Been following this University of Michigan Football program passionately from the ripe ole age of 8 years old – we are talking way back to 1964, folks, that Rose Bowl Championship team of Bump Elliott, thru the Bo glory years (albeit Rose Bowl losses) of the 1970s when I was a U-M student, to the 1997 perfect 12-0 team as a proud alum, to the recent frustrating days of the Rich Rod and Brady Hoke regime.
There’s been lots of highs and lots of lows – but it’s those dastardly lows that seem to stick in your spine more than anything else. From the back to back Mike Lantry FG misses against Ohio State in ’73 and ‘74 with the game on the line, to The Hail Mary of Colorado (Kordell Stewart to Michael Westbrook), to the App State debacle, to the painful “Backyard Brawl” Michigan State game drama moments. First, it was the 1990 Desmond Howard failed two point conversion, to the 1995 28-25 gut-wrencher, to the 2001 Smoker-to-Duckett TD on the last play of the “Spartan Bob” game, to now this – the Michigan punter dropping the ball, then panicking and fumbling the ball directly to Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson, who ran 38 yards as time expired for the 27-23 Spartan victory. In all seriousness, I just feel so bad for the kid (Blake O’Neill) – because Michigan lost that game over multiple plays — not just the fumbled punt attempt. The mere fact Blake was literally getting death threats via Twitter after the game from Michigan fans, makes me wanna vomit.
So when it all adds up, this 2015 version of Michigan-MSU tops my “most painful list.” Nothing else comes close. Now I truly know how Bama fans feel when Auburn’s Chris Davis returned the “Kick Six,” or how that Tuba Player must have felt when he got rolled on “The Play” in the Cal-Stanford game of 1982. Ah, the “would of’s/should of’s” – they are all part of the game – and if you invest yourself emotionally, you are going to feel the pain once in a while.
Bottom line – give Michigan State credit. They held Michigan’s running game in check, rode a very precise aerial attack of incredibly talented QB Connor Cook…and just hung in there – and hung in there – and hung in there — to the very last play, and made it all happen to capture the victory from the jaws of defeat.
And also “bottom line” – I like the status of my school’s football program under Jim Harbaugh. I like how they battle, and I like how they play physically and fundamentally. Better players, better days – and plenty of victories – lie ahead for the Michigan Wolverines this season, and in the immediate future. And in the words of Jim Harbaugh which I heard attending the post game press conference — “this outcome will steel our spine.”.