It wasn’t quite as bad as the New York Rangers (54 years) or the Red Sox (86 years) or the Cubs (98 years and counting).
But it sure seems like a pair of waits (ha!) have been lifted off of Michigan’s shoulders.
In road openers, there hasn’t been much good since 1999 – the last time the Wolverines won one – but there’s been plenty of bad and ugly.
There were two late-game John Navarre interceptions (2000 at UCLA and 2002 at Notre Dame), a blocked Hayden Epstein field goal (2001 against Washington) and a late drive and John Stocco keeper for the score (last year against Wisconsin).
Each and every time, Michigan hit the road ranked higher than its opponent only to settle for a long, quiet, depressing trip back home.
Likewise with the Wolverines’ three trips to South Bend since 1994.
So the wait until Saturday was long. But it may just have been worth it thanks to the conditions that offered a bit of role reversal.
Michigan 47, Notre Dame 21.
That’s one win for the road.
Finally, it wasn’t the big, bad Wolverines marching into South Bend only to be upset by the Irish with a worse (and, one time, no) ranking. Nope, this time, No. 2 Notre Dame held the upper hand against a No. 11 Michigan team that had much to prove to many still unsure critics.
In South Bend, the Charlie Weis era had people in a fervor. Irish fans believed that Weis – an alum with Super Bowl credentials – had the team on the verge of becoming a college football dynasty that would rival the Zhou years in China. I half expected this year’s game to be played in “Charlie Weis Stadium.”
The hype for quarterback Brady Quinn was nearly as high. The “sure” (see Matt Leinart) No. 1 pick in next years NFL draft sat high upon a golden-boy pedestal in the home of the Golden Dome. After a big game against Penn State last week (25-for-36, 287 yards, three touchdowns), you can be sure Quinn hoped to add some highlights to his reel and avenge the just-about-average performances against the Wolverines in the past.
And in Ann Arbor, some called for coach Lloyd Carr’s head. His recent failures against Notre Dame, Ohio State and in bowl games combined with a 7-5 record last year had some ready to storm his office and demand his resignation.
Irish fans, put the canonization of Weis on hold.
Brady Quinn, start filling up the space on the mantle formerly reserved for your in-the-bag Heisman.
Lloyd Carr critics, drop the pitchforks and torches.
This time the mercury in Notre Dame’s hype-meter reached a boiling point, and Michigan proved the Irish might just have been holding it a little too close to the heater.
That’s one loss for the Irish.
And Michigan couldn’t have done it in a better fashion.
It wasn’t the nail-biting, down-to-the-wire finish fans of the two college football giants have seen so many times before. This time, the Wolverines brought years of pent-up frustration to the field and steamrolled the Irish.
In 1887, Michigan taught Notre Dame how to play football. Saturday, the Wolverines taught them again.
Mario Manningham put on a show. His quick cut – giving him about five yards distance on Notre Dame cornerback Ambrose Wooden – sent him on the way to a 69-yard touchdown. It would have been enough. Then he did it again. And then again. He became the first person to score three receiving touchdowns in South Bend since Texas tight end Pat Fitzgerald in 1995.
How long until we subtract 85 from Manningham’s jersey number?
That’s one for a new star.
Chad Henne put any fears of a diminished Wolverine air attack to rest. Forget the first-pass interception. Henne turned things around to connect with Manningham on those three touchdowns and threw for 220 yards on an efficient 13 completions – a number that surely would have been greater had it not been for some dropped balls.
The defense continued to demonstrate that things might be very different from last year. Leon Hall showed why he’s an preseason All-American with a touchdown-saving swat and diving interception. If opponents hadn’t yet taken note, the collection of big hits delivered on Quinn by the defensive line will have them fearing the Blue Crush. And Prescott Burgess’s two right-place, right-time interceptions proved that sometimes a little luck can go a long way (like for 66 yards and a touchdown).
That’s one for redemption
There’s not quite much that can top this victory. Well, until No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Michigan that is.
That’s one – for the ages.
– Herman apologizes to anyone who thinks he cursed it, but knows everyone is thinking the same thing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.