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.
Finally, after almost three weeks worth of highlights, we’ve reached the final, and Michigan fans have once again made it known that they value performance against Ohio State over all else. How else (besides age) can one explain Tshimanga Biakabutuka’s 313-yard performance against Ohio State — certainly an iconic game, but not one that is inextricably linked with the Michigan tradition — easily taking out Anthony Carter’s winner against Indiana (only WolverineHistorian’s favorite Michigan play of all time) in the first semifinal? The choice was made much more difficult on the other side of the bracket, where Desmond Howard’s “Hello Heisman” punt return against the Buckeyes knocked off Charles Woodson’s redux of that play six years later. Now, the battle comes down to a pair of players who donned the #21 in blue — what is your choice as the best Michigan football moment captured on YouTube?
(2) Desmond Howard’s “Hello Heisman” vs. Ohio State, 1991
Path to the final: Def. Charles Woodson vs. OSU 62%-38% (Semifinal); Def. Desmond Howard vs. Notre Dame 62%-38% (Quarterfinal); Def. Jason Avant vs. Northwestern 92%-8% (First Round).
Why it should win: I don’t even know where to begin. In the sheer context of the game, the play gave Michigan a 24-3 lead right at the end of the half, ending all hopes of a Buckeye comeback in what would end as a 31-3 Wolverine victory. The 93-yard punt return was — and still is — the longest in school history by a five-yard margin. Keith Jackson’s call of the play is perfect, to the point where it is nearly as iconic as the play itself. Of course, all that pales in comparison to what the play meant for Desmond Howard — as Jackson so eloquently put it, the touchdown sealed the 1991 Heisman Trophy for Howard, and he will go down in history as the man who struck the pose, something every kid who watches college football has done countless times in their backyard since.
All that is without talking about the return itself. Despite getting driven back to his own seven, Howard fields the punt calmly as the Buckeye coverage team descends on him. With a quick stutter to the right and a hard cut back upfield, Desmond dusts the first wave of defenders without so much as getting touched. Even though several Ohio State players still have the angle on him, it’s over — all it takes is one more deft juke and Howard is streaking down the sideline, still virtually untouched, as he Usain Bolt’s the Buckeye coverage. It’s an amazing play from an amazing player on the biggest of college football stages.
(3) Touchdown Tim runs over undefeated Ohio State, 1995
Path to the final: Def. Anthony Carter vs. Indiana 66%-34% (Semifinal); Def. Braylon Edwards vs. MSU 61%-39% (Quarterfinal); Def. Mario Manningham vs. Notre Dame 82%-18% (First Round).
Why it should win: All Tshimanga Biakabutuka did was carry the ball 37 times for 313 yards and a touchdown against an undefeated Ohio State squad bursting at the seams with future NFL talent (just on defense, Mike Vrabel, Shawn Springs, and Antoine Winfield all became at least solid pros) to lead Michigan to a 31-23 upset victory. Tackling him with one man was simply futile, and he matched his power with patience and lightning-fast moves to confound the Buckeye defense. Just check out the post-game quotes for some wonderful Buckeye schadenfreude [emphasis mine]:
It was what happened after Biakabutuka got through those holes that most bothered Ohio State coach John Cooper, who lost for the sixth time in eight tries against Michigan.
“We didn’t wrap up,” Cooper said., “Time and time again we had guys there to make the tackle, but we didn’t wrap up.”
Buckeye strong safety Rob Kelley bitterly agreed with his coach.
“We didn’t tackle. I didn’t tackle,” Kelley said. “I’m sorry for the seniors, I’m sorry for the fans. I apologize. It was a disgrace out there today.”
“I’m tremendously disappointed,” Cooper said after the game. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been as disappointed as I am right now.”
When you’re John Cooper, that’s really saying something.
Biakabutuka’s 313 yards were good for second-most on Michigan’s single-game all-time list, behind Ron Johnson’s ridiculous 347 yards against Wisconsin in 1968. No other Wolverine back has eclipsed the 300-yard mark in a game, and Biakabutuka’s performance helped vault him past Jamie Morris for the most rushing yards in a season in school history with 1,818 — a mark which still stands despite stellar seasons from great backs like Anthony Thomas, Chris Perry, and Mike Hart in the years since. Biakabutuka was a great college running back, but I doubt Michigan fans would mention him in the same breath as guys like Thomas, Hart, Tyrone Wheatley, and the many past greats if not for his unbelievable performance in the penultimate game of his Wolverine career.
Click here for all Michigan Football YouTube Bracket posts. Voting will stay open through the end of the week, with the victor crowned on Monday. Thanks to everyone who has voted, and make sure to spread the word.