As the beginning of Lloyd Carr's 13th, and perhaps final, season as Michigan head coach draws nearer, I feel it is appropriate to summarize and analyze each season he has been the head honcho in Ann Arbor. Please keep in mind that I was but a young pup when LC took the reigns in 1995, so my summaries of the first couple years are based mostly on second-hand accounts of the events that transpired.
I've seen the opener to the 1995 season quite a few times, since it's aired on ESPN Classic more than once, and I can honestly say if I had been self-aware and old enough to remember watching it live, I would've broken my TV long before the end. Big games by Ronde and Tiki Barber helped Virginia stake a 17-0 lead in the 4th quarter at Michigan Stadium. This time around the Wolverines decided to flip the script; the previous year had been the infamous Kordell Stewart pass, nuff said.
Two touchdowns and two mistakes (a missed PAT and a failed two-point conversion if I recall correctly) put the score at 17-12 Virginia. Young QB Scott Dreisbach leads Michigan down the field, and time's almost up. On the penultimate play of the game, Dreisbach stupidly threw a pass to a receiver (I think it was a running back, but his name escapes me) in the middle of the field just inside the 10-yard line. Luckily, the pass was dropped. If it had been caught, time would've run out, since UM had no timeouts. Instead, there was time left for one final play. Dreisbach's pass couldn't have been better. Mercury Hayes' route and footwork couldn't have been more precise. The crowd couldn't have been louder - they were so loud there was minor damage to the roof of Crisler Arena next door.
The beginning to the Lloyd Carr era couldn't have been anymore exciting. The Wolverines rode the high to a 5-0 start and a #6 ranking in the nation, before 1995's Team of Destiny crashed the party at the Big House. Northwestern beat Michigan 19-13, and would go on to reach the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1949. Sidenote: That Rose Bowl was one of, if not the first football game I remember watching. USC beat the Wildcats 41-32, and I remember my dad cheering for the Trojans all the way, saying "it's not right to have purple in the Rose Bowl". To this day, I have harbored a bizarre dislike for Northwestern.
Anyway, that loss to Northwestern basically soured the season for the Maize and Blue. They won their next two over Indiana and Minnesota, but the defense gave up a winning touchdown drive in East Lansing to Tony Banks and the Spartans for the second Big Ten loss which KO'ed Michigan from Rose Bowl consideration for all essential purposes. They lost again at Penn State two weeks after that, and headed into the Ohio State game at a somber 8-3.
Ohio State, on the other hand, came to the Big House as a juggernaut. They were 11-0, ranked 2nd in the nation, and had thoughts of Rose Bowl and national title on their minds. They were loaded on offense, too. Orlando Pace would win the first of two Lombardi Awards as best lineman, Terry Glenn would win the Biletnikoff Award as best wide receiver, and Eddie George would win the Heisman Trophy at running back. The ironic part is, he wasn't the best running back on the field on November 25th, 1995. That distinction goes to Michigan's Tshimanga "Tim" Biakabutuka, who cemented his place in Michigan lore that day. He only scored one touchdown on the day, but he bulldozed the Buckeyes up and down the field to the tune of 37 carries for 313 yards - both of which are all-time records for either side in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. That gargantuan performance led the Wolverines to a stunning 31-23 upset win over OSU, ruining all of the Buckeyes' dreams, sending Northwestern to the Rose Bowl, and relegating John Cooper's team to the Citrus Bowl (where they lost to Peyton Manning's Tennessee team 20-14). Overshadowed by Biakabutuka's heroics was a young freshman cornerback named Charles Woodson, who spent most of the day covering Terry Glenn. Chuck picked off two passes, including one in the final minute that clinched the victory for U of M. While the season ended on a sour note - a 22-20 loss to Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl - the win over Ohio State made 1995 a good season in Ann Arbor.
Oh, the humanity.
Tomorrow (or later today, who knows): 1996 - The Foundations of a Champion
Lloyd vs. Ohio State: 1-0
Lloyd vs. Michigan State: 0-1
Lloyd vs. Notre Dame --
Lloyd in Bowl Games: 0-1