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A brief history of bad weather games for Michigan football

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With thunderstorms looming for Notre Dame in a few days, here’s a primer for wonky weather for the Wolverines.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The weather gods simply hate Michigan football at night. The ghost of Schembechler may be giving Warde Manuel a message to only play games at noon.

Potential thunderstorms loom for the Wolverines as they visit South Bend this Saturday for the 2018 season opener.

While Michigan famously triumphed in the Snow Bowl in 1950 — one of the worst weather games of all time — history shows recent struggles in inclement conditions. In 2017, a monsoon crippled both offenses in the Michigan State game last year, while Brandon Peters barely threw the ball in the second half against Minnesota.

Here’s a quick primer on Wolverine football in the crappiest of climates.

SNOW BOWL, 9-3 W OVER OHIO STATE IN 1950

In Nov. 1950, one of the worst blizzards in Ohio history prevented many fans from even seeing Michigan’s conference-clinching 9-3 death march against the Buckeyes. The conditions haunted those who managed to attend.

“How well I remember it,” former Ohio State athletic director Ed Weaver recalled. “To this day I have horrendous nightmares. It was a long time ago, yet the agony has remained.”

The temperatures dropped to around 10 degrees, with fans chilled to the bone by gust of 28 miles per hour. The lack of fireworks on the field didn’t help matters.

The game featured 24 punts — cue the Kirk Ferentz hot flashes — with three of them blocked to set up the only scores. The Buckeyes mustered a field goal, while Michigan’s Tony Mumsen recovered one of the blocks for the only touchdown. The Wolverines later added a safety.

Bennie Oosterbaan’s team later shocked unbeaten Cal 14-6 in the 1951 Rose Bowl.

“NO MORE 3:30 GAMES” 22-7 W OVER MINNESOTA, 1988

This game deserves mention for two reasons. One, Bo Schembechler was quoted later saying, “No more 3:30 games in November.” Are you listening, Jim Delany?

The maize ponchos, the bright sheen on the Astroturf and the general misery of the mustachioed men in the stands paint the picture.

The other note: starting quarterback Michael Taylor fractured his collarbone in the game, leading to Demetrius Brown’s emergence in the final weeks of the season. After throwing seven interceptions against Michigan State in 1987, fans were understandably nervous.

Instead, he righted the ship the rest of the way en route to a 22-14 Rose Bowl victory against USC.

1995: MICHIGAN 5, PURDUE 0

Do you really need any more explanation than the score? The only score uglier than this is probably when Iowa clipped Penn State 6-4 in 2004.

My father drove me to the game, witnessed the weather and refused to take me inside the stadium. I listened to the radio call in a stuffy car for three hours.

LLOYD’S LAST STAND: OHIO STATE 14, MICHIGAN 3 IN 2007

Without the warm, fuzzy feelings of Lloyd Carr slaying Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators in the 2008 Capital One Bowl, this would be his final memory.

From frame one of the broadcast, rain drops obfuscate the screen. Chad Henne’s busted shoulder, Mike Hart’s wobbly ankle and Mario Manningham’s hands allowed Ohio State the ultimate opportunity at Tressel Ball. Todd Boeckmann threw for only 50 yards, ceding the bulk of the offense to Beanie Wells — 223 yards on 39 carries.

Call this weather karma for 1950.

COMEBACK WASHED AWAY: NOTRE DAME 35, MICHIGAN 17 IN 2008

After two straight embarrassing defeats to Michigan the two years prior, Charlie Weis absolutely needed this game. Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate quickly went to work on Rich Rodriguez’s “defense,” jumping to a 21-0 lead.

It’s hard to comprehend, but Michigan’s offense was a lot worse than even last year. Legend says the ghosts of Steven Threet, Nick Sheridan and Sam McGuffie still spook custodians in Schembechler Hall.

Despite that, Rodriguez started squeezing as much as he could out the broken parts, closing the margin to 28-17 by halftime after McGuffie’s weaving, 40-yard touchdown catch and Kevin Grady’s powerful 7-yard scoring run.

The drizzle turned to flooding in the second half, leading to a Threet fumble turning into a fumble return for a touchdown. Both offenses bogged down in the storm, giving Weis one of his only memorable victories late in his time in South Bend.

SHORTENED GAMES/DELAYS: WMU 2011 AND UTAH 2014

The only game called due to weather was a 34-10 win over Western Michigan in Brady Hoke’s debut. Officials called it after two lightning-caused suspensions.

The weather that day was plain bizarre. First, temperatures reached triple-digits, and humidity turned Ann Arbor into Dubai. Bronco and Wolverine fans rejoiced at the buckets of cooling rain (around the 20-minute mark).

The only other lightning delay before that was during a 41-17 victory over Central Michigan in 2006.

In Hoke’s last season, rain and listless play drove fans away from even finishing a 26-10 loss to Utah.

After a two-hour delay, the teams ran out the final eight minutes of game clock.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Michigan State, outside of last year, has frequently seen weird weather. Tate Forcier almost led a comeback in 2009 after the heavens dumped all of Lake Michigan on Spartan Stadium. Two years later, a trash tornado struck East Lansing in the 28-14 Spartan win.

Michigan topped Indiana in a 63-47 barnburner in 2013 during misty conditions.

Lastly, fans sang “Let It Snow” against the Hoosiers for win No. 10 in 2016.


There are so many examples not even mentioned here, so which games do you remember getting soaked, sprayed or covered in snow?