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May 26, 2013

Weekend Top 10: Rude hosts

U-M opened as a 26-point favorite in their season opener against Central Michigan, but the Wolverines' have traditionally found themselves in classic tilts to open play in Ann Arbor. Michigan is 93-15-2 in home-openers, but has experienced a plethora of dogfights in those contests.

Here is a look at 10 thrilling matchups to commence the home slate since 1980, in chronological order …

1984: Michigan 22 - Miami 14

No. 14 Michigan welcomed top-ranked Miami to Ann Arbor in a nationally anticipated matchup. The road weary-Hurricanes were in the midst of an unthinkably brutal stretch, and were battling their third ranked opponent in 12 days, but still possessed a plethora of All-American talents including future Pro Bowlers in wide receiver Brian Blades and quarterback Bernie Kosar.

The Wolverines, on the other hand, relied upon the steady hand of sophomore signal caller Jim Harbaugh.

The true stars of the tilt, however, were running back Bob Perryman, who rushed for three scores, and a stingy Michigan defense that held powerhouse Miami to just two second-half touchdowns and intercepted Kosar six times to help preserve the upset.

1985: Michigan 20 - Notre Dame 12

Coming off of immense struggles, and a 6-6 record, in 1984, quarterback Jim Harbaugh once again led the Wolverines to a rousing opening season victory, this time against bitter rivals Notre Dame.

The 13th-ranked Irish jumped out to a 9-3 halftime lead before the junior Maize and Blue signal caller orchestrated a strong second half in which U-M outscored ND 17-3. He finished the game with just 74 passing yards but did not turn the ball over and scrambled for a third-quarter touchdown.

Fueled by another critical second-half touchdown rush by running back Gerald White, Michigan was able to withstand a late charge by the Irish and sealed the deal with a late-game interception by Doug Mallory with under a minute remaining.

1988: Miami 31 - Michigan 30

Four years following a thrilling Michigan upset over No. 1 Miami in Ann Arbor, U-M appeared to be well on its way to another decisive victory over a top-seeded Hurricane squad.

This time, however, The U reversed its fortunes in one of the most storied fourth-quarter comebacks in school history.

Down 30-14 in front over 105,000 fans with just over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Miami quarterback Steve Walsh led his squad on a breathtaking 17-0 late-game run. A desperation onside kick recovery set up a game-winning 29-yard field goal by kicker Carlos Huerta with only 43 seconds remaining.

1989: Notre Dame 24 - Michigan 19

The top-ranked Irish outlasted No. 2 Michigan on a cold, rainy day led by the return exploits of Raghib 'Rocket' Ismail.

The Maize and Blue held the defending national champs to just 10 points on offense, but Ismail recorded kickoff returns of 88 and 92 yards for touchdowns to drive a stake into the Maize and Blue faithful.

Elvis Grbac completed 17-of-21 passes (81.0 percent) for 134 yards and two scores, but the Wolverines' inability to create anything on the ground (94 total yards) created an opening for ND to rocket its way to the crushing victory on special teams.

1995: Michigan 17 - Virginia 16

Freshman quarterback Scott Dreisbach was less than a quarter away from certain humiliation in his collegiate debut. The mighty Wolverines, in their first game under head coach Lloyd Carr, were down 16-0 to No. 17 Virginia with under 13 minutes left in the 1995 Pigskin Classic. The U-M offense was consistently listless all afternoon under the young signal caller, and any hopes of a comeback seemed beyond bleak.

Then, the growing boos emanating from the 100,000-plus strong at Michigan Stadium transformed into euphoria to end the afternoon.

Dreisbach led the Maize and Blue to the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in school history, capped by a 16-play 80-yard drive that culminated in a 15-yard touchdown pass to Mercury Hayes in the corner of the endzone as time expired to give U-M the unlikely victory.

1997: Michigan 27 - Colorado 3

It may not be the most nail-biting home opener in U-M history, but Michigan's utter destruction of No. 5 Colorado not only set the stage for a dominant national championship run, but also exercised the demons of the Buffalo's 27-26 Hail Mary victory at Michigan - dubbed 'The Miracle at Michigan' - three years prior.

The Wolverines jumped out to a 24-0 third-quarter advantage paced by strong offensive performances from quarterback Brian Griese (258 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception) and tight end Jerame Tuman (five catches, 126 yards), but the Maize and Blue were truly led by an amped-up defense that yielded only 224 yards while forcing five turnovers.

2002: Michigan 31 - Washington 29

Over the course of four hours, young kicker Philip Brabbs went from unknown commodity to goat, and then to unlikely hero in Ann Arbor.

The tightly-contested game went through enough ups-and-downs to last an entire season and, after missing two makeable first half kicks, which led to being replaced by Troy Nienberg - who missed a 27-yard field goal with 1:24 left in regulation - Brabbs capped off an improbable 50-second, 32-yard Michigan drive with a game-winning 44-yard field goal with 0:00 on the clock.

The Wolverines final drive was aided by a 15-yard 12 men on the field penalty by the No. 11 Huskies with six seconds left to put U-M in field goal range.

Running back Chris Perry led the Maize and Blue with 120 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Washington quarterback Cody Pickett completed 28-of-45 passes (62.2 percent) for 318 yards and two scores.

2007: Appalachian State 32 - Michigan 30

In one of the more shocking outcomes in college football history, the FCS powerhouse stunned No. 5 Michigan in the Big House.

The loss stunted the high hopes of the veteran Wolverines, sending them on a tailspin that would ultimately lead to a change in guard during the offseason.

Electric ASU quarterback Armanti Edwards accounted for 289 yards of offense and four touchdowns on the day, but U-M still had a chance to thwart the upstart group. But a last-second, game-winning 37-yard field goal attempt by kicker Jason Gingell was blocked as time expired to ensure the Maize and Blue's cruel opening-day fate.

2010: Michigan 30 - Connecticut 10

Following two-consecutive abysmal seasons under then-boss Rich Rodriguez, the Wolverines commemorated the reopening of the newly renovated Michigan Stadium in grand fashion.

Speedy signal caller Denard Robinson began his torrid run as Michigan's man under center with 383-total yards, including a school record 197 rushing yards by a quarterback, and two scores in his first game as the U-M's starter. The embattled Maize and Blue trounced the Huskies 30-10 in front of a 113,090 rabid spectators - at the time an NCAA attendance record.

2011: Michigan 34 - Western Michigan 10

It was a historic day for the Michigan football program, much of which was dictated by the hostile attitude of Mother Nature.

Brady Hoke's squad never technically finished his first game as U-M's head man, as both team's agreed to conclude the consistently lightening-delayed contest late in the third quarter with the Wolverines maintaining a 34-10 lead.

To exasperate the atypical nature of the game, rarely-utilized fifth-year senior linebacker Brandon Herron returned an interception 94 yards for a score, the longest such return in program history, and later returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown to become the first defensive player in the school's storied history to score twice in a single game.


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