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Stadium and Main: 1988 Hall of Fame Bowl: Michigan vs. Alabama

Sunday, June 03, 2007

1988 Hall of Fame Bowl: Michigan vs. Alabama

When most younger fans hear the words “Michigan” and “Alabama” together in the same sentence, they probably recall the classic 35-34 Overtime victory by the Wolverines over the Crimson Tide in the 2000 Orange Bowl, also known as Tom Brady’s last (and best?) game. However, 12 years earlier, two of college football’s greatest programs played for the first time, in what was arguably a better game (because, seriously, winning on a missed extra point is kind of weird (don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the “W”)).

On January 2nd, 1988, Michigan played Alabama in the 2nd Hall of Fame Bowl (now known as the Outback Bowl) in Tampa, Florida. The game was broadcast on NBC, with Bob Costas, Ahmad Rashad, and Paul Maguire as the announcers. [That’s not a joke – those three actually called the game together, and people lived to tell about it.]

Both teams entered the game unranked, with Michigan’s 1987 season being a bit of a transition year (thanks primarily to the graduation of QB Jim Harbaugh). The Wolverines finished 4th in the Big Ten (5-3 record), opening the regular season with a 26-7 loss to Notre Dame and ending it with a 23-20 loss to Ohio State, both at Michigan Stadium. Losses at Michigan State and Indiana (not your usual Indiana team - they were ranked 15th) made up the 4 losses for the season. Before continuing with the Hall of Fame Bowl recap, you might want to refresh your memory by looking at the Alphabetical or Numerical rosters from that season. There are some pretty classic names on there.

Michigan coach Bo Schembechler missed the Hall of Fame Bowl while recuperating from his second open-heart (bypass) surgery. Defensive Coordinator (and future Head Coach) Gary Moeller stepped in to coach the Wolverines while Bo watched the game on TV back in Michigan. Things seemed to be going swimmingly, as Michigan jumped out to a 21-3 lead behind three Jamie Morris TD runs. Maybe the most memorable of Morris’ runs came on a 3rd and long at the Bama 14-yard line, with less than a minute left in the 1st Half. Michigan called its patented Sprint Draw, and Morris made it through the first level of defenders. Between him and the endzone stood Alabama Safety Mike Smith, in great position to make the tackle. Morris just ran him over. Granted, when you watch the highlights (see below), you’ll notice the defender’s horrible positioning – he’s leaning back and putting his head down?? But seeing it in real time, it looked like the baddest thing ever.

With Michigan up 18 in the 3rd Quarter after Morris’ 77-yard TD run (his speed was way underrated), all was right with the world. But Bama had a back of their own. In the 2nd Half, the Tide’s Bobby Humphrey scored 2 TDs, including the one that gave Alabama a 24-21 lead with less than 5 minutes left. Humphrey finished with 149 yards on 27 carries.

So that set the table for what is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated Michigan Football moments. After getting the ball back and driving to the Alabama 20-yard line, Michigan stalled out and faced a 4th-and-3 with approximately one minute left. With QB Demetrius Brown having a shaky day (and that’s being kind), many Michigan fans were expecting Moeller to put the game in the hands of Jamie Morris, who had racked up 234 yards on 23 carries. That’s what Bo would have called for, right? Instead, Brown dropped back and sent a pass to the far left sideline in the end zone, where he connected with John Kolesar for a touchdown. Michigan took the lead, 28-24, and Alabama’s attempt at a miraculous comeback was ended when Michigan DB David Arnold intercepted a pass and ran out the clock.

Michigan finished the season ranked #19 in the AP Poll. Not a great season, but beating a big time program in the last minute, seeing Morris run wild, and (most importantly) keeping Bo happy and healthy all make this game a memorable one.

The Video Highlights

Michigan’s video highlights from the 1988 Hall of Fame Bowl, compiled by YouTube Michigan legend dynoguy88.

Other Notes:

- QB Demetrius Brown didn’t start the game. He replaced Michael Taylor, but didn’t fare much better. The QBs rotated throughout the game, but Brown took over in the 2nd Half. On the day, Michigan QBs completed only 6 of 17 passes. Taylor and Brown would continue to play musical chairs in the 1988 season, after which Brown graduated and Elvis Grbac came in to compete with Taylor in 1989.

- Alabama was coached by current ESPN College Football analyst Bill Curry.

- Michigan and Alabama met again in the 1997 Outback Bowl, a 17-14 Alabama victory highlighted by a 4th Quarter 88-yard interception return for a touchdown by Alabama’s Dwayne Rudd.

- Michigan and Alabama met for the 3rd and (currently) final time in the 2000 Orange Bowl, a 35-34 Michigan Overtime victory, highlighted by David Terrell’s MVP performance and Michigan’s 2nd Half comeback. Video highlights here.

- Official game recap from the Outback Bowl site.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alabama is the overall second rated college football team of all time according to the football data warehouse which considers won loss, NC's etc.

8:23 AM  
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1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michigan is the best college of all time, someone had to be second...who cares about number two except no 2's fans?

12:28 PM  

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