that would have sent us out with a victory right after Bo's death, a shot at the title, and maybe Lloyd retiring on top rather than being asked to come back for one more year.

Some others to add:

1999 vs. Illinois snap over Brady's head, because he was going to lead us back after blowing that lead to victory, and that team would have most likely been playing for the national championship.  And if we could find a way to beat that stacked Bama team, we'd have had a shot there.

2001 vs. OSU, the Walker dropped TD pass. Lost by 6. Beat Tressel at home in his first game after the guarantee and who knows how that program goes.

The fingernails being a little longer in the Rose Bowl vs. Texas, blocked kick and we win another Rose Bowl/BCS game.

Maybe the timeout, though that would be no guarantee...but any play that wins the title for the Fab Five.  The NCAA really only likes to hammer winners who don't win it all.  They hate taking banners down from champions. So if we had won we'd still have gotten into trouble, but it wouldn't have been so bad, and major changes and self-flagellation and cratering probably wouldn't have happened.


November 21st, 2013 at 11:19 AM ^

I can still vivdly remember the gut-punch feeling of seeing Crable rocket into Troy Smith's head out of bounds.  That was the ultimate game, and that just torpedoed it.  Will never get over that game.


November 21st, 2013 at 11:19 AM ^

I don't pretend to know much about calling plays, but I could figure out what was going to happen last year. Too predictable. 

Also, didn't Lantry miss two field goals in '73? 


November 21st, 2013 at 11:43 AM ^

Yes.  Both inside of two minutes to go.  After he missed the first one Woody tried a pass that we picked off giving us a second shot at victory.  But it was not to be.

I just figured if Landry hit either one of them we'd win.

Hey....toss the 1974 "miss" in there as well while we're at it.  That one was as good as a kick could be but unfortunately for him, it was so high the officials called it no good even though it clearly was good.  And that kick too would've sent Michigan to the Rose Bowl undefeated.

1972-1974: 30-2-1 and no bowl games. I still can't believe it 30 years later.  And if Landry hits those kicks we're 31-1-1 over those three years.

Suck that Urbz.

Mabel Pines

November 21st, 2013 at 11:20 AM ^

This seemed to cause a torrent of bad stuff.  I think it might have led to Lloyd leaving, which led to Rich Rod hiring (not meaning to start a RR debate, it just didn't work out), which has in turn led to much switching and rebuilding. 

I feel had we won 2006 OSU, we would have lost in the Nat'l champ game. 



November 21st, 2013 at 12:02 PM ^

The Appalachian State game (say, the FG not being blocked) is an interesting choice because that game, at least for me, altered my psyche as a lifelong fan of Michigan football. It didn't make me any less of a fan, but for the first time in my life, I found myself being very philosophical and introspective about Michigan's place in the football pantheon, if you will. 


November 21st, 2013 at 11:32 AM ^

How about 1953 (I believe) against OSU when Michigan got down to the one and had a chance to bury OSU. If they do that then Woody Hayes would likely have been fired. Think about how that would have changed history.

coastal blue

November 21st, 2013 at 11:37 AM ^

Here's one that doesn't even involve Michigan but is probably the real reason we are where we are now: Reggie Fish trying to an overhead catch on a punt in the SEC Championship Game in 2006 with Arkansas up 21-17 against Florida. 

Arkansas had all the momentum having just come back being down 17-0. They would have had the ball up 4 with 18 minutes to play. They went from being completely in driver's seat and putting us into the NC to handing it back to Florida in one play. 

If Arkansas holds on to win or only loses in a nailbiter, Michigan goes on to play in the title game against Ohio State. Win or lose, the Big Ten isn't exposed the way it was that bowl season. If we win, Lloyd more than likely retires going out on top and whoever becomes the new coach doesn't enter into the rocky transition season that was 2008, but instead with a talented 2007 roster. We definitely don't lose to Appalachian State and 2008 to 2010 is more than likely a far more positive experience because whoever who have taken over as coach wouldn't have had to deal with the 2008 problems RR did to begin his tenure. 

For me, that play is what set Michigan and the Big Ten as a whole into a tailspin. 


November 21st, 2013 at 11:42 AM ^

second in the 2001 MSU game where Smoker spiked the ball with one second left and the home field clock didn't move.  Allowed him to throw a TD the next play to win.


November 21st, 2013 at 11:48 AM ^

But I'll go with the play v. Nebraska last year that put Denard out.  The ripple effect of a play resulting in injury is obviously much greater than any individual play standing on its own.  

I'll take 2007 Henne shoulder injury for a close second.

Blue Mike

November 21st, 2013 at 11:55 AM ^

It's an interesting thought.  My take for most of them are that if they wouldn't have made a difference in the "grand scheme" of things, then meh.  For example, the 2005 Alamo Bowl: I wish he pitched the ball, but in the end Michigan was still a mediocre team playing in a middling bowl game.

That said, I think the '73, '90, and '06 games are the ones I personally would love to have go the other way, because there is a strong chance we have a chance to at least play for national titles if those games go our way. I still think we matched up with Florida better than OSU did in 2006, but oh well.

The '01 MSU I'd love to have back just because it's MSU and I love beating them, especially when we don't play our best game. 

The '05 Rose Bowl and '07 App. State games I'd want back only because they change the perception of Michigan on the national stage.  

Blue Mike

November 21st, 2013 at 1:25 PM ^

Because every time we lose a big national game, it fuels a perception that we don't win big games.  And the perception that we don't win the Rose Bowl.  We played SC tough last year, but it's still used as evidence that the SEC is better than the B1G.  Does the '05 Rose Bowl completely change that?  No, but it helps.  How many times do we point to the Cap One Bowl with pride, in that we beat Florida in between their national championships?