Thursday, August 5, 2010

Countdown to Kickoff - 30 days

October 18, 1997
Michigan 28 - Iowa 24

I've seen some great Michigan teams in my lifetime. In the Bo years they couldn't seem to win the Bowl game or would find a way to lose to Purdue or Minnesota when they greatly out-talented them. The 1980 and 1988 teams lost close early heartbreaks then went on winning streaks and at the end of the year, were as good as any team in the country.

The one team that managed to avoid losing (or tying - I see you 1992) any games was of course the 1997 National Champions. Although they had close match-ups with OSU and in the Rose Bowl, I would argue the game they came closest to losing was this game against Iowa.
The first half was really about Iowa's big plays. They had a 50+ yard TD run for the first score and interception return down to the one leading to their second TD. The play that probably should have ended Michigan's perfect season was Tim Dwight's punt return for a TD on the final play of the half (as I remember it, Iowa had two returners back!) making the halftime score 21-7. It could have been even worse - Marcus Ray intercepted a pass at the 1 yard line thwarting an earlier score. This was the first time I remember real boos for the team as they left the field at the half.

Michigan scored early in the third and Griese scored late in the quarter on a 4th down dive to tie the score. But Dwight struck again, taking the kickoff back into M territory - leading to a field goal and Iowa leading 24-21 going into the 4th.

Late in the 4th Michigan faced a 3rd and long, Griese was hurried and threw short toward Jerame Tuman. Had he been allowed the catch the ball he would have been well short of the first down. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, he was interfered with before he had a chance - automatic first down.

The drive continued down a 3rd and goal with under 3 minutes left. Griese was flushed again but found Tuman, unmolested this time, in the endzone for to give Michigan their first lead.

As great as the 1997 defense was, they didn't shut the door immediately. Iowa drove down into Michigan territory before Sam Sword intercepted to finally close out the victory.

From the 1997 season most people remember the Woodson interception at MSU, the thumping Michigan gave Penn State in Happy Valley, Woodson again vs. the Buckeyes, and the finale at the Rose Bowl. But, in my mind none of those games mean as much if Michigan doesn't find a way to pull out this victory against the Hawkeyes.

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