Monday, June 13, 2011

Remember When: 2010 Indiana

This game doesn't exactly stack up to the classic games in Michigan football history. In fact, it's probably not even the most exciting game Michigan has ever played against Indiana (the '79 game with the iconic Ufer call and the '09 game are probably ahead of the 2010 version), but it has some value for me in a lot of ways. For one, I was there. Two, we won. There are few things better than watching the Wolverines win on the road. The silence of a road crowd is almost as rewarding as the home game's moments of collective ecstasy. A win on the road isn't just a win, it's conquest.

Now, it's hard to wax poetic about Indiana, and the fact that I might is an indicator of where we are as a program. Still, it was my second to last road game as an undergrad, and I got to see Denard crush the will of yet another hapless opponent.

On a general note, Bloomington is a blast and a fun college town (certainly more exciting than the booming metropolis of West Lafayette, boasting impeccable weather and certainly extant* tailgating in spades). A lot of people overlook the minnows of the Big Ten when it comes to planning road game excursions, but it is definitely worth the trip. I also recommend checking out the Little 5 if you're so inclined/in the area at the time. Tailgating there is a whole different animal (i.e., much crazier, but I guess when you're IU...). The huge tailgating fields sit right next to the stadium. I still wouldn't trade the long walk down State and Hoover for anything in the world, but it was pretty cool by virtue of its proximity.

During said tailgate, we joined forces with the other Michigan fans roaming through the masses of Hoosier students (most of whom had a negotiable at best interest in going to the game), forming a sort of amorphous blob of maize amongst the crimson. Naturally, we began to chant and whatnot, leading to a hail of cups and general whatnots raining down on us from every direction. It really is amusing how schools like Indiana can hate Michigan so much with none of it being reciprocated from our side ever to any extent at any point in history. We were all warned to stop chanting, which was pretty lame but oh well. You can expect a certain amount of that type of stuff, especially from other college kids, so it wasn't anything unusual. Having been to the '08 games in the Horseshoe and Happy Valley, I've learned how to have thick skin. Sometimes you've just got to keep quiet and let the guys on the field do the talking for you. Rooting for your team on the road is a tricky balance of restraint and self-awareness.

*West Lafayette tailgating not actually extant


We got to the stadium and purchased five dollar student section tickets. While awesome, things like that help you appreciate what we have at Michigan. Interest and tradition--rather, sustained interest--are earned over the course of decades. Indiana will never be a football school, and I mean never. Football at Michigan is an institution like basketball is at IU, and that's not something that can be manufactured. I say all this taking into account the fact that Indiana was in the game throughout and the atmosphere was probably as good as it ever gets at Memorial Stadium. Still, the students were not particularly loud, and most of our neighbors were more interested in yelling at us than the game itself.

Naturally, Indiana methodically drove down the field on its first drive, an 11-play, 77-yard drive led by Peyton Manning  Ben Chappell. Seriously, this guy is going to tell his grandchildren about this game. Chappell and Tandon Doss were connecting with frequency all game, and Michigan couldn't do much of anything to stop them. It's really a wonder that we only gave up 28 in the end. I remember telling myself after the game: Hey, maybe Indiana's offense is pretty good and our defense is just mediocre? Maybe? Please? When you're 4-0 (soon to be 5-0), thoughts like that are not quite yet in the realm of the pathetic.

After Michigan had gotten the ball, Denard ran for a 72-yard touchdown on the second play of the drive. Denard instantly erased everything Indiana had took nearly 6 minutes to accomplish with one burst of speed, sifting through the wash like junk mail. Once he got through, it was all speed. They say that a 40-time doesn't really come into play very often throughout the course of a football game...this was one of the times where it mattered. The play ended with a foolish Indiana tackler flopping to the ground in a last ditch dive at Denard's ankles (not unlike the end of Woodson's punt return against OSU), which were already long gone.

At some point in the game, one of my friends had apparently done something to put himself out of favor with a big bald guy standing behind us. I looked over and the guy was getting into it, threatening to headbutt my friend. At first he was joking, but the more that he joked the more real the possibility became. I told my friend to ignore the guy, but given the volatile back and forth of the game it was a nigh impossible request. After we scored to open the second half, I was sure that: 1) we would win the game and 2) my friend was going to get headbutted by a guy who might not have even been a student or a fan (he wasn't wearing any IU gear at all). Luckily for my friend, the latter did not come to fruition, as I'm pretty sure that guy's bald head was built for headbutting. It's aerodynamics. Anyway, who threatens to headbutt someone if they haven't headbutted before? It was hilarious and absurd, but that is the nature of taking in a game in an opposing team's student section. In the Big House, we make fun of people's ability to read. At Memorial Stadium, they headbutt people (or, at least, really really consider it, which might as well be the equivalent of doing it).

Denard went down for his requisite give everybody a heart attack moment of the game. Unsurprisingly, the IU student section was far from sympathetic. One guy mockingly yelled "He's human!" Denard is human, but he's a far different human being than your or I or anybody he plays with. I don't know why, but it was strange and almost painful to hear people disparage Denard in any way. When you feel like a player could just as well be a younger sibling of yours, you know that he's something special.

Michigan got the ball with a little over a minute to go, starting on their own 27. After a few Denard runs, he zinged a 42-yarder to Hemingway (who I have pretty high hopes for this season, especially if Stonum's gone), setting up the final touchdown run by none other than Denard himself, capping a drive that took only 58 seconds. At that point, any enthusiasm in the stadium was expired and everybody realized once again that this was IU football, after all. The miscellaneous group of students/other randoms behind and to the left of us diverted their attentions toward ripping the metal bleachers straight out of the concrete, which they succeeded in doing. Three or four of them carried the piece of the bleacher down the steps on their shoulders like a canoe. I wondered what they intended to do with it, but I didn't stick around to find out. Who knows where that thing is now.

Michigan was 5-0 and ranked 18th in the country going into the showdown against State the next week, when things would start to crumble and the Notre Dame game started to appear to be a product of an undetermined amount of good fortune. Nobody expected Michigan to go undefeated at that point, especially because 2010 through the IU game was basically 2009 through the Indiana game. That didn't make the fall any less palatable, though. But, for that moment as the sun had started to creep down low and the headbutter and his associates carried the bleacher away, Denard remained the sole constant in an environment that bordered on the absurd. He broke records (becoming the first player ever to pass and rush for 200 yards each twice in the regular season) and ran by everybody. He even got dinged up a little bit, reminding us that he is not immortal, doing it so often as if to remind us of the fact because we keep on forgetting it.


  1. How do you have an entire post about 2010 Indiana without a mention of Sports or Kilroy's?!

  2. An egregious omission no doubt. There it is...EVERYBODY GO TO THOSE PLACES! Seriously.