Games on Nov. 9 haven't always been pretty for the Michigan Wolverines. Since 1889, the Wolverines have "scraped' by with an 11-6 record on the 9th of November. The record isn't all that bad, but the six losses have been painful. Out of the 17 games, nine have been decided by less than 10 point, and that includes all six defeats.
Before the start of the 20th century, the 1889 Wolverines won their first of three
football rugby games on the season against the Albion Britons by a score of 33-4. Six years later, Michigan lost one game on the year, and it took place on Nov. 9 in Cambridge against the (at the time) elite Harvard Crimson. Harvard shut out the Wolverines and scored one touchdown after a blocked punt. They failed to convert the extra point, giving the Ivy Leaguers a 4-0 victory.
Following the close loss on the east coast, Michigan played five games prior to the start of World War II: they dominated the Buckeyes in 1901 by a score of 21-0, lost 27-21 to Penn in 1912, shutout Chicago 13-0 on the road in 1918, avenged the Harvard loss by beating them 14-12 in 1929, and fell in a low-scoring contest at Illinois in 1935, 3-0. In 1901, the Wolverines finished 11-0, earned their first National Championship, and outscored their opponents by a combined 550-0. As the great Stone Cold Steve Austin once said, "WHAT?" According to the Chicago Daily Tribune, the Buckeye fans were "exultant over the fact of having held Michigan to a lower score than did the [Carlisle] Indians [in the previous] week." That's too awesome.
In Philly, the Wolverines blew a 21-7 halftime lead in a loss, so let's move on to the 1918 game against the Chicago Maroons. Heading into the contest, Michigan had not played football in over a month due to a couple of games being cancelled (with a showdown versus Michigan State being dropped due to an influenza scare). The Wolverines offense looked rusty, but the defense stood tall in the win. Over a decade later, Michigan hosted the Crimson on Homecoming (Harvard's first trip to Ann Arbor), and this time, the Wolverines eked out a victory. Both teams scored two touchdowns apiece, and the difference maker ended up being two Michigan extra points to zero for Harvard. The '35 Illinois game was an ugly, rainy match, and the Wolverines came out on the wrong end of a 3-0 final.
Michigan played a pair of games in the '40s, losing on the road to the Minnesota Golden Gophers in 1940 and winning at home against Michigan State in '46. The '40 game featured a #2 vs. #3 undefeated showdown, and the higher-ranked Gophers came out on top thanks to a successful extra point. Tom Harmon struggled to find solid footing for Michigan in a sloppy game, and his missed point (after he threw a touchdown pass) ending up being the difference in the Gophers victory. Later in the decade, the Wolverines offense tallied over 20 points for just the third time on Nov. 9. Michigan dominated the Spartans in '46 by scoring two touchdowns in every quarter en route to a 55-7 victory.
Following the '40s, Michigan played four straight Nov. 9 games against the Illinois Fighting Illini from 1957-74. In the first match, the Wolverines lost another heartbreaker due to missed extra points. The Illini converted two of three PATs while blocking two of Michigan's three attempts in their 20-19 victory. '63 saw a reversal of roles as the unranked Wolverines upset the #2 ranked Illini. In the fourth quarter, Michigan turned an Illinois fumble into a touchdown, giving the Wolverines a 14-8 lead with just over five minutes remaining. Michigan's defense stood tall to finish the game, and the fumble-turned-touchdown ended up being the game-winning score.
Five years later, the #7 Wolverines faced the unranked Illini, but the situation didn't mirror '63 in terms of an upset. Michigan throttled Illinois behind two touchdowns each for quarterback Dennis Brown and running back Ron Johnson. The final match in the four Nov. 9 Illini games reflected '63 on the scoreboard, but with Michigan's talent, it shouldn't have been so close. In '74, the Wolverines traveled to Champaign with an undefeated record and ranked #4 in the AP poll (#2 in the Coaches). However, the death of an Illini player -- Greg Williams -- the morning of the game cast a pall over what became an unimportant game of football. Michigan dominated the first half by outscoring Illinois 14-0 and gaining 259 yards to Illini's lowly 25. Following halftime, Illinois rallied but couldn't find consistency against the Wolverines stout defense, and Michigan hung on to win 14-8.
In the most recent quartet of Nov. 9 games, the Wolverines have gone 3-1 with skillful wins versus Purdue in '85, Northwestern in '91, and Minnesota in '02. The lone loss occurred in '96 on the road against Purdue. In '85, the Michigan offense mauled the Boilermakers defense behind quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who went 12 for 13 for 233 yards and three touchdowns in less than three quarters of playing time. But it wasn't all offense for Michigan in the 47-0 romp as the defense dominated as well. After the game, Bo commented on his defensive squad: "They scare me."
'91 saw much of the same as the Wolverines rolled over the Northwestern Wildcats by a score of 59-14. On the game, Michigan gained 627 yards and scored three touchdowns on its first seven offensive plays. I hope to see this same outcome in a week. The ugly '96 game against Purdue doesn't deserve more than one sentence so here it is: #9 Michigan surrendered five turnovers in a 9-3 upset at the hands of the Boilermakers. Last but not least, Michigan handled the Gophers with ease in '02, winning by a score of 41-24. During the second half, the Wolverines offense scored 24 points in a seven minute stretch and finished the game with 478 total yards. Running back B.J. Askew rushed for two touchdowns and 126 yards on 11 carries while John Navarre threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns as well. The win kept the Little Brown Jug in Ann Arbor for the 15th straight season.
So, yet again, history favors Michigan heading into game day (which isn't surprising). Since I spend my time sifting through record books and reading old newspaper clippings, I'll continue to hold out hope that team 134 turns a corner this season before pitchforks and torches become a common sight in Ann Arbor. Everything will start getting better come 3:30 PM (EST) later today. Go Blue!
Overall Record on Nov. 9
1889 vs. Albion, 33-4
1895 at Harvard, 0-4
1901 at Ohio, 21-0
1912 at Penn, 21-27
1918 at Chicago, 13-0
1929 vs. Harvard, 14-12
1935 at Illinois, 0-3
1940 at Minnesota, 6-7
1946 vs. Michigan State, 55-7
1957 at Illinois, 19-20
1963 at Illinois, 14-8
1968 vs. Illinois, 36-0
1974 at Illinois, 14-6
1985 vs. Purdue, 47-0
1991 vs. Northwestern, 59-14
1996 at Purdue, 3-9
2002 at Minnesota, 41-24