The Wolverine

October 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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6 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2020 S eventy years have passed since Michigan iced Ohio State out of the "Snow Bowl" in Co- lumbus. The Wolverines beat the Buckeyes 9-3 in bone-chilling cold and a 30-miles-per-hour wind. Performing in near- whiteout conditions at times, the visitors never made a first down, never completed a pass, gained 27 yards on of- fense and punted 24 times, their share of the 45 punts on the day. And they won. Tony Momsen blocked Vic Janowicz's punt just before half- time, diving on it in the snowy end zone, for the only touchdown of the game. The Wolverines later blocked another punt, seeing it skitter out of Ohio State's end zone for a safety and securing a trip to the Rose Bowl. What's all this have to do with the impending truncated season, you might ask. After all, that was a once- in-a-lifetime phenomenon, featuring small bonfires in Ohio Stadium to keep fans warm, and an anticipated crowd of 79,868 turning into 50,000 showing up, half of whom left by halftime to dodge frostbite. Well, it's 2020. Why not a repeat? They've already got the crowd as- pect covered. There won't be any of the potential 100,000 Skoal-spitters on hand in Columbus, unless the Buckeyes carry rule skirting from the field to the stands. And they're playing this one Dec. 12, the latest start ever for a Michi- gan-Ohio State game. That increases the chances of Snow Bowl Redux and slowing down quarterback Justin Fields and a crew that has al- ready mentally punched its ticket for the national championship game. Of course, when you're drawing up scenarios for Michigan to make the most of this off-again, on-again, Big Ten-only season, you shouldn't have to count on Ma Nature step- ping in. The Wolverines get a chance to step in, and step up, themselves. From a tough-draw opener at Minnesota with a new quarterback, to a fear factor finale in an empty Snake Pit, the 2020 crew eyes an op- portunity where there was none. Doug Skene knows what it's like to get it done. He owns five Big Ten championship rings (1988-92) and never lost to the Buckeyes. That's the sort of record that allows you to say pretty much what you want, go- ing into any football season. Skene says this one feels like an exhibition. "There's no doubt about it. This feels like a glorified spring football for us Michigan fans," Skene said. "We didn't have a spring ball, and there are so many new faces. "Yeah, there are parts and pieces, and Jim [Harbaugh] and his staff are recruiting well. There are guys that will be capable of stepping in. But there is so much uncertainty, and there will be experiences that these guys just can't replicate in practice. There are going to be some hiccups. "It absolutely feels like whatever happens this season, this is really a setup for a 2021 season, that we hope to God is more like the ones we're used to, with a regular camp and a regular fall, fans in the stands, tailgat- ing, and the band and all those things. That's what we really want to get back to." More than that, he re- ally wants to get back to Michigan football elimi- nating the virus of un- derperforming when it counts the most. The of- fense — in the line, and at quarterback — will be very inexperienced. The defense won't, but … "The guys that return on defense — Hutch [ju- nior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson], [senior de- fensive end Kwity] Paye and the linebacker [red- shirt sophomore Cam] McGrone, those leaders over there — are going to have to create turnovers and put their offense in the best possi- ble position every week," Skene said. "But the same old questions apply to the veterans that are returning." The questions are blunt, and hard. "What are you going to do in the biggest of games?" Skene chal- lenged. "Those are the games where we give up huge points, and we have really questionable perfor- mances out of our best players. I would like to see that change for once, in the last few years. "It seems like in big moments, the defense doesn't play so great. It's been talked about. Some of the greatest names in Michigan football history have talked about this issue, specifically about our performance against Ohio State. "The defense doesn't seem to find its way to the quarterback, and that quarterback just dices us to pieces. The stage has been set for the same thing to happen. What will be different?" That's the most intriguing part of this unique season for Skene, and many. The Wolverines can't count on a blizzard. They have to create their own. ❏ WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON U-M Must Create A Blizzard Of Breaks The Wolverines get another shot at Ohio State Dec. 12 and the defense must step up against the Buckeyes. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

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