Near the close of the third quarter in Michigan’s implausible victory over Notre Dame, a cadre of Fighting Irish fans chanted/taunted, “It-sucks, to-be, a Mich-i-gan Wolv-er-ine.” At the moment Notre Dame held a seemingly unassailable (24-7) lead and their parody was immune to ridicule. ND had outplayed UM. ND had dominated. They game was in hand.
As the hour neared midnight a furious UM comeback wrested the game back with 1:12 remaining. The Wolverines then lost it (again, drat) at the 30 second mark and won-it-at-last with 2 seconds left on the clock. As Denard Robinson’s last gasp toss was snagged in the southwest corner of the end zone by Roy Roundtree, the Notre Dame chant became something other than annoying; it seemed, rather, a gift to be savored.
An NCAA record crowd of 114,804 witnessed Michigan Stadium’s first night game and Michigan fans, traditionally blase, morphed with the darkness into a specter-like wall-of-sound, the volume undiminished even as the game seemed lost. The atmosphere had texture and weight, its own dimensions.
Few bad things are all bad and, after three years of beat downs (even at home) Michigan fans now seem to appreciate that winning isn’t axiomatic, that fans can energize a team and impact a game. Michigan fans, out of the blue and night, came to the collective realization that they didn’t have to be merely reactive; they could put their own feet on the field.
Michigan isn’t a very good football team right now though, who knows, they might get there. What seems more likely is that the ND victory isn’t sustainable and that, at some point down the road (I might guess week 6), matters will begin to unravel and this season might not look a lot different than last. On the other hand, with a couple of exceptions the Big Ten looks like a cream puff right now and maybe, just maybe, Hoke can gain some traction this year.
In any event, nothing can diminish the indelibility of Michigan’s first game in AA under the lights. As one fan told me, waiting with the tens of thousands who refused to leave the Stadium until well after the game’s conclusion, “This game isn’t coming again. Not ever.”