NEW ORLEANS — It was November 26, the date Jim Tressel emphasized when he was dismissed at Ohio State five months earlier.

“Don’t forget: on November 26th we’re going to kick (Michigan’s) ass!” the embattled Tressel told a roaring crowd outside his home in mid-June.

He was wrong.

As the errant fourth-down pass hovered a few feet above the ground, Courtney Avery dove over a downed receiver and snatched the ball out of the air. Fans flooded over the brick retaining wall and onto the Michigan Stadium turf. Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison embraced.


For the first time in eight tries, Michigan had beaten Ohio State.

Roy Roundtree spied Mike Martin standing by the tunnel. The lanky receiver pushed through the droves of students separating the two players and stopped a few feet short.

“Mike,” Roundtree yelled, spreading his arms wide. “Mike. We finally did it, brother.”

Martin pulled out of a photograph pose with a student to greet Roundtree.

“We did it,” he screamed back.

Martin — all 6-foot-2, 304 pounds of him — grabbed the outside of Roundtree’s shoulder pads and lifted him straight into the air. Roundtree saluted the crowd behind the tunnel.

At long last, Roundtree and the Wolverines were really, truly, back on top.

It was the culmination of four years on campus for the duo. What began as three years of misery ended in magical fashion — a victory over the Buckeyes, a 10-2 record and a BCS bowl berth.

It was also the lasting highlight in a memorable 2011 for Michigan athletics. But it wasn’t the only one. Here are some more memories, in reverse chronological order:

December 30 — Detroit

Little-used sophomore defenseman Kevin Clare couldn’t have found a better time to score his second career goal. Clare’s goal midway through overtime gave the Michigan hockey team a 3-2 victory over Michigan State and the Great Lakes Invitational title for the second consecutive season.

December 3 — Palo Alto, Calif.

In a season defined by valleys and peaks, the Michigan volleyball team hit its high at just the right time. The same team that was ranked No. 18 at the opening of conference play — yet went on to lose eight of its next 10 Big Ten games — displayed a familiar dominance in a four-set upset of No. 6 Stanford to advance into the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.

November 19 — Ann Arbor

The Nebraska football team visited Michigan Stadium for the first time since 1962 and left husked, shucked and defeated. Michigan welcomed the 17th-ranked Cornhuskers to the Big Ten with a 45-17 drubbing. The win marked a reemergence of classic Michigan football and set the Wolverines up for The Game the following Saturday.

November 3 — Wolfeboro, N.H.

One of the biggest highlights for the Michigan basketball team had nothing to do with anyone on the roster. This was the date that Mitch McGary, a high school senior at Brewster Academy and a consensus No. 2 prospect in the nation, bypassed perennial powers Duke and Florida to commit to coach John Beilein and the Wolverines. The true effect of McGary’s decision won’t be felt for another season, but it certainly sent ripples down the traditional hierarchy of college basketball.

September 10 — Ann Arbor

Nobody left their seat early at the Michigan football team’s Under the Lights matchup with Notre Dame — the first night game in Michigan Stadium’s storied history. Viewed by 114,804 pairs of eyes, junior quarterback Denard Robinson and the offense drove 80 yards in 28 seconds, capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass to Roundtree in the corner of the end zone, to defeat the Fighting Irish, 35-31.

May 30 — Columbus

Tressel is dismissed by Ohio State. If you think this doesn’t belong in Michigan’s year in review, you’re wrong. Nov. 26 may not have happened the way it did without May 30. After 10 seasons, six conference titles and a 9-1 record against the Wolverines at the helm in Columbus, Tressel was replaced by intirim coach Luke Fickell amid a memorabilia-selling scandal and cover up. A week later, star quarterback Terrelle Pryor left the Buckeyes.

May 25 — Ann Arbor

In what Athletic Director Dave Brandon called “the worst-kept secret in America,” the club men’s and women’s lacrosse teams were promoted to varsity status. Michigan is the first FBS school to add men’s lacrosse since Notre Dame did it in 1981. The nation’s fastest-growing sport has a new hub in Ann Arbor, and it’s here to stay.

April 15 — Columbus/Cleveland

In one night, the Michigan men’s and women’s gymnastics teams made history — twice. Senior Kylee Botterman won the NCAA all-around title at the NCAA Semifinals in Cleveland, becoming the latest Wolverine gymnast to win the national title since Elise Ray won a split title in 2001. Botterman later won the AAI Award as the nation’s best gymnast. A few hours away in Columbus, freshman Sam Mikulak captured the all-around title at the NCAA Championships for the men’s team, becoming the first freshman to ever win the NCAA title. With the duo winning the NCAA all-around titles, Michigan became the first school ever to win both the men’s and women’s titles in the same season.

April 9 — St. Paul, Minn.

In a span of two days, the Michigan hockey team felt the extremes of elation and devastation in the NCAA Frozen Four at Xcel Energy Center. First came the toppling of No. 1 North Dakota in the semifinal, a 2-0 shutout for senior goalie Shawn Hunwick and the Wolverines. Hunwick made 40 saves to catapult Michigan into the NCAA title game. It was the Wolverines’ first appearance in the NCAA final since Michigan coach Red Berenson’s team won the program’s ninth championship in 1998. But then the agony of defeat hit. The Wolverines took No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth into overtime in the finale before Bulldog forward Kyle Schmidt took a feed in front of the net and flipped the puck past Hunwick for the 3-2 win.

April 4 — Augusta, Ga.

At the ripe age of 22 years old, Michigan golfer Lion Kim found himself paired with PGA veterans Jose Maria Olazabal and Davis Love III at the 2011 Masters. Kim became the first Michigan student to earn a Masters bid. On his third stroke of the tournament, Kim secured his first career birdie at the Masters after sticking a seven iron to eight feet and draining the putt. Kim missed the cut by just three strokes after shooting a 148 (+4) over two rounds, tying for 64th overall.

March 20 — Charlotte, N.C.

Darius Morris’s last shot in a Michigan uniform won’t soon be forgotten. After a 75-45 beat down of Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament round of 64, the Wolverines trailed No. 3 Duke, 73-71, in the round of 32. With three seconds remaining, Morris elevated to sent up a floater from just inside the free-throw line. The ball lofted over the outstretched arms of Blue Devil forward Ryan Kelly, hung above the hoop and finally clanged off the back of the rim. The senior-less team was mere inches away from doing the unthinkable. Two months later, Morris announced his decision to forgo his junior and senior seasons to enter the NBA draft.

March 19 — Philadelphia

Michigan redshirt junior wrestler Kellen Russell captured the first national title of the year for Michigan by posting a 5-0 record at the NCAA Championships. Russell fought off an ankle injury to defeat third-ranked Boris Novachokov (Cal Poly) in the final of the 141-pound weight class. He finished the season with the best individual season record in Michigan wrestling history, a perfect 38-0. Russell was later named Michigan Athlete of the Year with Mikulak and Botterman.

March 5 — Ann Arbor

If The Game was the top regular-season highlight in 2011, second place would have to go to the Michigan basketball team’s sweep of Michigan State — the first sweep since the 1996-97 season. Freshman guard Tim Hardaway Jr. exploded for 20 second-half points in the season finale against the Spartans at Crisler Arena, leading Michigan to a 70-63 win.

January 11 — Ann Arbor

You can’t have the end of the year without the beginning. On this date, Brandon announced the hiring of Hoke, a relatively unknown head coach from San Diego State, to replace outgoing head coach Rich Rodriguez. Hoke had just a 47-50 record in stints at Ball State and San Diego State, but he represented a return to the Michigan football of old. He worked under Michigan coach Lloyd Carr in the 1990s. It took no time for Hoke to endear himself to a Wolverine nation thirsting for a new face for the program.

His opening press conference set his plan in stone: Win with the current team, win the Big Ten Championship and beat “Ohio.” And when asked if the Michigan coaching job is as prestigious as it once was, Hoke coined a phrase now immortalized within the program:

“This is Michigan, fergodsakes.”

On Tuesday, Jan. 3 — 357 days since his hiring — Hoke will lead Michigan into its first BCS bowl since 2005.

But that’s for another year.

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