When DeAndra Cobb raced 68 yards untouched down the left sideline to give Michigan State a 27-10 lead with 8:43 left in the fourth quarter, a few thousand students did something they’ll undoubtedly never do again.

Chelsea Trull
The Michigan football team takes the field before their 45-37 triple-overtime victory over Michigan State on
Oct. 30, 2004. (Tony Ding/Daily)

They left.

“I left right after the field goal but before the onside kick,” Kinesiology junior James Batey said. “I thought it was over, but right when I left I heard this huge eruption from the crowd. I couldn’t get back in, so I ran home and watched the rest of the game on TV.”

Of course, as time passes, fewer and fewer people will admit to abandoning the football team that day. Nobody wants to acknowledge that he or she missed the conclusion of perhaps the greatest game in Michigan Stadium history, when Braylon Edwards caught three touchdown passes to lead Michigan to a win in triple overtime.

“I was just so mad at myself,” Batey said. “I was right up front watching it, and left.”

But if you ask some people, they might tell you that the football team was just teaching everyone a lesson. After the Wolverines fell behind and a sizable chunk of the 111,609 in attendance left, they rewarded the true die-hard fans with a comeback they’ll never forget. The stadium was not full, but it has never been louder, and the fact that the game finished well into the evening made the atmosphere even more special.

And last year’s clash with the Spartans isn’t something that has happened just once or twice. Last season, the Wolverines beat Minnesota in the last minute, in 2003 there was The Game against Ohio State that culminated with the students rushing the field with roses in their hands and, the year before, there was an overtime win over Penn State and a last-second win over Washington.

It’s games like these — with most, if not all, of the student body together in attendance — that explain why the football team is voted the best team in Ann Arbor.

Sure, the ice hockey, wrestling and gymnastics teams had just as much success. And while the football team had a very good season, it won’t be remembered as one of its best. In fact, the Wolverines lost to their two biggest rivals, Notre Dame and Ohio State, as well as the Rose Bowl.

But football games are the only chance for so many students to experience something together. The student section catches a lot of flak for orchestrating the wave while the game is going on and singing along while the marching band plays Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” but it’s still a part of what makes a football game so special.

That said, there’s much more than just the 60 minutes of football that makes a Football Saturday in Ann Arbor memorable. For the six or so home games every fall, there is truly something for everyone.

Some people will wake up early to see the marching band make its way into the stadium and then settle into their seats to yell “who cares” when Michigan’s opponent is introduced. Others wake up even earlier to start tailgating or hit up the frats and houses along State Street.

But no matter what people do before the game, after this past season, everyone should now know what not to do during the game.

“I’ve learned my lesson,” Batey said. “I was so mad I didn’t stick it out, so I’m not going to make that mistake again.

“At least, that’s what I’m going to say right now.”

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