After the game, junior cornerback Leon Hall joked with me about Michigan’s recent streak – two straight wins.
“We’re going to live up this win for a little bit,” Hall said. “You know, we have a little streak going – the first of the season.”
He laughed while he said it, but the truth is that I was thinking the same thing. It’s hard to forget that, until Saturday, the football team had won (and lost) every other game this season. That streak stretches all the way back to Jan. 1 – the Rose Bowl loss last season – making this win mighty impressive.
“Losing is never funny,” redshirt freshman cornerback Morgan Trent said. So I guess it’s good that the Wolverines won. Because even Trent admitted that Michigan’s streak was becoming comical “to a certain extent.”
But Saturday’s game was filled with milestones and streaks – some long and some short, some funny and some not – that pushed the plot lines for this Big Ten matchup.
In case you didn’t believe me, here’s a quick look at some of the most interesting ones. To put it in perspective, I included where I was when the streak began.
Give us more football: After the game was over, right tackle Jake Long said he knew that Michigan would win in overtime. And why not? Since overtime became a part of the college game, Michigan hasn’t lost when it’s been forced to play extra time.
Two of Michigan’s five overtime games have come this year – both three-point wins. The Wolverines have beaten Michigan State twice, and Penn State, Alabama and Iowa each once.
Overtime was introduced to college football in 1996 – when I was still in junior high school. But Michigan’s streak of overtime wins didn’t actually start until the Orange Bowl in 1999. At that point, I was a sophomore at Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., and I wasn’t even a true Michigan fan yet. I watched the game and rooted for the Maize and Blue, but I wouldn’t have thrown things if it went the other way
Close calls: Talk about sneaking by. The last five weeks of Michigan football have been scarier than walking alone at night in Ann Arbor. The last time that Michigan played a game decided by more than three points was all the way back on Sept. 17, when the Wolverines beat Eastern Michigan 55-0.
Since then, Michigan has played three games – Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa – that have been won literally on the last play of the game. In the other two (both losses), Michigan ended the game with the ball trying to score.
The streak is still alive, and, considering how well Northwestern has played recently, next week’s game could also come down to the wire. Last year, the Wildcats beat Ohio State at home at night on ESPN. Next week, Michigan travels to Evanston for a night game on ESPN.
I was in Madison for when this string of nail-biters began. I sat in the press box and watched as quarterback Chad Henne slipped and fell on the turf, ending Michigan’s undefeated run through the Big Ten before it even began. That week also started a strange pattern of playing in games with a final score of 23-20 every other week. Weird.
Triple digits: To be honest, I thought Carr would be celebrating his 100th win about three weeks ago. But at least he made it before the Ann Arbor crazies found an axe and his head. Carr is now 100-32 in his 11 seasons at Michigan – a winning percentage of .758.
Before becoming a head coach, Carr was actually an assistant coach at Michigan under Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller. So really, he has been at Michigan for 26 years and has seen 234 wins by the Wolverines. The win put him among the head coaching elite – with Fielding Yost and Schembechler – as Michigan’s lone coaches to win more than 100 games. Now he just has about 600 more to go to catch Joe Paterno.
This one blew my mind. When Carr got his first win as a Michigan head coach, I wasn’t even in the seventh grade yet. It was actually the last-second 18-17 win over Virginia in August of 1995 when Carr was still an interim head coach. That game became an instant classic and Carr became Michigan’s full-time head coach a few months later. If you go back to Carr’s first win at Michigan, I wasn’t even born yet – and as a fifth-year senior, I’m pretty old.
Pretty in pink: A lot has been made of Iowa’s pink locker rooms. Whether or not they’re politically correct is a story for a different column, but it’s clear that Iowa has some sort of competitive advantage at home.
Before Michigan’s overtime victory, Iowa had won 22 straight games in the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes have also won 15 straight Big Ten games at home – dating back to 2001. With more than 90 percent of the fans dressed in black, it’s easy to understand why.
Iowa’s next home game isn’t until Nov. 19, so the Hawkeyes have almost a month until they can start a new streak or continue their current one – of one home loss in a row.
The last time Iowa lost a home conference game was almost exactly four years ago. I was at Michigan, but I hadn’t even started working for The Daily yet. Instead I was a freshman, struggling to balance school and work – at the Intramural Sports Building.
The enforcer: Last week, wide receiver Carl Tabb, playing on special teams, broke the arm of Penn State star freshman Derrick Williams. This week, he picked on Michigan’s equipment manager Jon Falk. Tabb actually wasn’t the one to break Falk’s leg, but it was his 13-yard catch in the first quarter that injured the 32-year-old veteran of the Michigan football program. Sophomore Iowa linebacker Mike Humpal knocked Tabb out of bounds and, in the process, hit Falk, who was on the sideline.
“I usually take care of guys who get hurt,” Falk said after the game.
Last week, Tabb knocked out the 18-year-old Williams and this week it was the nearly 60-year-old Falk that he took out. Clearly he doesn’t discriminate. I’m sure the coaches and the players are staying away from Tabb this week in practice, and Northwestern defensive backs should be wary as well.
At just two weeks long, it’s the shortest streak of the bunch. When I saw Tabb hit Williams, I didn’t even know he broke his arm. And watching from the stands on Saturday, I didn’t know Falk was hurt until after the game. I think everyone, including me, is hoping this streak ends sooner rather than later.
And then there is the pattern of win-one, lose-one that Michigan had fallen into this season. After the game, freshman Antonio Bass said that the feeling in the locker room was a lot of excitement coupled with a little bit of relief. But you could pretty much hear the sigh of relief as the Wolverines walked out of the locker room. They were smiling and joking, laughing and having fun. Even the guys who didn’t really play – like rush end LaMarr Woodley and running back Mike Hart – seemed to be having a good time. Because, as Leon Hall so correctly pointed out, they have a little streak going.
Ian Herbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.