Guest post by Andrew Kahn
Michigan fans are partying like its 1970-something. That’s the last time the Wolverines had a football season like this. Saturday’s 20-10 win over Indiana completed a perfect home slate. They’ve done that plenty—there have been 37 seasons in which Michigan has played at least four home games and won them all, most recently in 2011. But to win by an average margin of 32 points at the Big House, as Michigan did this year, is what makes 2016 so impressive.
The chart below shows some of the seasons in which Michigan has played at least four home games and won them all (without ties). They are ranked by the average margin of victory in the home games and the chart also shows the closest home game, the team’s overall record at the end of the season, and whether it won the national championship.
Fielding Yost’s “point-a-minute” teams at the beginning of the 20th century fill up the top of the list. Other than the two pre-1900 teams, the only squads above the 2016 Wolverines on this list were coached by Yost, Fritz Crisler, or Bo Schembechler.
Saturday’s 10-point win, in which the Wolverines trailed at half for the first time all season, was the exception at Michigan Stadium this year. (And Michigan did take a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, after which there was no scoring.) Michigan had a scare against Wisconsin, winning by seven. The other home games were blowouts, hence the 32.4 average margin. Not since Bo’s teams in the 70s have Michigan fans witnessed such dominance in person, and the especially high number of home games made it even more fun.
“Winning this game feels like one of the best wins I’ve ever been involved with,” Jim Harbaugh said after the game, comparing it a playoff game. Asked to reflect on the seniors winning their final game at Michigan Stadium, Harbaugh said, “I know how it feels to play at Michigan and not win your last game at home. [Michigan lost to Minnesota in its final home game in 1986]. It’s not a good feeling at all. Our guys played eight home games and won them all. The constant for a Michigan football player through the ages is playing at Michigan Stadium. It always has been and always will be. The one constant to time, the facilities, changes in society and everything else is playing in that stadium. To have that feeling of winning your last game is a great feeling.”
Senior kicker/punter Kenny Allen said the undefeated home slate is another thing to check off the list of accomplishments. “We expect to win every game here,” he said. Added senior safety Dymonte Thomas: “It’s nice to go undefeated at home. It lets people know when they come to the Big House they better pack a lunch because it’s going to be a long day.”
Senior running back De’Veon Smith was unquestionably the offensive star of the game, rushing for a career-high 158 yards and Michigan’s only two touchdowns on runs of 34 and 39 yards. But Smith said it was quarterback John O’Korn’s run, one play before Smith’s first score, that ignited the offense.
“When John took off for that run, that’s what really sparked us,” Smith said. “That really got the offensive line going.”
After the previous drive, quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch got on the phone with O’Korn and told him, “You need to make a play to change this game around.” O’Korn obliged. Facing a third and eight from the Michigan 34 with under five minutes left in the third quarter, O’Korn took off. Here’s how Harbaugh described it:
“Two defenders were pressuring John. He stepped out of it with good ball security. He got the first down and was being threatened at the sticks and didn’t dive or slide; he kicked through an arm tackle. A big play, a signature play for a quarterback in a big game.”
Let it snow
Harbaugh and the players who spoke to the media mentioned “the elements” several times, justifiably. Watching the weather from the press box, the Big House at times resembled a snow globe. Late in the fourth quarter, I couldn’t help but think of Ron Burgundy’s line in Anchorman: “Boy, that escalated quickly.”
Here’s the field at 6:33 p.m.:
And again at 6:39 (notice the cheerleaders’ snow angels in the bottom right corner):
Just three minutes after that, at 6:42:
At 6:45, with cheerleaders sliding in the north end zone and making snow angels (again) in the south end zone:
And finally, at 6:49, with the players belly-flopping in celebration of a big win: