With Colorado visiting Saturday and their choice to supposedly wear 1994 throwback jerseys, I’ll revisit the top moments where the Wolverine faithful were punched in their cotton pickin’ giblets.   The focus is on specific devastating moments in games, not necessarily the totality of the game.

First off, sadly enough and while certainly devastating, here are the honorable miserable mention moments:

  • 2001 Spartan Bob stops Clock/TD pass to TJ Duckett (East Lansing vs. MSU)
  • 1990 Desmond mugging (Ann Arbor vs. MSU)
  • 1973 Mike Lantry misses 44 yard FG (Ann Arbor vs. OSU)
  • 2013 Failed/intercepted 2 point conversion to win The Game (Ann Arbor vs. OSU)
  • 1980 Harry Oliver nails 51-yard FG into the suddenly still wind (South Bend vs. Notre Dame)  HT: John Kryk


#6 ‘The Catch’ (vs. Colorado @ Michigan Stadium, 1994)

The Moment:  With six seconds remaining down 26-21, Colorado’s Kordell Stewart hurls the pigskin 70 yards and finds Michael Westbrook:


Why it sucked so hard:  It was a big game, at home, and Michigan seemingly had the game sealed.
Why it might not be as bad as (see #1):  While Michigan seemingly had the game sealed, Colorado still had the ball in their hands.  As brutal as that was, Hail Mary’s happen.  They even have a name for them.  Stewart made a perfect pass.


#5 The conclusion of THE HORROR (vs. Appalachian State @ Michigan Stadium, 2007)

The Moment:  Down two, Michigan’s field goal attempt to win the game is blocked.

Why it sucked so hard:  This moment was devastating as we suddenly had a chance to save this game – and – no.  We became the laughingstock of the college football world.  The biggest upset in CFB history.  Pretty much ruined what was supposed to be a championship season.
Why it might not be as bad (see #1):  That sucked hard for all those reasons but you have to accept that Appalachian State, at the time, was a solid football team that lined up and beat Michigan over the entire 60 minutes.


#4 “The Wretched Blunder” (vs. Chicago @ Marshall Field Chicago, 1905)

The Moment:  Tied 0-0 with five minutes remaining, U-M’s Denny Clark fields a punt in the end zone and instead of downing it for a touchback, starts to take it out.  He quickly realizes his error and but it’s too late- he is driven back into the endzone for a safety.  [Read Stagg vs. Yost !] Photo Oct 18, 8 53 14 AM
Why it sucked so hard:  That safety resulted in the lone points of the game.  Play is dubbed, “The Wretched Blunder”.  Michigan lost 2-0 to its biggest rival (in Chicago, and for Yost, in Stagg) in the final game of the season and this ended Yost’s 56-game unbeaten streak since his arrival in Ann Arbor.  Clark never recovered from the incident and sadly took his own life in 1932 (a note left for his wife mentioned the 1905 play).
Why it might not be as bad (see #1)  OK it’s close, but following the safety Michigan got the ball back with a chance to win the game.  As Kryk describes in Stagg vs. Yost, Michigan pulled out all the trick plays – but Stagg’s Maroons stopped them and held on.


#3 Lantry “Miss” (vs. Ohio State @ Ohio Stadium, 1974)
The Moment
:  With 18 seconds to go, #3 ranked and undefeated Michigan trails #4 Ohio State 12-10.  Mike Lantry’s 33 yard kick veers left and the officials call it no good.  Many to this day swear it was inside the upright.

Why it sucked so hard:  First off, it was Woody and Ohio State. Second, Lantry missed a big one in 1973 that could have broke the epic 10-10 tie.  Third, Michigan could have been in line for a national championship
Why it might not be as bad (see #1): Also close.  This one hurt.   But people understand the pressure involved, and have a ton of respect for Super Toe.  Even if it was a bad call no one argues it was close.  And as special teams errors this is bad but not as disastrous as #1.


#2 Webber Timeout (vs. North Carolina @ The Superdome, New Orleans, 1993)
The Moment:  In the final seconds of the NCAA title game and Michigan down 2, Webber dribbles to the U-M bench and calls the timeout that U-M does not have:
Why it sucked so hard:  Obviously that moment ended the game and thus the entire college basketball season. The much-hyped Fab 5 era came to a devastating end in that moment.
Why it might not be as bad as that: OK, it’s also very close given what was on the line (everything) but Michigan was still trailing UNC by 2 at the time.  And FWIW Webber probably traveled anyway just before this.

#1:  arghhh.  Sorry, this is still the worst moment (again, not the totality of the stakes involved) – the confluence of things that happened to swap the result – you can’t beat this one:



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Helmet Decals

So word is out that the helmet decals will return and the Legends program will be modified in some manner, starting with the patch on the jersey.  Bacs:

bacs tweet

Regarding the helmet stickers:  I’m not surprised (my spies confirmed a lot of chatter weeks ago) and you can imagine that I’m pretty jacked up and looking forward to the decal reveal. I’d prefer a replica or close variation of the Bo-era decals, but I’d go with a block M or whatever.  I know Dr. Sap has a few ideas that we’ll reveal down the road.  Heck, I’d even go with this design if it would mean cheaper tickets & Twizzler prices:Im loving it

On the Legends jerseys, I’ll start with Bacon’s tweet.  I think he’s probably right that Canham or Bo wouldn’t have been crazy about the concept, but I wonder if they would be ok with unwinding this (at least the jersey portion) after it was already unveiled. 

I need more info on what exactly happening here, but I really like the Legends program including the patch on the jersey.  Whether you like the aesthetics of the patch or not, what this concept did was bring these great players to the forefront and got people (people other than yrs truly) talking about them again.  Dave Brandon had to sell the families of those who had previously retired jersey numbers to bring them back on the field, so now what?  

Legends Program Montage(Bennie McCready & Jake Ryan | Ox Wistert | Mark Harmon)

I know that the athletic department has at least tried to reach out to certain family members of Legends recently I assume to, ahem, talk this through.

I think the biggest problem with the Legends program is that it became a burden on the coaching staff to dole out these jerseys to the “right” player and they felt obligated to include the families as much as possible.  It was probably easier to not bother.  My take, and what I’d sell to the families—just let the coach decide who gets the jersey and leave it at that.  If the designated player and the families form a relationship after that, all the better, but I wouldn’t ask the coaches to work all that out ahead of time.  To Desmond, one of the living Legends (along with Ox Wistert), I’d say the same thing – don’t worry about whether the player “earned” the right to wear #21, just let the coaches assign the number and that’s that.  It should be an honor to Desmond that his name is on any jersey on the sideline.    This bureaucratic burden was why RichRod buried the #1 jersey. 

So, before I blast away any further I’ll chill until I hear more.  My questions — Do the special Legends lockers in the stadium go away?  Does the section of the Towsley museum carved out for the Legends vanish?   Of course the biggest question – do the previously retired jerseys go back in the vault?

No matter what, looks like we’ll have some interesting tweaks to the Uniform Timeline this fall.


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[Ed. You know I’m a huge fan of Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis & he’s featured here each postgame with Dr. Sap’s Decals.  You might know that his detailed knowledge of uniform tweaks since the Bo era helped spearhead the Uniform Timeline.    Bottom line – the Sap mind blended with the Sap archives is a Wangler-to-Carter-esque combination.    Here’s another great Bo-era story from the mind of Sap.] 

Guest Post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

After Bo Schembechler left U-M to become the president of the Detroit Tigers he met Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley.  Finley liked to dabble in the unique as he was the inventor of the high visibility yellow baseball as well as the green and gold tunics the A’s wore in the ‘70s.

The two talked about Finley’s new football invention – the reverse dimple football.  Its enhanced grip was supposed to improve the accuracy of throws and increase the distance it was kicked. [more on the patent here.]

The grip enhancement looked much like a golf ball’s surface and the leather looked something like this:


Bo was intrigued and told Finley to go see U-M equipment manager Jon Falk in Ann Arbor…and that’s exactly what he did in the spring of 1990.  The two hit it off and Falk agreed to try the new ball that Rawlings now dubbed the “Double Grip Football” with the 1990 Wolverines.

Everybody liked it.  The quarterbacks liked the grip and felt more accurate throwing it.  The receivers liked the tackiness and the kickers felt it sailed longer when booted. 

Falk wanted to use the new pigskin against  Notre Dame to start the 1990 season, but had to wait and use their existing ball, the Wilson 1001 AFCRT, until the new Rawlings ball was
accredited by the NCAA Rules Committee.  That didn’t happen until late October, which meant the Purdue contest on November 3rd, 1990 was the first time the Reverse Dimple Rawlings Double Grip Football was used in an NCAA game.  Michigan won 38-13 in West Lafayette that afternoon.

While U-M was the only school to use the ball during the regular season, it was used in several bowl games later that year.  Air Force defeated Ohio State in the 1990 Liberty Bowl while using the Double Grip football.  Washington would use it for the first time against Iowa in the 1991 Rose Bowl and trounced the Hawkeyes.

Of course we all know what Michigan did in the 1991 Gator Bowl.  Over 700 yards of total offense in a 35-3 beat down of Ole Miss was enough to convince everyone watching that the Rawlings Double Grip Football was no one-hit-wonder.

In the second game of the 1991 season, the Double Grip got even more publicity and exposure thanks to Desmond Howard and Elvis Grbac.
That diving catch in the endzone made by Howard against Notre Dame?

clip_image004That’s right. It was made with the Rawlings Double Grip Football.

While Grbac would become the first Michigan QB to be the nation’s most efficient passer, Howard would go on to win the Heisman Trophy that year.  Rawlings took notice and even issued a Press Release in December of 1991 saying its new ball resulted in greater accuracy, a higher percentage of completed passes, longer passes, a better grip in cold or wet weather and was the best ball for quarterbacks with small hands.

clip_image005”Howard caught 19 touchdown passes while Michigan quarterback Elvis Grbac led the nation in passing efficiency and 24 TD passes–all with the Rawlings ‘Double Grip’ ball,” it read.

Here is Howard striking another pose – this time with the Rawlings ball on the cover of Beckett football card monthly:

desmond howard beckett

But much like the old saying goes, what goes up, must come down.   And in 1992, that’s exactly what happened.

Grbac would go on and become the nation’s most efficient passer again, this time without Howard’s heroics. Michigan would win their 5th consecutive Big Ten Championship but would finish with an awkward 8-0-3 regular season record.  Three ties were strange enough, but the one tie that took all the air out of the Rawlings Double Grip ball was the Illinois game on November 14th, 1992.

The weather conditions were typical for Ann Arbor in November: 32 degrees, 65% humidity and a 10-15 mph wind blowing from the southwest. It had snowed the night before and would do so occasionally throughout the game.  There was some concern about how the ball would hold up as this would be the coldest weather it would be used in.  Even in their wildest dreams, #3 Michigan could not have expected a nightmare like this.

When it was all said and done, the 22-22 tie knocked U-M out of the national championship race and the turnover stats line read like a horror show:

  • Fumbles – 10 (12, if you include two bobbled kickoffs)
  • Fumbles Lost – 4
  • Dropped Passes – 4
  • Interceptions – 2 (1 off a muffed reception)
  • 1 botched PAT snap/hold that was bobbled by the holder (Jay Riemersma)
  • 1 kick that hit the upright (no good)

And it was not like this 1992 U-M squad was a turnover machine – quite the opposite.  In the previous 9 games, Michigan had fumbled only 15 times and lost 7 of them.  Illinois, which used the traditional pebble grain Wilson 1001 AFCRT ball, had just 1 fumble (which they recovered) and 1 interception (from a dropped pass) along with 1 missed PAT kick.  It was a damning stat line for the Double Grip and one that caused Falk to take a closer look at the ball Michigan would be using going forward.

He studied the game tape and he told me that he noticed the ball became hard when the temperature dropped. The leather lost its tackiness and it became slick and difficult to handle.  While Rawlings claimed the ball would provide better grip in cold weather, it appeared as though that might not have been the case.

With the weather the following week in Columbus expected to be in the mid-50s, Falk gave the Rawlings ball one last chance against Ohio State.  Even though Michigan would not fumble the while using Double Grip against OSU, Falk officially pulled the plug on it after the game.

The guy who gave Finley’s invention the green light a few years earlier, was now putting the kibosh on it and gave Coach Gary Moeller the cold, hard facts.

“I told Mo that we had to change it up for the Rose Bowl against Washington,”  Falk said.  He said, ‘Ya. Let’s do it.’”

Michigan would switch back to the Wilson 1001 for the 1993 Rose Bowl and would use it until Rich Rodriguez took over in 2008.  RichRod preferred the narrower Wilson 1005 for his spread offenses. It is the ball Michigan continues to use to this day.


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Momentum seems to be building for another former M player (or 2) to have their jersey number retired, something that hasn’t happened since 1994 when we hung up President Ford’s #48.   As Mike Rosenberg discussed recently, Coach Carr brought it up and supports the idea:

"Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson, as winners of the Heisman Trophy, I think they are both deserving of having those jerseys retired," Carr said Wednesday. "I believe that … I think it’s an issue that is very important to Michigan football."

I’m not big on retiring jerseys but if the tradition is going to continue, I’d love to see Desmond and Woodson honored.  And while I don’t think there is racist intent, it’s still a bit glaring after all these years (and Heismans) that no African American is represented among those retired.

So this brings me to this, and thanks to my man and local writer James Dickson (see MVictors guest posts) for allowing me to post this beauty.  A while ago JD dug up this October 1997 report from Amy Whitesall of Ann Arbor News, announcing that #21 would be hung up for good:


Except of course none of that ever happened.

So what’s deal?  The report was pretty specific (U-M board voted Tuesdayceremony next season…) so you’ve got to believe something was seriously in the works.   James was working to track down the story but hasn’t got a clear answer.  I suggested it be posted here in case anyone knew the deal, and JD agreed. 

Coincidentally when the report came out, #2 was doing things like this on his way to Michigan’s third Heisman.

We’ve solved a few mysteries here on these pages, how about this one?  What happened?

If you missed this little piece of Twitter drama this afternoon…apparently Phil Simms confronted Desmond at ‘The NFL Experience’ Event in Dallas over something Howard said about his son, Tennessee Vols QB Matt Simms.

Via Twitter, Magic described what went down:

desmond_howard 1:20pm via ÜberTwitter

At NFL-Xperience and Phil Simms just threatened 2 hit me b/c I said his son was 1 of the worse QBs in the SEC. I told him "LET’S GO!"

desmond_howard 1:39pm via ÜberTwitter

I am DEAD serious about the Phil Simms thing. We all thought he was joking, but he kept going and said he wanted 2 take a swing at me!!

desmond_howard 1:55pm via ÜberTwitter

During the season we talked about the Tenn v LSU game and I said "u will see 3 of the worse QBs in the SEC" That’s what Phil did not like.

desmond_howard 3:13pm via ÜberTwitter

It ended w/police stepping in between so I could continue my appearance w/fans.

Hey old man Simms, that’s weird!  Congrats, you are now highest profile odd and overbearing athlete dad, surpassing Craig James.

Maybe they could settle this with a Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Super Bowl MVP Trophy fight later. 

Related: Ace Discusses Simms vs. Desmond as well

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