This Gameday in History: September 28th

Jim Rogash

Even though it's a bye week this year, let's look back on how the Wolverines have fared on September 28th throughout their 134 year history.

To start out, it's unfortunate that, given history, the Wolverines aren't playing Saturday. Even though the team's been struggling and the bye should needs to help, Sept. 28 is the winningest gameday featured this season for the Wolverines. Hopefully this means that instead of winning a game on Saturday, Michigan will benefit from practice and rest to the extent that they run the table after the bye? One can dream. In any case, Michigan football loves the date of Sept. 28, so much so that the team's lost only one game in history on the date: a 51-31 loss at the hands of top-ranked Florida State in 1991.

Let's begin by taking a look at the pre-1950s games. First up: the 1901 season opener against the Albion College Britons, held on the grounds of Regents Field (where Schembechler Hall sits today). The game featured halfback Willie Heston -- a future College Football Hall of Fame inductee -- in his first game for the Wolverines. In the 50-0 blowout, Heston scored his first career touchdown for Michigan on a turnover, described below by the Michigan Alumnus:

"Once when Albion had the ball on her 25-yard line, Heston broke through between guard and center, got possession of the ball before it left the quarter back's hands, and made a touchdown."

The win against Albion kicked off one of the greatest seasons in Michigan's history, as the inaugural "Point-a-Minute" squad went undefeated while not allowing a point to an opponent en route to Michigan's first ever National Championship (and the first of four in a row). The 1901 season also saw the Wolverines play in the first collegiate bowl game, a New Year's Day 1902 meeting with Stanford University. It was the inaugural Rose Bowl (then called the Tournament East-West football game) and Michigan dominated the Cardinal by a score of 49-0.

28 years later, the Wolverines played two games on the 28th of September, another romp against Albion by a score of 39-0 and a closer, 16-6 victory against the Mount Union Purple Raiders. It was the last time Michigan played either school, and if not for a loss against the Britons in 1891, the Wolverines would have perfect records against both squads (for the record, Michigan's 16-1 against Albion and 7-0 against Mount Union all-time).

Before the mid-century mark, Michigan hit the gridiron twice more on Sept. 28, traveling to California in 1940 and hosting Indiana in 1946. In Berkeley, the Wolverines crushed the Golden Bears behind soon-to-be-later-that-year Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon. The All-American halfback annihilated California's defense, which, according to the New York Times, looked "as strong as a wet paper bag" against the powerful #98. On the opening kickoff, Harmon returned the ball 94-yards for his first of four touchdowns on the day. He added 131 rushing yards on 16 carries, went 5 for 9 for 39 yards through the air, returned three punts for 90 total yards, punted three times for 72 total yards, and added four extra-points on five attempts. Talk about putting the team on your back. Here's some other great lines from the Times article after the game:

  • "Harmon was as hard to snare as a greased pig. He ran the California boys dizzy and himself out of breath."
  • "So far as the 35,000 spectators, sitting through a warm afternoon, were concerned, Michigan was spelled 'Harmon.'"
  • "At one time the home team had the unsolicited help of a twelfth man on the field, but even his honest, if misguided, efforts had no effect on [Harmon]. The unidentified spectator, who jumped from the stands, rushed to the field and tried to tackle Harmon, was escorted out by police.
In the '46 season-opener against Indiana, Michigan continued their reign of power on Sept. 28 by disposing of the 1945 Big Ten Champs by a score of 21-0. The win avenged losses versus the Hoosiers on opening day in '44 and '45. Aided by eight Hoosier turnovers, the Wolverines scored seven minutes into the first quarter and added two more in the final frame, the last score coming off a punt return. The win created high hopes for head coach Fitz Crisler and the Wolverines in '46. Unfortunately, the team stumbled through three week span, losing to #2 Army in Week 3, tying #10 Northwestern the following week, and concluding with a loss against Illinois, the eventual Big Ten Champs.

A little over a decade later, in 1957, the Wolverines started their season in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum against the USC Trojans. Both teams were coming off second place finishes the previous season in their respective divisions, but '57 saw both teams struggle, the Trojans moreso than the Wolverines. The game was an uneventful, boring affair but contained enough positive Michigan plays to give the Wolverines a 16-6 victory. It was the first loss of many for the Trojans in '57, who finished with a 1-9 record, the worst in team history. On the other sideline, the Wolverines struggled to build much off the win and finished sixth in the Big Ten with a 5-3-1 record in head coach Bennie Oosterbaan's penultimate season.

Following a disappointing 2-6 campaign in 1962, the Wolverines opened the 1963 season against the SMU Mustangs. It's the only time both teams have shared a field, and Michigan dominated for most of the game. The Wolverines blew the game open in the second quarter by scoring three touchdowns to take a 21-0 lead into the locker rooms. Michigan added another touchdown, but no extra-point, in the third quarter to give them a commanding 27-0 lead. SMU tried to comeback in the final frame, but it was too little, too late, and the Wolverines won by a final score of 27-16.

Half of a decade later, Michigan faced the Duke Blue Devils on Sept. 28 in Week 2 of the 1968 season. The Wolverines looked to bounce back from a loss at the hands of California, and Duke proved to be an easy target. Led by halfback Ron Johnson, Michigan's offense scored 31 points on 480 total yards, with 205 yards and two touchdowns coming thanks to Johnson. The game was the fourth of six meetings with the Blue Devils and Wolverines, with Michigan taking all six by a cumulative score of 173-46. The two teams haven't played each other since 1978.

Another six years, and the Wolverines battled the Navy Midshipmen 28 days into September. Michigan handled our nation's servicemen with ease, scoring at least a touchdown a quarter along the way to a 52-0 runaway. A week after upsetting #8 Penn State, the Middies shot themselves in the foot at the Big House by throwing three interceptions and losing two fumbles. The win increased Michigan's unbeaten streak to 14 games, which would continue until the team lost against Ohio to end the season.

If any one's looking ahead to next season and wants to know how Michigan's fared against future Big Ten member Maryland, stop searching and keep reading. The two teams met in the third week of the 1987 season. Michigan had already dispatched #13 Notre Dame and #15 South Carolina and looked to continue their winning ways against ranked opponents against #17 Maryland. On the other hand, the Terrapins hoped to bounce back from a Week 1 loss to #19 Penn State, which dropped them from #7 in the rankings. But the Wolverines didn't care about the Terps agenda as they blanked the Maryland squad 20-0. Find some highlights here. The shutout meant that Michigan's defense had yet to surrender a touchdown to an opponent in '85, a streak they'd maintain until Nov. 16 against Minnesota. It was the first meeting between Maryland and Michigan, with the other two coming in 1989 and 1990. Michigan's won all three games.

Moving forward six more years, Michigan lost to the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles, 51-31. It was Michigan's only regular season loss in 1991, and they didn't help themselves out much during the game. The Wolverines threw four interceptions, and the Seminoles returned two for touchdowns. On top of that, Florida State worked in numerous trick plays, and in the end, Michigan just couldn't keep up. The game was the second of two meetings between the Wolverines and Seminoles, with the other coming in 1986, a 20-18 Michigan victory.

Coming into their matchup with the UCLA Bruins, the Wolverines were already 3-0, including a huge victory against #5 Colorado in Week 2. On the other sideline, the Bruins had split their first two games: a 35-20 loss against #2 Tennessee and a 44-0 rout against Louisiana-Monroe. Michigan was the favorite to win, and by the end, they left no doubt as to why. Halfback Chris Howard led the offense with 109 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Charles Woodson added two interceptions, and the Wolverines stomped the Bruines 38-9. Watch highlights here.

And finally, the most recent game Michigan's played on Sept. 28: a healthy 45-28 win against Illinois. The Illini helped the Wolverines win the game by throwing three interceptions and losing two fumbles. Michigan converted the five turnovers into four touchdowns. The errors proved to be too much for the Illini, and the Wolverines left Champaign with a victory.

So like I said at the beginning, it's unfortunate the Wolverines aren't playing this Saturday. With most games being blowouts and only one loss, Sept. 28 is a gameday Michigan needs to schedule in the future. Here's to a week of recovery before Minnesota. Go Blue!

Overall Record on September 28th

12-1

Game Scores

1901 vs. Albion, 50-0

1929 vs. Albion, 39-0

1929 vs. Mount Union, 16-6

1940, at California, 41-0

1946, vs. Indiana, 21-0

1957, at USC, 16-6

1963, vs. SMU, 27-16

1968, at Duke, 31-10

1974, vs. Navy, 52-0

1985, vs. #17 Maryland, 20-0

1991, vs. #1 Florida State, 31-51

1996, vs. UCLA, 38-9

2002, at Illinois, 45-28

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