Friday of Thanksgiving break, 1995. I was doing what I normally did when I wasn’t in middle school, playing NBA Jam for Super Nintendo and listening to sports talk radio on my headphones. Interrupting one of many radio phone calls from an angry Buckeye fan, who was upset their team was undefeated but wouldn’t get a shot at a national title, my mom came downstairs holding the house phone (yep, those existed) to tell me my dad needed to talk to me. My first instinct was that I was in trouble. Because of course I was.
Turned out to be quite the opposite. My dad, who got stuck being one of the few who had to go in the day after Thanksgiving, was handed a pair of Michigan-OSU tickets, and he asked me if I wanted to go as an early birthday present. Not sure if I answered his question in words, but I did run around the basement in my Barry Sanders jersey, celebrating as if I had won Mega Millions.
Ohio State had their most stacked team ever that year. They would send many on to the first round of the draft. They had All Americans like Eddie George, Orlando Pace, and Terry Glenn. They even had a QB that got drafted 2nd round in Bobby Hoying! This was extremely rare for the school, as usually things don’t turn out so well for their quarterbacks. One thing I remember from my countless hours of sports talk radio listening is Corso saying “Michigan has two chances: slim and none.” Terry Glenn was quoted as saying Michigan is “nobody”.
Michigan was in rebuilding mode. Lloyd Carr was in his first year as head coach, walk-on QB Brian Griese was spelling the injured Scott Dreisbach, and there were a pair of first year coordinators in Fred Jackson and Greg Mattison. And even though Michigan had the odds stacked against them, the mortal enemy had national title hopes, and the good guys could clinch a bid from the newly renamed Outback Bowl, my excitement made Gus Johnson seem like Joe Buck.
After not sleeping on Friday night due to being giddy, my dad and I headed from a west suburb of Grand Rapids to Ann Arbor for the noon kickoff. After a quick stop at Taco Bell, we took in some of the Ann Arbor scenery, watched the band play outside the stadium. I will never forget the feeling of walking through the tunnel and into the seating area for the first time. I didn’t know what the 7 wonders of the world were, but surely the Big House had to be 3 of them, right?
We filed into our seats, which happened to be behind 2 Buckeye fans that weighed about half a ton combined. Awesome. And as the band came out and played, and the players touched the banner, I had 2 different feelings going through my head: “wow, this is amazing, I can’t believe I’m here” and “oh yeah, they’re going to play a football game too”.
Though the media had already awarded OSU the game, you could not convince the Michigan players and 106,288 in the crowd that the game was over, from the opening whistle on. “Touchdown Tim” Biakabutuka ran through the highly-touted OSU defense like a knife into warm butter, racking up 313 yards on 37 carries. After Michigan scored a touchdown to take the lead 7-3, they would face many threats from OSU, but never gave up the lead. OSU had a chance to tie the game at 31 late, but a freshman by the name of Charles Woodson jumped the route on one of Hoying’s throws, and iced the game with an interception, his 2nd of the game. The 2 fat dudes in front of me were not happy.
With the odds stacked against them, Michigan won a big rivalry game, and ruined Ohio State’s hopes for an undefeated season. Since that game, I have always been optimistic (excluding RichRod era) about Michigan’s chances when everyone is writing them off. I can’t help but notice the similarities of tomorrow’s game and that game in 1995. Though it is on the road, Michigan is being overlooked by the media and OSU apologists. The discussion this week has not pertained to Michigan, but to the bowl sanctions that will stop OSU from a shot at the national title. Once again, this talk is premature, as Michigan still has a shot at these guys. And I believe once again, Michigan will make all the “why can’t we play for a national championship” talk irrelevant, and leave the field victorious. Hail.
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