Michigan beats Ohio: The only way it could be
Michigan 40 Ohio 34
Let’s quickly look back to mid-October of 2011. As life would have it, Michigan started this season winning six straight. Michigan’s next 60 minutes were to be spent in East Lansing. At this point in the season we have no idea what this Michigan team is about, but Michigan was ranked 11th and undefeated. The talk on blogs and message boards is essentially edgy, with most Michigan fans showing a tinge of defensiveness – vaguely, with little conviction, talking about how this 2011 Michigan team is different than the previous quick-start versions under Rich Rodriguez.
Don’t forget, we’re talking about Michigan beating Ohio for the first time after seven straight years – seven straight years where the last week in November has been rude and nasty.
So, as Michigan fans, myself included, pull together half-baked theories on why this Michigan team wasn’t going to fold – there was the game against Michigan State looming. I had such a high level of excitement about the prospects of this team going 7 and 0 and beating a hated rival – that I assumed it just wasn’t going to happen and this Michigan team wasn’t quite … good. After Michigan lost by two touchdowns via blown opportunities and flat getting beat, my rhetoric was all-knowing. I knew this team was lucky to slip past Notre Dame and I became pessimistic about this team, Al Borges, and Denard Robinson. Six and 0 starts don’t do your psyche any favors as a fan — you get greedy and one loss is seemingly not acceptable at the time.
Save the Purdue win, Michigan’s loss to Iowa further solidified the rhetoric about this team, which was largely evidenced on the field, that his Michigan team just wasn’t very good and the record is indicative of a twinkie-soft schedule. As Michigan sat at 7 wins and 2 losses – I feared the final three games of the season could be brutal and we could be talking about a 7-5 Michigan team.
One week at a time – Michigan’s coaches, seniors, and underclassman proved something to the world of college football and to themselves. Ryan Van Bergen, Junior Hemingway, David Molk, Martavious Odoms, Mike Martin, Troy Woolfolk, Kevin Koger, Will Heininger, Mark Huyge, and Steve Watson took on the challenge of making a difference and changing the recent trend of failure. The seniors led Michigan into Illinois and largely dominated – yielding Michigan’s best road win of the season (Illinois has proven to be terrible actually, but it was big at the time!).
Two games left. Michigan blew out Nebraska and if it wasn’t for one of the worst performances by a reply official that I have ever seen (was he the same guy at Iowa, no?) – we’d most likely be talking about a double-digit win over Ohio.
Similar to the week leading up to the Michigan State game – I, along with Michigan fans worldwide, had uber-crazy excitement about the prospects of this Michigan team reaching the 10-win threshold, positioning itself for a BCS bowl game, and finally beating the monkey off the program’s back in beating Ohio. This time? This time, there was no other way it could be. Michigan was not going to be denied in front of nearly 115,000. For the first time since late 2003, Michigan gets to enjoy the rest of the college football season and actually be in the discussion – and actually might finish out the season as a top 10 team.
Going into the game – I knew that Michigan winning the game against Ohio – was the only way things could happen. The seniors have led the way in forming a team that has great chemistry, determination, and perseverance. A team, a group of seniors, that will be remembered for enduring the bad, wading through the bullshit, and seizing the incredible opportunity they, as a team, earned.
Photo Cred: Det. News.