Lovers, friends, supporters, neutrals, hate readers… unlike my fading hairline, I have returned!
It has been a few weeks since I last checked in, but those Mexican mojitos weren’t going to drink themselves. I hope everyone has had a great summer thus far and with that, welcome to the third and final installment in the Maize n Brew’s Summer Nostalgia Series.
In the previous installments, I chronicled great Michigan units of all time great teams. Unfortunately, ‘The Game’ was a disappointment and the only regular season blemish in both 1973 and 2006. To ease our pain for this one, let’s focus on one player during one game: Tim Biakabatuka vs. Ohio State in 1995. But before we arrive at our destination, let’s enjoy the journey with some appropriate context.
In Lloyd Carr’s first season as head coach, the Wolverines suffered their fair share of ups and downs. Michigan came out of the gate sluggish against Virginia before mounting the (then) biggest comeback in Wolverines’ history.
Behind freshman starting quarterback Scott Dreisbach’s dynamic arm, Michigan won its first four games. However, what would become an unfortunate career staple, Dreisbach suffered an injury in practice before the Miami (OH) game, thrusting Brian Griese into the starting role.
Griese performed adequately, going 4-3 heading into the Ohio State game and having only lost one game by more than six points. Griese was aided by a stout defense featuring freshman Charles Woodson and the best rushing season in Michigan history by Tshimanga Biakabatuka.
Before 1995, Tshimanga (“Tim”) Biakabatuka was a fine running back. During his first two seasons at Michigan, Biakabatuka tallied 992 yards and 12 touchdowns as a backup to Tyrone Wheatley. Fans knew he was destined to break out in 1995, but no one anticipated the 1,818-yard explosion.
One of the key factors in Biakabatuka’s success was actually the injury of Scott Dreisbach. During Dreisbach’s four-game stretch, Biakabatuka averaged 18.5 carries per game; after the injury, Tim averaged 25 per game the rest of the season. Simply, when an unproven quarterback steps in, you must lean on your veterans.
Despite his workload increasing, Biakabatuka still raised his average yards per rush and finished the season at 6.0. Biakabatuka was having a great season, but became immortal on Nov. 25, 1995.
The 1995 Buckeyes were damn good. Perhaps, the best offensive team ever seen in their (admittedly) illustrious history.
Eventual Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George set an Ohio State single-game record with 314 rushing yards against Illinois and a season record with 1,927 yards in 1995. George also scored 24 touchdowns, which is second-most for a Buckeye in a single season.
Wide receiver Terry Glenn set the Ohio State single-game record with 253 receiving yards against Pittsburgh. Glenn also finished with the second-most receiving yards in a Buckeye season with 1,411, and set the record with 17 receiving touchdowns.
Quarterback Bobby Hoying finished his career with 7,232 passing yards, 3,269 of which came in 1995. Both are good for second all time in Ohio State history.
Linebacker Mike Vrabel tallied 13 sacks (third-most in Buckeye history) and an absurd 26 tackles for loss, which remains an Ohio State record.
Five carries and 104 rushing yards later, it was quickly clear who was going to win this game. Biakabatuka finished with 313 yards on 37 carries and 1 touchdown as the Wolverines spoiled the undefeated season for the Buckeyes, 31-23.
Tim’s 313 rushing yards are the second-most for a Wolverine in a single game and the most the Buckeyes have ever given up to a single player.
To add salt in a wound already doused with Biakabatuka lemon juice, Eddie George’s 104 rushing yards were his second-lowest all season and Terry Glenn accounted for two drops and ZERO catches in the second half.
Glenn eloquently stated before the game, “Michigan is nobody. I guarantee we’re going to the Rose Bowl.” Obviously, freshman Charles Woodson took this personally and added two interceptions to his already smothering performance of Glenn.
After the game, Ohio State head coach John Cooper said, “I don’t know if I’ve ever been this disappointed in my life.”
For a Wolverine fan, no words were sweeter.
Michigan went on to win the next two meetings with the Buckeyes and a national championship in 1997. All of the successes can be traced to the Biakabatuka boom in 1995.