We are closing out controversies week here at Maize n Brew and our staff has chimed in with some of the moments that have haunted them since they occurred. Many of us are of the younger variety, so I’m sure you will notice a bit of a recent flair to the submissions.
Without further ado, here we go:
At this point, it feels like beating a dead horse, but “The Spot” will be burned into my retinas until my last breath. The 2016 version of The Game was the first that I ever covered in Columbus and an eye-opening experience. You cannot truly comprehend the hatred that OSU fans have for Michigan until you see a game there, and it is something that just is not reciprocated when the Buckeyes come to Ann Arbor. Going there is to go into the lions den and surviving the trip, let alone coming out of a win, is a tall task. Michigan missed out on that chance by what essentially feels like the flip of a coin. It changed the trajectory of the Jim Harbaugh era and to this point, the program still has not recovered from it.
“Trouble With The Snap” will haunt me forever. At that point in time, Michigan needed a victory over a rival team so badly (at least I wanted them to get it badly because it seemed like they hadn’t beaten a rival since the Lloyd Carr days). I was watching that game with my buddies at my old college apartment. After watching it play out live, I sat with my face in my hands for probably a solid minute or so, got up from my couch, went to the kitchen and did what any college kid would do at that moment in time — I poured some whiskey. I haven’t seen a full replay of it since.
Harbaugh deciding to use a gunner despite MSU putting all 11 guys on the line to block the punt.
The 2013 National championship game. The block that should have been clean by Trey Burke doesn’t bother me, it’s the circumstances around it that do. Louisville cheated. Michigan didn’t. Still haunts me.
Spartan Bob and the Never-Ending Second in the 2001 Michigan State game
While the 2001 game between Michigan and Michigan State has been overtaken by other, more recent controversies in the minds of Michigan fans, this game has stuck with me. The game was played in East Lansing before a capacity crowd back when MSU was actually capable of attracting more than a smattering of fans to their games. The Wolverines were ranked No. 4 in the BCS, with MSU looking to be an unranked spoiler. Michigan was led by the likes of John Navarre, Chris Perry, B.J. Askew, and Marlin Jackson. Michigan State fielded the likes of Jeff Smoker and T.J. Duckett.
The game was a back and forth affair throughout, with Michigan taking a 24-20 lead with 5:00 remaining in the 4th quarter. On the ensuing possession, MSU drove down the field until Jeff Smoker was tackled at the 2 yard line with just seconds remaining. While MSU scrambled to get lined up to spike the ball, the clock was seemingly stopped early with 1 second remaining. On the next play, Smoker completed a pass to T.J. Duckett in the end zone and won the game for MSU.
The Michigan radio broadcast said that the clock was stopped early and called it criminal, the ABC broadcast speculated that the clock was stopped early, I seem to recall SportsCenter running a clock during on screen during a segment the next morning showing that the second had lasted for much longer than one second, and controversy generally ensued. At that time, the official game time was kept by the stadium clock operators who are employees of the schools. The gentleman running the clock that day became known as “Spartan Bob” for allegedly providing an unsporting home-field advantage to MSU, and he was hounded by threats and harassment for years afterward. Beginning the next season, due in part to this controversy, the official time was—and still is—kept by an official on the field.
“The Spot”. As someone who was born in 1997, I have only seen Michigan beat Ohio State two times: 2003 and 2011. Every year I go in with the mindset that something is going to change this year and Michigan is going to regain their spot as the No. 1 team in the conference, and every year my hopes die in the last weekend of November. “The Spot” may have some recency bias, but it is also one of the few opportunities in my adult life where “The Game” has even been a legitimate contest. So, in the grand scheme of the 116 games the two archrivals have faced off in, it may not be the most prolific debate, but in my lifetime it squandered my yearning Michigan to be the team and the program that my parents and grandparents have told me about.
The spot. The only one that truly haunts me.
A season defining botched call. If JT was ruled short, Michigan likely wins in Indy and makes the College Football Playoff.
Physicists even weighed in about the call, but to my eye I’ll only ever have needed to see the play once to know he was short.
This was my first full season covering Michigan Football, and I already was ready to book my hotel room in Indy for Michigan’s Big Ten Championship Game. Something I still haven’t been able to do. The 2016 Michigan team was a damn good one, and one call changed their trajectory of becoming a legendary one.