Big Ten: Anthony Thomas

Big Ten lunch links

June, 7, 2011
6/07/11
12:00
PM ET
Link time.

Big Ten games of the decade

January, 20, 2010
1/20/10
11:00
AM ET
The decade recap marches on as it's time to examine the top 10 games involving Big Ten teams from 2000-09. As with all of these categories, the games list easily could include 25-30 items, so getting it down to 10 wasn't easy. Especially with games. I could probably identify 10 great ones just from my two years of Big Ten blogging.

What makes a great game? Good teams, good players, lots at stake and lots of drama, particularly in the closing minutes.

I put a special emphasis on games that helped to decide Big Ten championships, bowl championships and national championships.

Without further ado ...

1. Ohio State vs. Miami, 2003 Fiesta Bowl: When the national championship game goes to two overtimes and a Big Ten team wins, it'll be at the top of the list. Ohio State nearly won in regulation, nearly lost in the first overtime and then finally prevailed 31-24 against a talent-stocked Miami team that had won 34 consecutive games.

2. Michigan at Ohio State, 2006: This game had it all: No. 1 vs. No. 2, the sport's top rivalry, national championship implications, unparalleled buildup, the drama of Bo Schembechler's death a day before the game. Ohio State and Michigan combined for 81 points before the Buckeyes prevailed to reach the title game.

3. Michigan at Northwestern, 2000: As regular-season games go, this is about the best you can find. The teams combined for 105 points and 1,189 yards of offense in a contest that saw tons of plot twists. Star running backs Damien Anderson and Anthony Thomas both committed an error in the closing minutes -- dropped touchdown for Anderson, lost fumble for Thomas -- before Northwestern emerged with a 54-51 win. Both teams went on to share the Big Ten title with Purdue.

4. Texas vs. Michigan, 2005 Rose Bowl: It didn't go the Big Ten's way in the end, but Michigan and Texas certainly gave us a game to remember. The Wolverines received great play from quarterback Chad Henne and wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Steve Breaston, but Vince Young proved to be too much as Texas won 38-37 on a field goal as time expired.

5. Iowa at Ohio State, 2009: This game essentially decided the Big Ten championship, as the teams met with a Rose Bowl berth at stake. Iowa came in as a major underdog after losing starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi to injury the previous week against Northwestern. Redshirt freshman James Vandenberg displayed incredible poise in his first career start, but Ohio State eventually prevailed in overtime after a 39-yard field goal from backup kicker Devin Barclay, a 26-year-old former Major League Soccer player.

6. Iowa vs. LSU, 2005 Capital One Bowl: You'll never see a more exciting end to a bowl game, and the first 59 plus minutes weren't bad, either. Iowa built a 24-12 fourth-quarter lead behind quarterback Drew Tate, only to watch it disappear down the stretch. It set the stage for Tate's 56-yard touchdown strike to Warren Halloway as time expired as Iowa won 30-25.

7. Michigan State at Michigan, 2004: Michigan State's losing streak at the Big House appeared over as the Spartans led 27-10 with 8:43 left. But Michigan rallied to tie the game as Braylon Edwards hauled in two touchdowns from Chad Henne. Henne and Edwards hooked up again in the third overtime as Michigan won 45-37 and went on to share the Big Ten title with Iowa.

8. Penn State vs. Florida State, 2006 Orange Bowl: Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden generated tons of buildup before kickoff, and the game itself didn't disappoint. It was hardly a masterpiece on either side, but the game generated plenty of excitement as the teams went to three overtimes before Penn State won 26-23 on a Kevin Kelly field goal.

9. Michigan at Minnesota, 2003: Michigan's Big Ten title in 2003 could be directly linked to the greatest comeback in team history against Minnesota at the Metrodome. The Wolverines trailed 28-7 in the third quarter before rallying to win 38-35 on a Garrett Rivas field goal in the final minute. Minnesota was 6-0 before the loss.

10. Penn State at Iowa, 2008: Penn State came to Iowa City with national title aspirations and jumped ahead of Iowa 23-14 late in the third quarter. But Ricky Stanzi stepped up in the fourth quarter and led a dramatic comeback that ended with Daniel Murray's field goal. It marked Penn State's only loss, though the Lions still won a Big Ten title and went to the Rose Bowl.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

In addition to taking flak for his team's poor performance on the field last fall, Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez drew criticism for what some called not making a strong enough connection to the program's history and tradition. 

Rodriguez is trying to bridge the gap with some exciting spring game events Saturday at Michigan Stadium. Fans will be able to tour the Wolverines locker room, and one of the highlights is an alumni flag football game to be played at approximately 10 a.m. ET.

Michigan announced a tentative roster for the alumni game Tuesday (the final roster will be finalized Thursday). The participants include former running back Anthony Thomas, former quarterback Rick Leach and former cornerback Zia Combs, who suffered a career-ending neck injury in 2002.  

Several Michigan alums currently playing in the NFL also will be in attendance at the Big House, including Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers Larry Foote and LaMarr Woodley and Indianapolis Colts running back Mike Hart. 

"I think [the fans will] be entertained," Rodriguez told reporters before today's practice. "There are a lot of neat events that are planned. I think the weather right now will be be pretty good so I think it will be a fun day."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Good responses so far on recent traumatic losses for Big Ten teams, so kudos to you guys. It's not a big surprise, since often these kinds of losses stick with fans more than the coaches or players. A couple of users brought up the Appalachian State-Michigan game, but while that was one of the biggest upsets in college football history, it doesn't really qualify as a traumatic loss. Michigan still went on to a New Year's Day bowl game and won it, so there wasn't a prolonged and total letdown. The real traumatic losses ruin a season, or keep a program down for multiple seasons.

Let's take a look:

Bryce from Arlington, Texas, writes: I was at the 1999 PSU vs Minn game. Watching that kick split the uprights as time expired was the most memorable moment for me inside Beaver Stadium. After crushing Arizona in the opener that season, the LaVar Leap, all 100,000+ were already smelling Roses and thinking National Champs. Then the Minn Hail Mary 4th down conversion, followed by the game winning kick. The only thing more impressive than 100,000 fans on their feet screaming, is 100,000 in dead silence. The students didn't know what to to. We just sat there. Everyone was crying. Seriously, EVERYONE was choked up. It was so deathly silent, you could hear the Minn players celebrating on the 50 yard line. That game set up 2 more losses and eventually was the precursor to those terrible seasons in the early 2000s. That kick eventually led to the Joe Must Go chants in the following years. And those early 2000 seasons may be in the back of (Graham) Spanier's mind as these contract talks seem to be going south. In all the PSU games I've experienced, that moment of humility is far more memorable than any of the triumphs.

Greg from Boston writes: I was at the PSU-MINN game and was in the stands for 20 minutes after in disbelief (along with a few thousand students, some of which had bus tickets to N.O. already). The pass of which you speak actually, if memory serves me, went through Derek Fox's hands into the receiver's. Also, on the FG attempt it looked like Lavar (Arrington) was going to block it as he got elevated but went through his outreached hands. Sometimes, at night, I still scream "knock it down" in my sleep...

Adam Rittenberg: Bryce and Greg, thanks for sharing those memories. Great stuff. I went back and checked, and according to the New York Times game recap, Cockerham's fourth-down pass deflected off Ron Johnson and Derek Fox. It was still a mind-boggling completion, and a crushing loss for Penn State. Arrington was a freak, and it would have been fitting if he had blocked the game-winning attempt.


Alex from Peoria, Ill., writes: Being an Illinois fan, it's hard to forget two different games that really hurt the orange and blue in recent years, at least in my eyes. In 2000, Illinois came in ranked 17 (in the USA Today poll) and Michigan was number ten coming into Memorial Stadium. The Illini had stunned the maize and blue the year before in the big house and Michigan was looking for revenge. The Illini were leading pretty covincingly in the fourth quarter, and then the refs came along. The stripes called two fumbles on Illinois that were seen with replay to both be wrong along with calling Anthony Thomas down when he had in fact fumbled. The Illini went on to lose the game. Later, in the week after the game, the conference admitted their mistake with the officiating and Illinois was allowed to keep their ranking but it was too late compared to what Illinois could have done without this stinging loss. The other one that sticks out in my mind is when OSU traveled to Memorial Stadium in 2002 during their undefeated national title season. Illinois clawed back to force overtime on the last play of the game with a last-second field goal. OSU scored in overtime to go up seven, and then the Illini scored on a Walter Young touchdown, or did they? The ref called Young out of bounds on the play and the Buckeyes won, but once again, as the replay showed, a Big Ten official blew a call late in the game. So Illinois may have not won this game eventually in OT, but who can say they wouldn't have had a chance if it went into a second overtime. Can you see any bitterness resonating for me as I call up these events? I believe it was hangover games like these that stung enough not only in Champaign but also in the Big Ten offices in Park Ridge to be the first major college conference to use replay.

Adam Rittenberg: Alex, excellent stuff here. I forgot about the game in 2000. After starting 3-0, Illinois dropped six of its final eight games to miss a bowl and end the momentum it generated from the previous season, when it reached the MicronPC.com Bowl (remember that one?). The Illini turned it around the next season and won the league, so the trauma was limited to 2000. As for the 2002 game, the Illini were 4-6 coming in, hardly a juggernaut. But they had won three of their previous four games, including a road win against Wisconsin that I covered. Illinois bounced back after the Ohio State game to beat Northwestern, but the next four seasons brought only eight wins. Ouch.


Ross from Iowa City writes: Iowa's 2006 loss to Indiana. They rebounded from the disappointing prime-time loss to Ohio State by blasting Purdue the next week, then came to Bloomington and jumped out to a 14-0 lead before eventually choking it off and losing. They lost their next eight B10 games in a row (over the 2006 and 2007 seasons) and the program has basically been in a funk the entire time. As a proud fan and alum, I certainly hope things turn around this year.

Adam Rittenberg: Ross, thanks for bringing up the Indiana game, though I know it's painful for you. Iowa was still 5-1 after the Purdue win and ranked No. 15 going to Bloomington. The Hawkeyes were up 21-7 before Indiana rallied behind freshman quarterback Kellen Lewis. As much as this game began a downward spiral for Iowa, it served as a springboard for Indiana, which posted its biggest upset since 1987, when it knocked off No. 9 Ohio State.


Daniel from Minneapolis writes: October 10, 2003, was a heartbreaker for me like none other. #20 Minnesota entered the game hoping to end a 14-game losing streak against Michigan, stretch its record to 7-0, and put itself in the Big Ten title race. Entering the 4th quarter, the Gophers led 28-7, only to see Michigan outscore them 31-7 in the 4th quarter. Instead of potentially heading for a January bowl game, Minnesota ended up 10-3, making yet another appearance in the Sun Bowl.

Adam Rittenberg: Daniel, another good choice. I actually remember watching this game at a bar in Mount Pleasant, Mich., the night before covering the Northern Illinois-Central Michigan game. The place was pretty electric as Michigan rallied back, but I kept thinking, 'Not again.' The Gophers still reached a bowl game, so the game didn't completely doom them, but with a chance to migrate from mediocrity, they caved. The next year, Minnesota went to Ann Arbor at 5-0 and ranked No. 13, lost 27-24 and dropped five of its final six regular-season games.


Eric from Evanston writes: i think you overlooked one, if not the most traumatic losses in big 10 history. granted, bowl implications weren't really on the line, but the michigan state comeback at ryan field in 2006 is easily the most depressing NU loss i have ever had to bear. and i've seen a lot of NU losses.

Adam Rittenberg: Eric, a terrible loss, yes, but Northwestern wasn't really going anywhere in 2006, so the hangover effect was tough to gauge. As complete a collapse that was
, it did give NU some confidence on offense behind quarterback C.J. Bacher, who made his first career start after learning he got the nod the day before the game. Bacher had aced a written test to beat out Andrew Brewer.

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