Last year was a marquee season for jaw-dropping plays; or, you know what, maybe it was just Year 1 under Harbaugh.
This time around, I wanted to have a regular feature that celebrated some of those season-defining moments in a recurring feature for Maize ‘n’ Brew. Here are the nominees for top plays of the year so far:
Posterizing is still alive and well, and Michigan has athletes who can do it to you at a number of positions.
Think you can stop Amara Darboh? Want to go toe-to-toe with Rashan Gary? Good luck, and try not to get victimized too badly - or else you might not forget it for a long time.
Close but no cigar: Jabrill’s punt return vs. UCF
It felt like the Red Sea was parting here for the Michigan freshman, and all of Hawaii’s secondary was unable to stop him, just trailing in his wake.
There’s nothing more demoralizing than a long touchdown run straight through the middle of a defense. Heck, this is still one of my favorite football plays of all time. I also loved how this play came with such a feeling of ease - like success and triumph could be as inevitable as a sunrise.
In contrast to the last play, this was just an 18-yard run, but the footwork he managed along the sideline, not to mention the angles he took and the speed he showed, makes this another incredible moment from the first-year player.
It was a little hard not to include this JB touchdown against Hawaii, where he took a 19-yard pass in the flat and ran it in for a score.
But while that showed Jake Butt’s ability in space, this 14-yard TD against UCF showed his route-running and more - a diving catch in the end zone, and the incredible trust by the coaches and Wilton Speight to throw it on 3rd and 12 down in the red zone on the kind of throw most receivers couldn’t grab.
Does this remind you just a little bit of Desmond Howard’s grab in the end zone? Sure, there are important differences - this one wasn’t against Notre Dame, and didn’t score a touchdown. Still, any day you can come close to “The Catch” is a good day.
Close but no cigar: Deep bomb to Darboh
Okay, those are my five choices, and yes, I did rank them according to my favorites.
Last year, sometime around the third straight Michigan shutout, I realized that “top plays” can be incredibly difficult to separate from slightly longer periods of incredible success - three shutouts in a row, for example, or two statement-making pick-sixes against Hawaii ... or four blocked or altered kicks against UCF.
These larger-scale runs of dominance also forge our perceptions of the season, but taken individually, I decided not to include either of the UCF punts (which went for 13 and 27 yards, thanks to Tyree Kinnel), or the two missed 50-yard field goals, or either of the touchdowns by Delano Hill and Channing Stribling. That doesn’t take away from their meaning, however, and I’m sure I’ll butt my head against this ceiling again.