Do yourself a favor and watch — very
closely — the Michigan-Iowa game on Saturday. Not because it
should be a good game or because it’s an important Big Ten
contest or because that’s what people do on weekends in the
fall.

Chris Burke

Watch it because you will probably see something that you cannot
believe.

Games between the Wolverines and Hawkeyes tend to get buried
beneath Michigan’s matchups with bigger rivals like Michigan
State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and the rest. But the last five games
between these two Big Ten combatants have almost defied
explanation.

The slogan for this game every year should be: Michigan versus
Iowa — we have no idea what’s going on.

This weekend will mark the sixth game since 1997 involving
Michigan and Iowa, and — if Saturday’s game follows the
pattern — it will probably look something like Looney Tunes
meets “Remember the Titans” meets an Alfred Hitchcock
movie.

Drama, suspense, great football and a whole lot of cartoon
zaniness.

Alright, let me start with last year. Speaking of games getting
buried … there are probably Michigan fans who plum forgot about
this one since the Wolverines lost to Oregon the week before it and
then went on to win the Big Ten title after it. But last year was
just a little sampling of what this game has become.

Michigan had a 20-10 lead, but gave up a touchdown after a
43-yard punt return by Ramon Ochoa was ended with a late hit by the
Wolverines. Michigan held a 20-17 halftime lead (cue
“Remember the Titans” halftime speech). The Hawkeyes
came out of the lockerroom and promptly tied the game at 20 after
an interception (cue Hitchcock-suspense music). Then Iowa took the
lead when Michigan punter Garrett Rivas rolled out … on a punt
… and had it blocked (cue Wile E. Coyote blowing himself up with
an ACME bomb). Iowa won, 30-27.

Now, how could you have forgotten that?

Fine, maybe you didn’t — heck, the game almost
single-handedly got Michigan a new special teams coach.

Well, then, let me take you back to 2002. Michigan was ranked
No. 8 in the country and still very much in the hunt for the
national title. This one, unfortunately for the fans, lacked the
creativity of the 2003 game. This one looked more like a
professional body builder arm-wrestling a 10-year-old.

Iowa outgained Michigan by over 200 yards, scored 24 unanswered
points in the second half and sent a packed Michigan Stadium crowd
home early in a 34-9 win. Crazy? Not really — unless you
account for the fact that the Wolverines suffered their worst home
loss in 35 years. Oh, and Michigan’s longest run of the day
was a 39-yard scamper by quarterback John Navarre, on a play that
happened about as quickly as a Baywatch lifeguard running to the
water.

And that disappointment for Michigan probably washed away the
memory of 2001’s dramatic Wolverine victory in Iowa City.

In that one, Iowa jumped out to a 20-7 lead when the Hawkeyes
ran a reverse — on a punt return — for a 67-yard
touchdown. Michigan finally took the lead on a touchdown when wide
receiver Marquise Walker went “Go-Go-Gadget-Arm” on a
pass that looked like Navarre was throwing into the 15th row of the
stands for a touchdown. That play was set up by a B.J. Askew
14-yard run on the rarely-used fumble-rooskie play (it’s sort
of like the “Annexation of Puerto Rico” play from
“Little Giants” for those of you stuck in movie and TV
mode). The Wolverines finally put the 2001 game away when tight end
Shawn Thompson caught his only touchdown pass of the year for a
32-26 Michigan win.

Whew. I’m tired. There’s a break between 1998 and
2001 when Michigan and Iowa didn’t play, so I’m going
to catch my breath for a second.

While you’re waiting, here’s a fun fact: Michigan
beat Iowa 107-0 in 1902.

OK, we’re back. 1998. Michigan was the defending national
champion but, thanks to an 0-2 start to the year, the Wolverines
had just barely cracked the polls. So they headed to Iowa. And on a
cold and rainy day, the defenses ruled.

It was 10-9 Michigan late in the fourth quarter, when the
Wolverines punted it away, trying to pin Iowa deep in its own
territory. But, surprise, surprise — something unusual
happened. Iowa’s Kahlil Hill fielded the punt at his own
five, tried to make a great play happen, ran back into the endzone
and was tackled for a safety. It was like risking all your money on
a Daily Double in Jeopardy, then having your podium explode before
you could answer. Michigan won, 12-9.

And finally, 1997. The Wolverines were down 14-7 with just a
couple of seconds left in the first half. So Michigan, of course,
decided to punt right to Iowa return man Tim Dwight who, of course,
ran it back for a touchdown. Iowa led 21-7 at halftime, as Michigan
was abysmal on offense in the first 30 minutes.

But the Wolverines put up 21 in the second half to survive
despite, again, kicking right at Dwight, who nearly took another
back while setting up an Iowa field goal. Michigan won, 28-24.

There it is. Five ridiculous games between Michigan and
Iowa.

What’s in store for this year? With this history, who can
tell?

One thing’s for sure, though: You don’t want to miss
it.

 

Chris Burke can be reached at
“mailto:chrisbur@umich.edu”>chrisbur@umich.edu.

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