It’s summer, the time when bloggers rack their brains for something — anything — to write about and college football fans count down the seconds until foot meets pigskin. So, welcome to my latest gimmick: The Michigan Football YouTube Bracket. I’m looking high and low for the best Michigan football moments ever captured on YouTube — divided into two categories: Game Performances/Game Winners and Spectacular Plays — and for you, the readers, to vote on the moment that stands out above the rest.
Today’s matchup features career-defining moments for two players with wildly divergent football careers — one, a Michigan legend and top NFL draft pick with a career full of spectacular games and plays; the other, a virtual unknown who appeared in just four career games but made an indelible mark with one play and his post-football life:
(2) The Braylon Game vs. Michigan State, 2004
(WARNING: Video contains NSFW audio/horrible rap in general. I strongly recommend a mute. Sadly, this is the best embeddable video of The Braylon Game that YouTube has to offer.)
Braylon Edwards had an outstanding, record-breaking career at U-M, full of incredible plays and huge game performances, but if you walk up to any true Michigan fan and start talking about “The Braylon Game,” their mind will immediately hearken back to October 30, 2004, and a chilly late-afternoon tilt against the hated Michigan State Spartans. Braylon’s final numbers — 11 receptions for 189 yards and three touchdowns — are eye-popping, but it the dramatic manner in which he compiled those numbers that cements this game as one of the most memorable in the history of our in-state rivalry. Facing a 27-10 deficit with 8:43 to play, Michigan opened up their attack, with freshman Chad Henne relying on Edwards to catch deep ball after deep ball to bring the Wolverines back from the brink of defeat. The rest, as they say, is history.
(7) Phil Brabbs’ unlikely kick upends Washington, 2002
Michigan opened the 2002 season against Washington with a lot of uncertainty surrounding the placekicker position — walk-ons Phil Brabbs and Troy Neinberg were battling with starting punter Adam Finley for the starting job, and the competition continued into the season opener. With the home crowd looking on in dismay, it appeared that Michigan’s kicking woes would cost them a victory against the 11th-ranked Huskies — Brabbs missed two field goals in the first half, and Neinberg blew a chance to take a late lead when he missed a 27-yard kick with just 1:24 remaining in the game. Down 29-28 with all three timeouts remaining, Michigan’s defense held fast, and the Wolverines got the ball back on their own 42-yard line with no timeouts, and, it appeared, no reliable kicker.
After a controversial fumble call on fourth-and-two gave Michigan a first down, Washington gifted the Wolverines 15 yards of field position when they were flagged for too many men on the field, giving U-M one final chance to kick in the winner from 44 yards out. Lloyd Carr went back to Brabbs, who rewarded his coach’s decision by booming the deciding kick right between the uprights, setting off pandemonium in the Big House. Although Brabbs would lose his job later in the season after going hitting just two of his next six field goals, his kick at redemption will never be forgotten by Michigan fans. Years later, the kick has taken on new meaning, as Brabbs is fighting a very public battle with Multiple Myeloma. The bravery Brabbs has shown in dealing with this very serious form of cancer has reflected the same strength of will that allowed him to step back onto the field against Washington and nail that kick, and today we can all admire him for that strength both on and off the field.