Barry Petchesky posed an extremely intriguing question over at Deadspin: if you had the power to travel back in time and change the outcome of one sports play, what would it be? This is a question that has crept into the minds of all sports fans at one time or another whether you were trying to fall asleep in the middle of the night, zoning out while showering, or sitting in traffic and waiting for the car in front of you to inch forward. It can torment you, causing you to imagine the wonderful things that could have happened to your favorite team had just one play ended differently.
And Petchesky's question has tormented me all day as I have spent much of it wondering the outcome of one play I wish I could change for Michigan football, basketball, and hockey. After much thought, I made my three selections and decided that I would share them here with you. Let's rip off some scabs and take a trip down memory lane.
Football: Crable's Late Hit vs. Ohio State in 2006
For the first time in the history of The Game, Ohio State and Michigan met as the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the nation. Both teams were undefeated. The winner would become the Big Ten champion and secure a spot in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game. The loser would be "relegated" to the Rose Bowl. The stakes were at an all-time high as were the emotions -- legendary Michigan football head coach Bo Schembechler died from heart disease at the age of 77 the day before the two hated rivals took the field.
Michigan played this game in Bo's honor. No one wanted to beat the Buckeyes more than Bo, and no one would have been happier to see the Wolverines outduel the Buckeyes in Columbus in the most-hyped meeting of the sport's best rivalry than Bo. And, with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, trailing Ohio State, 35-31, Michigan had that chance.
On the Michigan 38-yard line, Ohio State faced third-and-15. If Michigan could get a stop without permitting Ohio State to pick up enough yards to kick a field goal or consider going for it on fourth down, they would get the ball back with the opportunity to drive the length of the field and take the lead in the waning minutes. And, given that Michigan already had scored 31 points in the game and 17 in the second half, odds were high that Michigan could do just that. After the snap, Troy Smith rolled to his right as pressure closed in, and, before he stepped out of bounds, he threw a pass across his body, which fell incomplete. It would have been fourth-and-15, and Ohio State would have punted.
Except Shawn Crable did this:
Late hit. Automatic first down. Ohio State scored a touchdown three plays later.
Michigan never had another chance to get the ball back with a shot to take the lead and lost to the Buckeyes, 42-39. It was a devastating loss for Michigan -- one that robbed them of an opportunity to win their 12th national championship and second since 1948.
Some would argue that changing Crable's late hit would not mean much because it would not have guaranteed Michigan a win -- Michigan may not have scored once they got the ball back or Ohio State may have had enough time to answer with a score of their own if Michigan had taken the lead. Others may argue that winning this game may not have mattered because it would have led only to Michigan getting spanked by Florida.
These all are fair points.
But a chance to change a play that would have given Michigan a probable shot to take a lead and beat Ohio State in The Game's only ever meeting between No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams the day after Bo passed away? I'll take that that chance every time.
Runner-Up: Mike Lantry's missed field goal vs. Ohio State in 1974
Basketball: Webber's TO vs. North Carolina in 1993
The Fab Five, which consisted of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson, took the nation by storm as freshmen with their brash style, baggy shorts, black socks, and, most importantly, dazzling play, which they rode all the way to the national title game against Duke in 1992. Though the Fab Five lost to Christian Laettner and the senior-laden Blue Devils, it was viewed as a learning experience -- one that would prepare them for the title run they planned to make as sophomores in 1993.
And a title run the Fab Five did make. Michigan entered the 1993 NCAA Tournament with a 26-4 record and a No. 1 seed, where they reeled off another five wins and beat fellow No. 1 seed Kentucky in the national semifinals to advance to the national title game for the second straight season. This time, though, rather than face a more talented and experienced Duke team, the Wolverines faced a North Carolina squad that was on an equal level. The game went down to the wire as the Tar Heels went to the free-throw line to shoot two with a 72-71 lead, 19 seconds left on the clock, and no timeouts remaining for Michigan. Pat Sullivan knocked down the first free throw. And then this happened:
Webber called a timeout Michigan didn't have. A technical foul was assessed. Game over.
It became an iconic moment in sports -- one that will never be forgotten and always will live in infamy. If anyone mentions or does a Google search for "The Timeout Game," it is the first game that will come to mind. It is a moment that always will be used to poke fun at Webber or Michigan, and, while that's unfortunate, it's also a moment that did this:
It cost Michigan and the Fab Five a shot to win a national championship.
Runner-Up: Luke Hancock's first of four straight threes vs. Michigan in 2013
Hockey: The Waived-Off Goal vs. Duluth in 2011
Led by walk-on-turned-superstar goalie Shawn Hunwick (a.k.a "Tiny Jesus") and senior Carl Hagelin, Michigan had a talented team in 2010-11. The Wolverines won the CCHA regular-season championship and reached the Frozen Four as a No. 2 seed. However, it seemed Michigan's season would end in the national semifinals because the team standing between Michigan and the national championship game was lone remaining No. 1 seed North Dakota, which was an absolute juggernaut. Michigan needed a miraculous performance to pull off the upset, and that's what they received as the undersized Hunwick was on fire in the crease, stopping all 40 shots he faced as Michigan won, 2-0.
Michigan seemed destined to win its first national title since 1998. The favorite, North Dakota, was out, and all Michigan needed to do was beat No. 3 seed Minnesota-Duluth in the final. The Bulldogs were a solid team but not one expected to beat Michigan. And it looked like Michigan would get off to a fast start when, early in the opening period, Chris Brown poked a loose puck in the crease across the goal line, which should have given Michigan a 1-0 lead. However, though the puck crossed the goal line first, the referee blew his whistle with the intention to call the play dead because he did not see that the puck was loose and thought that it had been frozen. By rule, the goal was waived off.
However, if the referee had waited just another second or two, he would have seen that the puck was loose and would not have waived off Brown's goal. It would have given Michigan an early 1-0 lead and all of the momentum. Instead, it was yet another critical Michigan goal in a significant game that a referee waived off with a premature whistle.
The call gave Minnesota-Duluth a boost of energy, and, with a home crowd behind them in Minneapolis, the Bulldogs outworked the Wolverines for the rest of the game. Michigan scratched and clawed and did enough to force the game into overtime with a 2-2 score. But Michigan ran out of gas early in the extra session when a long shift in their defensive zone led to a Minnesota-Duluth goal and a loss for Michigan in the title game.
We'll never know what would have happened if that first Michigan goal had counted.
But I really, really want to know.
Runner-Up: Notre Dame's OT goal vs. Michigan in the 2008 Frozen Four
No, that was not pleasant. At all. And I wish I could change them all.
But do you agree or disagree? What would your selections be? Comment below.