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Stadium and Main: 1997: #5 Michigan 28, #15 Iowa 24

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

1997: #5 Michigan 28, #15 Iowa 24

One of the most overlooked games in recent Michigan Football history has to be the 1997 game against Iowa. While wins over Penn State, Ohio State, and Washington State (in the Rose Bowl) were “bigger,” the victory over Iowa made those games so important. Down 21-7 at halftime, Michigan finally woke up in the 2nd half and pulled out a 28-24 victory. Many Michigan fans claim that the Big House was at its loudest during MSU 2004 or PSU 2002, but I honestly have never heard it any louder than when Sam Sword made the game-ending interception with 31 seconds left, as Iowa was driving for a potential game-winning TD. Let’s take a look back…

October 18th, 1997 – 12:30 Eastern – Nationally televised on ESPN

Michigan entered the game undefeated (5-0) and ranked 5th in both major polls, while Iowa was 4-1 and ranked 15th in both major polls, coming off of a loss at Ohio State. After playing many long stretches of dominant football, it seemed as if Iowa would provide the Michigan Defense with its first real test of the season. However, it would turn out to be the Iowa Defense and Special Teams that provided the most problems for the Wolverines.

The scoreless 1st quarter was fairly uneventful, with neither offense able to get into a groove. The key play early on came when Michigan Safety Marcus Ray intercepted a Matt Sherman pass at Michigan’s 1-yard line. I could've been somebody!Holding Iowa without points on this Red Zone possession would prove to be critical. Things picked up in the 2nd quarter, with Iowa RB Tavian Banks starting the scoring on a 53-yard TD run with 13:29 left in the quarter. It should be noted that if Iowa had won this game, Banks might have been a legitimate Heisman candidate, as he went over 1,000 yards on just his 125th carry of the season (an NCAA record for “fewest carries to break 1,000 yards”). Michigan was finally able to get on track with just under 5 minutes left in the half, as Brian Griese hit Tai Streets for a 15-yard TD. With the game tied at 7, things proceeded to get crazy.

Michigan’s attempt at a semi-hurry-up Offense failed miserably when Iowa’s Ed Gibson intercepted a Brian Griese pass and returned it 64 yards to the Michigan 1-yard line. Iowa scored on a Fullback dive the next play, taking a 13-7 lead after James Hall blocked the extra point. I'm fast!Then, after Iowa forced a Michigan punt on the last play of the half, speedster Tim Dwight took the return 61 yards virtually untouched for a TD. A 2-point conversion pass made the Iowa lead 21-7 at halftime.

Michigan exited the playing field to a fairly loud (for the Big House, at least) chorus of boos, but returned showing some signs of life. Michigan quickly took the ball down the field after halftime, scoring on a 10-yard TD pass from Griese to WR Russell Shaw. The score was 21-14 with 12:06 left in the 3rd. Meanwhile, the Michigan Defense was playing great, but still needed one big play from the Offense to get the game tied up. Like the visor?That play came when Anthony Thomas took a handoff 58 yards to the Iowa 4-yard line. The big gain was almost all for naught, as Michigan failed to punch it into the endzone on the next 3 plays. On 4th-and-goal from the 1, Brian Griese scored on a QB sneak to knot the game at 21. 3:11 remained in the 3rd quarter.

With all of the momentum on their side, Michigan’s Special Teams really let the air out of the building when Tim Dwight took the ensuing kickoff all the way back to the Michigan 26-yard line. It was as if Dwight was single-handedly beating the Wolverines. Despite having only two catches for 13 yards as a receiver (or one catch for 7 yards, depending on which Box Score you believe), Tim Dwight accounted for four plays of more than 50 yards. Not a bad day. Fortunately for Michigan fans, the Michigan Defense didn’t have a bad day, either. With time winding down in the 3rd quarter, they held Iowa to a 38-yard field goal, making the score 24-21, Iowa, heading into the 4th.

In the first 7 minutes of the 4th quarter, I clearly remember thinking that the entire Michigan team looked nervous. In the 1st half, Michigan looked bad, but now they looked a bit tentative. The same could be said for Iowa, as neither team seemed willing or able to make “the play” to win the game. It didn’t help Michigan’s cause that Iowa’s defense was playing just as well as their own, sacking Griese 5 times. But, with less than 7 minutes left, and facing a 3rd-and-16 deep in its own territory, Iowa made a big mistake. A pass interference call gave Michigan some breathing room, and a key first down. Griese then connected with super-clutch TE Jerame Tuman twice in a row, moving the ball to Iowa’s 30-yard line. Michigan then chewed up some clock, with 4 straight Anthony Thomas runs for a total of 20 yards. Another stupid personal foul penalty against Iowa put the ball on the 2-yard line.

Again, Michigan struggled to put the ball in the endzone. Keep in mind that 1996 was the first year with Overtime in the college game, and Michigan had never played an Overtime game. If Michigan had failed to score a TD here, it would have been hoping for a successful FG to tie the game at 24 with less than 3 minutes left, and Iowa having possession. I could only imagine the thoughts that were running through Lloyd Carr’s head. I had convinced myself that he was going to play for Overtime, and potentially call up the NCAA Rules Committee to see if the game could be declared a tie, just for old time’s sake.

All your corn are belong to us!So, in my mind, the entire season came down to that 3rd-and-goal play. It seemed to last forever. The first thing I remember after the snap is being relieved that it was a passing play. But then I was confused, because it didn’t look well designed. It was not a quick-hitter, and Griese looked flustered. As Griese rolled right, I was locked on Tuman the whole way. I noticed what seemed like 11 Iowa defenders round him, but it was more like 3 or 4. Nevertheless, Griese was able to fit the pass into the right spot, and Michigan took the lead. Kraig Baker made the all-important extra point, to give Michigan a 28-24 advantage with 2:55 remaining.

The game was far from over, though, as Iowa quickly drove down the field to the Michigan 26-yard line. “Here we go again” must have been what most Michigan fans were thinking. With 31 seconds left in the game, they were able to breathe a sigh of relief. Under significant pressure, Iowa QB Matt Sherman threw an ill-advised pass towards Michigan LB Sam Sword. The endInterception. Game over. Pandemonium. As mentioned earlier, I contend that this was the loudest single moment in the Big House. It was created by the following factors: (1) Many Michigan fans were expecting Michigan to lose, (2) (related to (1)) Iowa had just driven down the field on us like we were nothing, (3) the game was an emotional come-from-behind rally, and (4) Michigan was undefeated, and fans entered the Iowa game hoping for (expecting?) something magical that season. Put that all together, and it was an explosion. One of my fondest memories in the Big House. Michigan 28, Iowa 24.

Random Stuff:

- Michigan’s Total Defense: 52 plays, 187 yards. Subtract one 53-yard TD run by Tavian Banks, and you have 51 plays for 134 yards. That is approximately 2.63 yards per play, which is what we came to expect from the ’97 Defense.

- Charles Woodson’s punt return TD against Ohio State is more celebrated, but Woodson actually had more punt return yards in this game – 97, his high for the season.

- This game went a long way in solidifying Anthony Thomas’ playing time at RB, as he carried 20 times for 129 yards, a season high for him. Thomas’ 58-yard run was the longest play of the season, to that point.

- We hadn’t played Iowa in 1996 or 1995. In 1994, Michigan won, 29-14, at Iowa.

- The 1997 Michigan Defense continued its 2nd half dominance in this game, holding its 6th straight opponent without a touchdown in the 2nd half, and without a point in the 4th quarter.

- Stifling Pass Defense: Iowa’s Matt Sherman – 8 of 21 for 86 yards, 3 INTs, and no TDs.

- Defensive standouts: Marcus Ray – 2 INTs. Dhani Jones – 9 tackles, 1 sack. Sam Sword – 6 tackles, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery.

- Offensive standouts: Jerame Tuman – 7 receptions for 85 yards, 1 TD. Brian Griese 15 of 26 for 165 yards and 3 TDs (but also 3 INTs).

- Michigan was 4 for 4 in the Red Zone, with 4 TDs. Iowa was only 1 for 2, with a TD and a turnover.

- Weather was Sunny, with in-game temperatures ranging between 52 and 57 degrees.

- Attendance: 106,505

Links:

Official Post-Game Press Release #1

Official Post-Game Press Release #2

Game Notes

Box Score

CNN/SI post-game article

Pre-game Press Release (PDF)

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That brought a smile to my face. Let's hope for more games like that next year.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Russ said...

Nice recap. I was stuck watching that game at home in NJ. As the TD pass to Russell Shaw floated through the air, my cable company inexplicably cut to one of those super low-rent local commericals. And then another. And another. It seemed like a four minute break, not knowing whether or not Michiagn had scored on that 3rd down play. When they finally got the game back on, Michigan was kicking off, and I wasn't sure if they had scored a TD or FG until the score finally appeared on-screen.

That was the game that finally made me believe that Michigan's '97 season could be something different than so many others. It seemed like that was the type of game UM always lost in the past.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Russ - I feel your pain on the cable company drama. If you haven't read it yet, click on my 2001: Weirdest Season Ever?! post, where I detail my DirecTV issues during THAT season's Iowa game. Let's keep our fingers crossed for no problems this year...

11:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice page, and thanks for the wonderful tv schedule link. however my favorite michigan/iowa games was 2002.

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Tam said...

I was fortunate to have witness all the home games live in 1997 and I have to say it is a toss up between moments of the Iowa game and us coming out after halftime of ND (we were also down at the half) game that year.

I have NEVER EVER EVER heard the big house that loud. It was deafening...unreal freak'n real.

7:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I left that game at the half.

1:35 PM  
Blogger joseph burrell said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Host Pay Per Head said...

wow the comment of anonymous (the last comment) is so coincident because I had to leave the game at the half too because I needed to go to the bathroom LOL

10:33 PM  
Blogger Uzumaki Naruto said...

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11:10 PM  
Blogger Uzumaki Naruto said...

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3:17 AM  

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