To kickoff the sixth season of This Week in Michigan Football History we dip back to 2011, to the official start of the last glorious period of redemption for Michigan football. Yes, our friends from Kalamazoo visited the Big House for a bizarre and historic day, when an otherwise obscure figure in Wolverine history made history as did Mother Nature. Dig it:
Don’t forget to catch the whole KeyBank Countdown to Kickoff on WTKA starting 4 hours before each game, and of course live in the Bud Light Victors Lounge when they lace them up in Ann Arbor.
For those so inclined, here’s a little more from my 2011 post on the history of games ending early:
It’s certainly not the first Michigan football game to end before the planned allotted time. Most notably two of the most famous games in college football history ended early:
With eight minutes remaining in the game, Stanford captain Ralph Fisher approached the Wolverine bench and offered to concede; Michigan consented.
While this game yielded the Little Brown Jug, the great 1903 Minnesota-Michigan battle between the Western powerhouses also ended early. The common story is that after the Gophers scored a late TD to tie the game, the Minnesota fans stormed the field and the coaches agreed to call the game. (I’ve heard other claims that approaching weather was a factor in the decision, but haven’t seen much evidence to back that up). The Sunday November 1, 1903 Minneapolis Tribune says the game ended with “but a few seconds left to play.” The Detroit Free Press from that Sunday said two minutes remained, headline:
As you can imagine they were a little more liberal with the clock in those days, and there were many times when the teams agreed to end the game, mostly due to the Yost beat down that was going on.
The great John Kryk of Natural Enemies emailed me with some brilliant stuff, explaining this further:
It not only happened often during Point-A-Minute years (and before) as a result of Yost maulings, but in those days the full 70 minutes (two 35-minute halves) were ONLY played when the opponent was of sufficient strength or reputation.
For instance in 1901 Michigan played 10 regular-season games. Only two (Chicago and Iowa) had halves of 35-35. This was by mutual agreement. Games not only could, but usually were, shortened by mutual agreement. Sometimes it was even put into the contract a year before. For instance, the halves were only 20 minutes long in Yost’s first game vs Albion. Against Pop Warner’s Carlisle team they were 27.5 and 27.5 — obviously a compromise between 25 and 30.
This practice continued at least until the end of the decade. By the early 1910s, with the change to four downs, 100-yard fields and 60-minute, four-quarter games, the practice of pre-determined or ad-hoc shortening was eliminated.
I’m sure there have been other anomalies over the years. Only one I know of, because of my research focus, is the 1943 Michigan Notre Dame game. The M stadium scoreboard clock malfunctioned, and players and coaches couldn’t believe how long the 3rd quarter was going. It became evident that it had stopped for a long time. Crisler, Leahy and the officials agreed that they’d probably played (I think it was something like) a 23-minute third quarter, so by mutual agreement they played only a seven-minute fourth quarter.
So in that way, yesterday’s was the shortest 3rd quarter in modern times, and that ‘43 ND game was the longest.
That is raw historical horsepower, people. [Get yourself some Natural Enemies if you don’t have it.]
To open the 6th year of This Week in Michigan Football history, we first salute today’s debut of Coach Jim Harbaugh as the leader of your beloved Wolverines and certainly, positively, without a doubt- the dawn of a new Glorious era for the maize and blue.
Many fans had a similar, perhaps less justified, feeling on this day in 2011, as September 3 of that year marked a different head coaching debut as former Michigan assistant Brady Hoke took over the western sideline for the first time.
His fiery introductory press conference speech back in January won fans over and united much of the fractured fan base. After 3 choppy years with Rich Rodriquez at the helm it the Meechigan faithful were wounded. But now it was time to see what Hoke could do on the field.
The opponent on this day five years ago was Western Michigan, and the day proved historic for a couple of reasons – one on the field and one off the field.
Michigan got off to a slow start and trailed 7-0 in the first quarter but rallied with 3 TDs in the second thanks to 2 Fitz Toussaint runs and a fantastic 94-yard interception return by Brandon Herron.
Later, after a jarring hit from Jordan Kovacs relieved a Broncos of the ball, Herron grabbed the pigskin and took it 34 yards for a another score. In doing so he became the first Wolverine since 1940 Heisman winner, Old 98 Tom Harmon, to take a pair of returns to the house.
The other story on the day was Mother Nature. Storms in the area forced the game to be suspended early in the second half. The game restarted 30 then stopped again after a lightning strike with a minute and a half left in the third. After a long suspension the teams agreed to call it a day, and declared Michigan the 34-10 victor.
This was the first Michigan game in recent history to end early – but despite several news reports saying otherwise, it was certainly not the first time all-time. The first Rose Bowl in 1902 ended with eight minutes to go, after Fielding Yost’s undefeated squad was up 49-0 on Stanford when the Cardinal Captain begged Hurry Up to call off the dogs.
Just a couple of years later on Halloween in 1903, the Minnesota-Michigan game in Minneapolis ended early when Gopher fans stormed the field after a late game tying score. Yost, Willie Heston and the rest of the Wolverines left town with a couple minutes left on the clock, leaving behind certain a 5 gallon stoneware crock we affectionately know today as the Little Brown Jug.
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