Michigan-Wisconsin: Big Comeback the Signature Win of Rich Rodriguez Era

Eff YouContributor ISeptember 28, 2008

For various reasons, some of which I will get to in later posts, I've been silent about the Wolverines.  After Saturday's win, I'm feeling the need to say something.

How long will I stick with it?  Who knows—hopefully for the rest of the season.  We'll see.

Saturday's victory (highlights here) was one of the greatest I've seen in a long time.  In fact, it was the biggest comeback in the history of Michigan Stadium.  Somewhat ironic that it came on the day the University celebrated its 500th game in the Big House's history.
I was lucky enough to attend the previous greatest comeback, the 17-point fourth quarter comeback against Virginia in 1995.  (As an aside, GREAT YouTube highlights of that game here.  Further aside, I totally forgot about the greatest drop in college football history by Butterfingers with about 10 seconds left.)
I still remember screaming and jumping up and down as Mercury Hayes caught that fade route from Scot Dreisbach in the East corner of the North end zone.  I still remember the deafening roar that ensued.
That game was the first of the Lloyd Carr era, a "signature" win for most of that season, until UM beat undefeated Ohio State.
While this is most definitely the "signature" win of the Rich Rodriguez era, it unfortunately did not come in the first week of the season.
While I am no fan of Mitch Albom, I thought his column today was not half bad.  He opines that the John Thompson interception return was the defining moment of the game and symbolized the moment that this team became, well...a team.
I remember thinking something similar as Thompson slowly weaved his way through Badgers behind a convoy of Wolverines, playing "Rubber Duck" to Terrance Taylor's "Pig-Pen."  (If you don't get that reference, you're probably younger than 35.)
The play was a great showing of team defense and unity, a play that symbolized how well the unit played together all day.  
The fact that the defense held Wisconsin to only 19 points in the first half despite four costly turnovers (the fifth didn't really affect the D) had a lot to do with dropped passes and poor execution by Wisconsin, but more to do with the fortitude of a defense that hadn't looked very stout to date.
The D was led by Brandon Graham, who finished the day with three sacks and a couple of forced fumbles, but there was pretty decent play from the entire front seven.  I thought Jonas Mouton continued to play with great effort and was always around the play and looked good on several blitzes.  
While the defense most definitely were the stars and kept UM in position to make a comeback, I can't say enough about Steve Threet.
No, he's not a star.  Probably never will be.  Hell, it remains to be seen if he'll see the field next year.  But there aren't a whole lot of quarterbacks, especially redshirt freshman quarterbacks, who could have pulled off that victory on Saturday.
2-10 with two picks and NEGATIVE seven yards passing in the first half?!?!  Of course, his final numbers weren't much prettier, but it takes something special to endure that kind of performance and still have the confidence to continue to trot out to the huddle amidst a sea of boos.
Special commendation should also be made to the coaching staff for sticking with Threet.  While Threet is most definitely the best QB on the roster, it couldn't have been an easy decision to stick with him.
I had to laugh when Threet busted through the left side of the line on their final scoring drive for that 58-yard gallop.  It was so unexpected and so awkward, yet another symbol that fit the game perfectly.
Here was this 6'6", 230-lb. kid, who no one (including me) has had much positive to say about this year, in a breakout performance, breaking out of the pack and outrunning several defenders before slowing considerably to cover the ball on what was Michigan's longest play from scrimmage season to date.
He probably could have scored had he not been so wary of a potential fumble.  However, Sam McGuffie punched the ball in a couple of plays later.
What does this win mean?  It's obviously a confidence builder.  This win has got to do wonders for all young kids they are trotting out there this year.
Probably more importantly, though, this win calms down nervous Nellies like me and will get the Michigan sports media off Rodzilla's back.
However, along with the praise come higher expectations.  A win against Illinois, which seemed all but impossible until Saturday's fourth quarter, now looks like a possibility.  If they had continued to play so poorly against Wisconsin, I'm not sure many would have had hope for more than one or two Big ten wins (Minnesota and Northwestern).
Now?  I think they have a much better shot against aforementioned Illinois, Purdue, and potentially Michigan State...and who knows?  Despite Penn State's success, I am still not a believer, and hey, Ohio State hasn't exactly set the world on fire the past couple weeks.
Lloyd Carr's first team in 1995 team did it.  Why can't Rich Rodriguez's 2008 team do the same?