It was an era where Michigan saw three different coaches and go through a long rebuild to get their name back toward the top of the Big Ten. Nonetheless, there were plenty of great moments in the decade for Michigan football, including one of the most explosive offensive players in the historic program’s history.
10. Michigan destroys Florida in the 2016 Citrus Bowl
The Wolverines and the Florida Gators had a bit of a rivalry in the decade, meeting thrice.
It was the first season for Jim Harbaugh, and the Wolverines had lost their two biggest games of the season against Michigan State and Ohio State.
A bit of a rebound was necessary for Michigan, and Harbaugh delivered in his first bowl game with a resounding 41-7 victory over the Gators. Michigan accumulated 503 yards and Jake Rudock threw for 3 touchdown passes. It was an impressive win to round out Harbuagh’s first season as head coach.
Here’s some highlights of the big win:
9. DPJ Paul Bunyan poses on Michigan State in East Lansing in 2018
The biggest knock of Harbaugh’s time at Michigan has been his lack of success against rivals, especially on the road. He was on a mission to change that as he went for his second win on the road against one of Michigan’s biggest rivals — the Michigan State Spartans.
This was a barn-burner of two of the fiercest defenses in the Big Ten and both showed up to play. Michigan had two costly fumbles, but the Spartans offense went NO WHERE as they gained only 94 yards on what was the best defense in the country at that time.
Then the play happened, one that defines this game and the rivalry as a whole. It was a tie game in the third quarter when Shea Patterson found Donovan Peoples-Jones for a 79-yard touchdown which broke the game wide open. In the end zone, DPJ struck a pose that will live forever in this rivalry:
Although this game was a victory, Michigan would go just 4-6 against the Spartans in the 2010’s.
8. The Wolverines hold Minnesota on the goal line on final play
Year 1 of Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan brought a lot of close calls, and because of that, plenty of memorable moments.
This time the Wolverines offense had a horrific performance, and their defense was equally as bad. In Minneapolis, the Golden Gophers put up 461 total yards of offense, but they were just one yard short of winning this game.
The stout Michigan defensive line held Minnesota one yard shy of winning the football game as the defense had a walk-off goal-line stand to keep the Little Brown Jug:
7. Michigan snaps 7-game losing skid to Ohio State in 2011
The biggest reason why this is on the list is because sadly it is the only Michigan victory in their historic rivalry with the Ohio State Buckeyes in this decade.
Denard Robinson had one of the best games of his career throwing for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns while running for 170 yards on 23 carries and tallying 2 more touchdowns on the ground.
The game was neck-and-neck until the fourth quarter when the Wolverines pulled ahead to a 10-point lead with only 8:30 to play.
Here is a recap of the only win for Michigan over Ohio State in the 2010’s:
Michigan still leads the rivalry 58-51-1, but another decade of bad performances could sway the historical totals.
6. Michigan snaps 4-game losing streak to Spartans on last second FG
Michigan had dropped four straight to the Spartans, and most of them weren’t very close. However, that changed in 2012 in a tough battle between the two at The Big House where Michigan hit four field goals (including a 48-yarder from Matt Wile).
The biggest of the bunch came with only five seconds remaining in the game as Brendan Gibbons crushed a 38-yarder through the uprights to give the Wolverines a 12-10 win. It was the first win over the Spartans in the Brady Hoke era:
5. Michigan beats Indiana in 2OT
It was the first season under Harbaugh and the Wolverines escaped with a 48-41 victory.
Rudock drove the team down the field in the final moments of the ballgame. The Wolverines got it inside the 5-yard line with under a minute to play, but were held short on three straight plays.
On fourth and short with three seconds remaining, Rudock hit Jehu Chesson in the end zone for the game-tying touchdown as time expired.
Rudock would throw two more touchdown passes in OT, and the Wolverines’ defense held the Hoosiers out of the end zone on four straight plays from inside the 10-yard line for a Michigan win.
4. Michigan beats Illinois 67-65 in 3 OTs
The best word to describe this game: WOW.
The two teams combined 1,237 combined yards of offense and 17 touchdowns in this shootout. This was by far the most entertaining and gut wrenching game of the decade. It was proof Michigan was no longer anywhere near the top dogs in the Big Ten because they could barely struggle past the Illinois Fighting Illini. But, the offensive explosion and the triple-OT battle makes it one of the best games in Michigan history.
Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson combined for 523 total yards, 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions:
The Wolverines turned the ball over five times and it nearly cost them the football game. While Michigan may miss this kind of offense, they don’t miss struggling against teams like Illinois, finishing 3-5 in the Big Ten and going 7-6 overall.
3. The Wolverines beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl
Gibbons had ice in his veins when he was the Michigan Wolverines’ kicker. He proved that in a huge win against No. 13 Virginia Tech in the 2012 Sugar Bowl.
After a well-fought game on both sides, overtime was forced as Virginia Tech hit a field goal as time expired to force overtime at 20-20.
The Wolverines’ defense got a little lucky as Virginia Tech had the ball on the opening possession, and quarterback Logan Thomas hit a receiver in the end zone on an incredible one-handed diving catch. After review, it was called incomplete, and the kicker missed a 37-yard field goal to give Virginia Tech the lead.
Michigan took over and let Gibbons do the rest as he hit the game-winner to win the Sugar Bowl for the Wolverines.
Here is a reminder of the best bowl win Michigan had in the 2010’s:
2. Michigan nails FG as time expires to head to 3OT win against NW
Oh this one was a doozie. This was not a fun game to watch for the first 52 minutes of game time as it was a kicker’s duel with the score being 9-6 with only a few minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Devin Gardner brought Michigan down the field with a long completion to Jeremy Gallon who was tackled in bounds with less than 15 seconds remaining and no timeouts for the Wolverines.
Hoke rushed the kicking team on the field, and Gibbons nailed a 44-yarder with no time remaining to force OT.
The Wolverines’ defense would hold the Wildcats to just two field goals in three possessions in OT. Meanwhile, Gibbons would hit two more field goals in overtime before Michigan scored a touchdown on a 5-yard run by Gardner. Northwestern failed to score on its ensuing 3OT possession, and the Wolverines would escape Evanston with a W.
1. 2011: Michigan beats Notre Dame after huge 4th quarter deficit
This is bar none the top moment of Michigan football this decade. If there is one moment that will define Robinson’s incredible career in Ann Arbor, it is how he played in the fourth quarter of this game.
The Wolverines found themselves down 24-7 entering the fourth quarter against the Fighting Irish, but they did not break.
Robinson found Vincent Smith for a 21-yard touchdown pass with just over a minute left to play in the game. Michigan took a 27-24 lead, but the Irish were unfazed as quarterback Tommy Rees took Notre Dame right back down the field with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Theo Riddick.
Now, Michigan trailed once again by 31-28 with only 30 seconds to go and two timeouts. Fortunately, it was just enough time for the Wolverines to make some magic.
Robinson found a wide open Gallon for 65 yards and one more shot at the end zone with 8 seconds remaining. Brady Hoke took a shot in his first season as the head coach and let Shoelace take a shot at the end zone, and it paid off. He lobbed one up to Roy Roundtree for a touchdown with only two seconds left.
Relive the top moment of the decade: