The Wolverine

September 2018*

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 73 of 75

74 THE WOLVERINE SEPTEMBER 2018 F rom 1969‑89, Bo Schembechler's Michigan teams won 13 Big Ten titles in 21 seasons. In the last 13 years, the Wolverines have come up empty in the championship depart‑ ment under four dif‑ ferent coaches (Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez, Brady Hoke and Jim Harbaugh). That's some per‑ spective right there, a drought nobody could have foreseen with the exception of one former U‑M as‑ sistant on Carr's last staff who had some parting words when he was uncer‑ emoniously broomed out of town. "He'll be here for five years," he said, referring to Rodriguez. "And then they'll ask us back and it will take another five years to fix it." It didn't happen that way, of course. Rodriguez lasted only three, and when one of Carr's guys did return — Hoke, a member of Carr's staff from 1995‑2002 before moving on to be the head coach at Ball State and San Diego State — he didn't get the band back together so to speak upon his return. He went outside the program with coaches who aided his success in the Mid‑Ameri‑ can Conference and Mountain West Conference — Hoke earned Coach of the Year honors at both stops. That didn't work either, and now we're finding out just how hard it is to reclaim a championship culture once it's been lost. The last U‑M title drought that lasted this long began when Presi‑ dent Harry Truman was in the White House and ended in 1964 when Lyndon Johnson was in the Oval Office. It took a special team that season to break the skid, led by quarterback Bob Timberlake and featuring a number of players who went on to the pros. We've caught up with many of them over the last 20 years to have them recount their memories in our "Where Are They Now?" columns. We've probably featured more of them, in fact, than the players from the years 1951‑63 combined. Fair or not, people love to hear the stories about the guys who won championships. There will always be generational talents like Ron Kramer (1954‑56) and Denard Rob‑ inson (2009‑12), but the guys with the rings get the most love, and that's not going to change. This year's Wolverines know it and understand it, one of the rea‑ sons they've entered this season with an all‑or‑nothing mentality. "That's what we're here for," ju‑ nior left guard Ben Bredeson said. "Selfishly, personally for myself, that's what I'm here for. That's what I came to do. "I want to win a Big Ten title, and I know that's what the team goal is. We know that the chances are if you win the Big Ten championship, odds are you're going to go to the playoff. All bets are off from there. Once you get in, that's all you've got to do; then you've got to fight from there." Bredeson and guys like junior de‑ fensive end Rashan Gary could have gone anywhere in the country, after all. They came to Michigan, and they did it believing Harbaugh and his staff could help them deliver. It could easily have happened in 2016, but the breaks didn't go their way down the stretch. They're ready to make their own luck this year, junior linebacker Devin Bush Jr. said. "One thing [Har‑ baugh] brought up the other day … we've got one shot," Bush said. "When the years go, seniors leave; people leave. We've got one shot with this team, this group of guys, so we can't miss. That's what he stressed to us. "It really opened your eyes. We do have something special here. We have to make the most of it. We have to. We only have one shot at this." But it's a real shot, and it's time. There's NFL talent all over the field, especially on defense, and there's the proverbial chip on the collective shoulder. It's similar in a lot of ways to 1997, when the Wolverines were coming off four consecutive four‑ loss seasons and ran the table to a national championship. Like this year, the schedule was supposed to be the championship deal‑breaker. Carr likened it to scal‑ ing Mount Everest, a one‑day‑at‑a‑ time approach, and it worked. This year's schedule is even more daunting, including three rivalry games on the road in Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State. Often in sports, though, special moments come when they're least expected. This year's team seems to know it, and it's embracing the chal‑ lenge, understanding very well that their legacies depend on it. We wouldn't bet against them. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997, working part time for five years before joining the staff full time in 2002. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS Time For A Title Junior left guard Ben Bredeson and his teammates are aiming to end Michigan foot- ball's longest Big Ten title drought in more than half a century. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

view archives of The Wolverine - September 2018*