Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Game 2011

When Braxton Miller lined up on 4th down and less than a minute to play, seven years of torture flashed before the eyes of Michigan fans. They could see the finish line. It was sitting there, staring them in the face. No more torture, no more misery, no more losing to "that school in Ohio" as many have started to refer to them. When Miller scrambled for a first down by about a football's length, it felt like Ohio State was going to drive for a touchdown and win 41-40. Another heartbreaking loss. If Michigan couldn't beat Ohio State here, when would they?

Why is this happening to us? Why can't good things happen to Michigan? Fitz Toussaint was in the endzone, they'd all scream, referring to the previous drive where a call was reviewed, a touchdown overturned. A few plays later, Michigan settled for a field goal when they could have delivered the dagger.

Inexplicably, Braxton Miller spiked the ball on 3rd down on his next series of downs, setting up another 4th down. With the crowd sensing another shot at ending their misery, the noise level rose to ear-piercing levels. Miller dropped to throw. The crowd waited. The ball sailed through the air. Michigan's Courtney Avery, an Ohio native, deflected the pass.

Images came flooding back, one after another. There was Jim Tressel, saying how proud Columbus would be of their Buckeyes in the 2001 version of the game. There was Lloyd Carr, punting the ball in the 4th quarter from OSU territory, with a lead and a chance to deliver a dagger in the 2005 game. There was Bo, passing away the night before the epic 3-point 2006 loss in the #1 vs #2 Game. Henne with his shoulder falling off, not literally of course, in the 2007 game. There was all of 2008-2010, perhaps the most humbled Michigan has ever been in a three year period of The Game.

Then the ball fell into Avery's hands. With that, a new image replaced those nine defeats in the past ten years. No more would we need to watch highlights of the 2003 Game to get a glimpse of Michigan defeating the enemy. That game could be put to bed, just a distant memory of victories past. No, we now had a new image to possess in our memories.

Fans leaping to the air in a joyous celebration. The Victors blaring all over the Big House. Players running to the student section to meet their classmates. Fans of all ages, young to old, running on the field in a spontaneous, emotional display. Michigan had finally vanquished its demons.

In 2011, Michigan wins The Game, 40-34.

Bullet Points
  • Denard Robinson played a terrific game, completing over 80 percent of his throws and rushing for 170 yards.
  • Fitz Toussaint and Denard both finished the regular season at over 1,000 yards rushing, the first Michigan duo to do so since 1975 and only the 2nd to ever do so.
  • The defensive backs did not have a great game. Several times OSU receivers were able to get open deep. Fortunately, Braxton Miller doesn't possess the accuracy to hit them.
  • Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, and now Brady Hoke all lost to Michigan State in their first seasons while beating Ohio State.
  • Michigan's 40 points ties for 4th all-time most that the Wolverines have ever scored in The Game trailing 1902 (86), 1943 (45), and 1946 (58).
  • The 40 points was also more than Michigan scored in the last four editions of The Game combined (they managed just 27 combined points from 2007-2010).
  • The "days since Michigan has beat Ohio State" clock at the Columbus Dispatch website went from 2,926 to non-existent.

Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus

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