Stevie, why can’t they all be like you? After making one of the
greatest individual plays I’ve ever seen – a 74-yard punt return
for a touchdown during which he ran about 200 yards – Steve
Breaston was forced to address the media.
“Could you talk about the runback?”
“It was a runback.”
“Could you at least admit it was a good play?”
“It was a play.”
Yeah, and Catherine Zeta-Jones is just a woman.
With four games left in the Big Ten season, it’s imperative that
the Michigan football team looks at its emphatic, 56-14 victory
over the not-so-Fighting Illini with a Stevie-like mentality. It
would go a little something like this.
“Could you talk about the great game you played?”
“It was a game.”
But history shows that Michigan’s reaction to this game will be
more of the “Hell yeah, we’re sweet as hell” variety. And then the
Wolverines relax, get high on themselves and lose a game they
After losing to Iowa, Michigan knew it would have to run the
table in the Big Ten to have any chance of making the Rose Bowl for
the first time since 1997. That meant winning six games in a row –
something the Wolverines haven’t done since 1998 when they lost the
first two games of the season and ran off eight straight wins.
In the span of eight days, Michigan went from facing its third
loss in four games, down 28-7 to Minnesota in the fourth quarter,
to controlling its own destiny in the conference. How nice. Once
again, it’s up to Michigan and only Michigan. If the Wolverines win
their next four games, they can pack their bags for Pasadena.
We all know they have the talent, but are they mentally
disciplined enough to do it?
In 2000, Michigan began the season with three sets of “win two
in a row, lose one” football en route to a 6-3 record (the
Wolverines finished 9-3). After back-to-back wins, it’s the “we’re
rollin’ baby, we’re rollin’ ” attitude that seems to quietly infuse
itself into Schembechler Hall.
In 2001, the Wolverines really got rolling, winning five games
in a row to vault themselves to No. 4 in the Bowl Championship
Series rankings. Then they lost to a Michigan State team that
Indiana defeated a week later. Say what you will about the phantom
second; Michigan lost its phantom head in that one.
After losing to Sparty, the Wolverines rolled off two wins. All
they had to do was beat a mediocre Ohio State team in the Big House
to head to a BCS bowl game. Oopsie … they forgot to show up in
the first half and lost 26-20. Illinois, a team Michigan beat
45-20, won the Big Ten title instead.
Last season was similar to 2000 in the way it shook down. Two
wins in a row, a loss, four wins in a row, a loss, three wins in a
row, a loss. What makes us think this season will be any
Maybe it’s because this team is more talented than every one of
those other squads from top to bottom. Maybe it’s because the Big
Ten is jumbled at the top and is waiting for someone to take
That team should be Michigan, and it all starts with how the
Wolverines react to their recent success. Saturday’s game was the
most complete game they have played since they whipped Notre Dame
38-0. But beating the Irish – they haven’t earned the distinction
of being fighters – is nothing to hang your hat on. Michigan
learned that in Oregon when it lost to a team that since has lost
three straight games.
The Wolverines should devote as much thought to their dominating
win over Illinois as I’ve devoted space in this column. That win
was nothing – nothing but a win against a team that could have lost
to Ann Arbor Pioneer High School right down the street.
It was a win that warrants a Stevie-like response.
Thanks to some help from Purdue and Ohio State this past
weekend, the Wolverines have been handed a new lease on life; they
can forget about all that has happened this season and focus on the
Four games, four wins or bust. If only it were that simple.
J. Brady McCollough can be reached at