I married a girl from Michigan. Thankfully, I didn't have to hear "Hail to the Victors" at my wedding reception. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images via cdn1.sbnation.com)
After a one-week hiatus where I (a) got married, (b) ignored college football entirely, (c) drank tons of rum-based drinks while lying on the beach in St. Lucia on my honeymoon, and (d) Jonathan Franz decided to turn our normal Potluck into some type of hippy, New Age purge/cleanse for Penn State week (NOTE: Jonathan Franz is a communist), we're back with a full compliment of recipes (remember -- every dish features a link to a Food Network recipe!) and hearty dishes in honor of this week's team -- Michigan. (Insert joke about Brady Hoke and second helpings here).
This week, I'm pleased to say we're joined by Zach Travis and Alex Cook of the excellent Maize n Brew (who, coincidentally, wrote some of the best pieces I've read anywhere on Northwestern football during this offseason, which can be found here and here, proving that these guys know about more than just Michigan football).
So, follow us below the jump for 5500 words as we discuss the possibility of Michigan mirroring one of its most hated enemies, why The September Heisman Trophy Winner is merely Taylor Martinez 2.0 (now with more speed and slightly less awkward throwing motion!), whether the Michigan defense can stay as lucky as 2011, and the biggest freaks we've seen on the football field.....
One brave Event Services Club Car did not survive the 2012 Sugar Bowl.
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1. Blue Cheese Dip with Michigan Dried Tart Cherries: Let me get this straight -- after a disappointing tenure under the previous coach despite highly touted recruiting classes, a overweight replacement comes in (with NFL pedigree on staff), turns the team around using the last coach's recruits thanks to a very good offense and a defense that takes advantage of turnovers, leads the team to a BCS game, and manages to "restore the glory" while bringing in the first of what fans hope are many highly regarded recruiting classes of his own. Interesting script.....from South Bend, Indiana, going from Tyrone Willingham to Charlie Weis. Congrats, Michigan -- you're That Team from South Bend. Explain to me why Brady Hoke's tenure going forward will be different from Weis in South Bend. Isn't Michigan set to fall back to earth a bit this year? And what's to stop it from falling apart entirely (a la the Domers under Weis)?
Ted Glover: Two words: Greg Mattison. The guy just knows how to coach defense. But that's really not fair to Brady Hoke, though. Hoke is a very good football coach who 'gets it' when it comes to being at Ann Arbor. When you love the place you're coaching at, you can sell it to recruits, and he's bringing in recruiting classes that are scary good on paper. Hoke pays attention to offense, defense, and special teams, and Michigan is back to being a force in the conference. My only issue with Mattison is his age, and I don't see him being around in four or five years. I think replacing him will be a real challenge when the time comes.
Zach Travis: I don't really have a good answer...yet. Nobody does. College football is a fickle beast that can turn on a coach or team at any time. One minute you're riding a gravy train with biscuit wheels, the next you're being run out of town by an angry mob. What makes Hoke different, at least from what I've seen so far is his focus. Weis was always caught up in his own hubris. He talked of a decided schematic advantage, then threw the ball late in the game when all he had to do was run the clock out. That was Charlie's Achilles heel (that and a Golden Corral buffet): he was so damn sure of himself and he looked down on everyone else. Hoke makes no qualms about what he is good at and what he isn't. He deals with the oversight of the team while delegating responsibility for scheme and plays to his very capable assistant coaches. The best leaders are the ones who are skilled but also cognizant of their shortcomings, and use that understanding to surround themselves with the right people. Whether this translates to a return to glory or another string of middling seasons and growing resentment among the fan base has yet to be seen. One thing is certain, Hoke's approach is better that Weis's.
MSULaxer27: The only thing Hoke and Weis seemed to have had in common coming into their inaugural season's at the helm of their respective schools was a seeming inability to stay away from the buffet table. Weis had little to no experience at the collegiate level (four years as an assistant/volunteer assistant in the middle 80's) and acted like he was the second coming of Knute Rockne (schematic advantage anyone?). Good coaches are able to use the recruits they have inherited and put together good seasons (Chip Kelly at Cincy & ND, Weis at ND, etc.). The great coaches are able to put together teams of their own recruits and have success. Hoke had a history of turning around programs. That fact coupled with UM 's favorable schedule and returning talent make it unsurprising that the Wolverines had the season they did last year, even if they received every break imaginable last season. It remains to be seen if Hoke is a Weis or a Dantonio. I'd believe based on his track record he is probably closer to Dantonio than Weis.
Graham Filler: One of the main differences between Michigan and Notre Dame is the amazingly difficult schedule that Notre Dame plays. Check out the schedule this year for ND: Michigan, Navy, Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC, Stanford, Miami (FL). That's five, possibly six Top25 teams. For Michigan to possibly play six Top25 teams, they would have to play Wisconsin, OSU, Michigan State, Iowa, and Penn State, plus a Top25 non-conf foe. Yearly.
One of the odd differences is the lack of defensive toughness that has been endemic at ND for years and years. Where does that come from? How do you change that defensive culture? I'm not sure, but no one's been able to change things on the defensive side of the ball.
MikJones24: What? All that and they still lost to Iowa? Welp, moving on.
Alex Cook: Ouch, this one hurts. I'm a bit more wary about this upcoming year than most other Michigan fans are -- most seem to be overlooking some teams on our schedule (how one can overlook Michigan State or Nebraska is beyond me, but people are doing it) -- and honestly, I think we'll be better, but I'd be shocked if we got to 11 wins again this year. A regression to the mean is almost a certainty, as Michigan won a few fluke games, had a pretty manageable schedule, and benefited from some luck on fumbles.
There are many more differences between Hoke and Weis than there are similarities. First, the hubris isn't there. Yeah Hoke says a lot of stuff about "well, this is Michigan" and how exceptional Michigan is, but he's called last year a failure and constantly low-balls his expectations for the team to the media. That's much different than Weis, his over-inflated ego, and his "decided schematic advantage" which translated to roughly zero wins. Other than that, there are significantly different ways that the two have set up their programs: Weis didn't teach fundamentals and didn't even let his players tackle in practice for the longest time, and Michigan's staff continually focuses on the fundamentals of blocking and tackling. Charlie Weis had no experience as a head coach and simply could not adjust from dealing with professionals to dealing with 18-year olds. Hoke, on the other hand, has had some moderate success at Ball State and San Diego State, and he, along with most of his staff, have been coaching at the college level for decades. Greg Mattison stopped briefly in the NFL, but was an elite college coordinator for some time and is one of the best recruiters out there.
Speaking of recruiting, Michigan's doing really well right now, and with the work that the staff has done in molding 3-star type guys into decent enough Big Ten players (Jake Ryan, Frank Clark and Desmond Morgan had all of like one or two BCS offers between them, and are developing into really good players), it stands to reason that they'll do better with more highly-rated guys. Notre Dame wasted talent at an incredible level under Weis. To me, the only similarities between Hoke and Weis is that they're fat and that they won early. Not much else.
Hilary Lee: While I certainly think that it's possible for Michigan to regress in the upcoming season, I think it's important to consider the state of the rest of the conference (and divisions) right now. I mean, even if the defense declines a little bit (and the offense stays mostly constant), who do they really have to worry about? Iowa? Okay..... Nebraska? Yeah, I guess. Same for Michigan State I suppose. The point is, they don't need to stay at the same level to avoid following the course of TSISB. The rest of the conference has either regressed or not improved since last year, which gives the Wolverines some breathing room.
Even Tim Tebow laughs at Shoelaces' throwing motion....
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2. Blue Potatoes au Gratin: The Two-Time September Heisman Trophy Winner, Denard Robinson, is back under center for the Wolverines. Is this necessarily a good thing? No one can deny his freakish talents....running the ball. He's an amazing threat with the ball in his hands, and has other worldly speed. But isn't he just a faster, greater arm strength version of Taylor Martinez? He had a 55% completion percentage last year (throwing 15 INTs), which was DOWN 7.5% from 2010. Shouldn't he be improving as a passer, at least accuracy-wise? Tell me why I'm wrong that Denard is T-Magic 2.0 -- can Michigan improve at all on offense with a sub-60% passer at the helm? (Note: they already improved last year by having a good RB last year in Fitzgerald Toussaint...but where does that improvement come this year? They were a somewhat woeful 93rd in passing yards per game at just 182.8 ypg)
Ted Glover: I don't think you are wrong. Robinson is a sub-par passer, and if he isn't good by now, you work with what you have. The good news is that Michigan found another legitimate running threat in Toussaint, and that will take a lot of pressure (and wear and tear) off of DR. The amount of hail mary rainbows he completed for TD's or long gains last year was more luck than skill, and I don't see that luck holding out, so if they need to rely on DR to win them the game with his arm it's going to be a total crapshoot.
Zach Travis: Yes, yes, one thousand times yes. Not only is Denard Robinson a unique talent with all sorts of big play ability, he is a third year starter entering his second year in this offense. Remember, this team won 11 games with Denard at quarterback last year, and while not all of them were because of him (and some he tried pretty hard to lose before he tried to win, so to speak) in all but two games he was able to make the plays when it mattered. As for the regression in accuracy, I think most of it was just the problem he had learning a new offensive system -- one that wasn't as focused on exploiting his talents as what Rich Rodriguez ran. You bring up stats, but look at them slightly out of context. Sure, Robinson's numbers were down, but they were way down early and rebounded to pretty damn good late. His completion percentages over the last half of the season:
64% vs. Purdue, 46% vs. Iowa, 60% vs. Illinois, 61% vs. Nebraska, 82% vs. Ohio State, 42% vs. Virginia Tech.
The Iowa game stands out, but Robinson didn't get a whole lot of help from his receivers, and the Virginia Tech game is ugly, but Robinson still threw two touchdowns to just one interception. Speaking of INTs, Robinson threw 10 of his 15 over the first seven games, and only five over the last six with no double digit INT games. He looked like a different quarterback over the last half of the season.
I'm not saying that Robinson is going to turn in an RGIII level season throwing the ball. What I am saying is that over the course of 2011 Denard improved markedly, but people tend to look at the overall stats which drag his numbers down a bit. With the emergence of Fitzgerald Toussaint as a counterpoint in the backfield, Denard will have an easier time both running and throwing the ball, and won't be as heavily depended on for big passing games. With another year of experience, I expect Denard to take a solid step forward in the passing game, and with that his accuracy should improve and his turnover numbers should dip. If that helps Michigan get back to double digit wins (and I am convinced that it will take a very good season from Denard to do that) then he might -- that being the operative word here -- finally be able to banish all of this "September Heisman" talk by mounting a serious case for the one they give out in December that comes with a statue.
MSULaxer27: Who is Denard throwing to this season? Look, everyone spoke about how the the Spartans were going to have a better team in 2011 than 2010 but would end up with a worse record. That's not how it played out though. One of the reasons why was the leadership and skill of team captain, senior Kirk Cousins. Maybe Michigan steals the script from the Spartans this season. For all the discussion of Shoelace being a bad passer, he did throw 12 TD's in the B1G (only conference games) last season, good for fifth most in the league. Michigan has two great RBs and a decent QB. Quite a few teams in history have done more with less. The key is keeping Denard healthy as Gardener looked somewhat lost against teams with a pulse last season.
MikJones24: Denard's speed and lack of an atrocious throwing motion is what separates him from T-Mart. If Taylor Martinez has 10 out of 10 speed, Denard Robinson's speed goes to 11. During Nebraska's potluck I made a blanket statement and said that T-Mart was NEVER going to develop into a solid passing quarterback because he isn't a quarterback. The same goes for Shoelace. He's not a quarterback. Just like the Cornhuskers, I'm not sure it matters HOW the Wolverines move the ball. All that matters is that they put points on the board. Waiting for Denard to develop into a strong passing quarterback is like waiting for LeBron JAHAHAHAHAHA GO THUNDER!!!
Alex Cook: Yes, the offense should improve this year. To be totally frank, we did expect some growing pains with Denard moving into a new offense, and we had them. He struggled with decision-making, threw a lot of balls into coverage, and was generally a mediocre passer -- although, if we're choosing rather arbitrary stats to look at, Denard did lead the nation in yards per completion, threw for over 2,000 yards, and 20 touchdowns. I'm not going to argue that he was a good passer, because he wasn't. Part of that can be attributed to an early-season injury on his throwing arm, but a lot of that comes with the new passing game principles installed by Al Borges.
Here are the reasons for optimism: Denard was a horrible passer in his first year under Rodriguez, but improved in his second year in the system by leaps and bounds (after all, he was named the B1G MVP and a First-Team All American, a fact that people are conveniently forgetting when talking about how awful he is). It stands to reason that he'll see another jump in production and efficiency as he becomes more comfortable in Borges's system -- especially because Borges has altered the offense a bit to make the offense a bit easier, with fewer options and quicker reads on passing plays. I'm guessing that this increased familiarity on both sides of that relationship will translate to much better quarterback play. If Denard stays healthy -- and the staph infection in his arm did affect his passing a lot early on in the year -- he'll improve. His receiving corps will be subpar for the most part, and losing Junior Hemingway is a big deal, but I'd be shocked if Denard wasn't markedly better as a passer than he was a year ago.
Yes, this Greg Robinson picture is a blatant attempt to cause post-traumatic stress disorder in Wolverine fans, and provide all other B1G teams with convulsions of laughter.
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images via cdn3.sbnation.com)
3. The Det Burger (a la the Del Rio Bar in Ann Arbor): Mike Martin, Will Heininger, and Ryan Van Bergen are all gone from a Michigan defense that made quantum improvements in 2011 (they finished last year 6th overall in points against, allowing just 17.4 ppg). The defense also improved in large part due to its uncanny ability to force and/or recover turnovers, a skill that while coachable is also largely a function of luck. While Graham correctly pointed out the experience in the secondary and linebackers (Jordan Kovacs, Blake Countess, Jake Ryan, Kenny Demens, and Thomas Gordon) and how much improved Michigan is defensively from a coaching standpoint (going from Greg Robinson to Greg Mattison is like going from dating Ann Arbor girls to dating Gainesville/Tallahassee girls), doesn't Michigan's defense stand to take a huge step back with a weakened pass rush, a return to the mean in terms of forcing turnovers, and frankly a tougher schedule in 2012 (tough games against Notre Dame, Air Force, and, gulp, Alabama)?
Ted Glover: My OSU homerism says yes, but when you look at the dearth of talent (by Michigan standards) that was on that side of the ball coming in to 2011, and what Greg Mattison did with it...I'm not going to assume they'll have a drop off. They're going to be younger, but arguably with more raw talent than last year if you are to believe the recruiting websites, so we'll see.
Zach Travis: I wouldn't say a huge step back, but I'm also not ruling it out. A lot of things had to go right for Michigan to get where it was defensively last year, and if you want to know just how important guys like Van Bergen and Martin were, go back and watch tape from that VT game. Those two played the whole game, consistently got pressure, and willed that defense, and the team itself, to victory. So yeah, they will be missed more than I think even the most rational observer is able to admit right now.
However, there is still some talent on the line. Craig Roh hasn't lived up to his massive recruiting hype, but two years of getting GERG'd will do that to a defensive lineman. I still think he is capable of at least some level of all-Big Ten recognition when this season is finished. Jibreel Black could be a revelation on the interior if he gets his weight up and holds up to the run better than he has in the past; he is a good athlete that specializes on getting penetration, and at the 3-tech spot he should see a number of one-on-one matchups that are exploitable as long as he stays fundamentally sound. I am very excited to see what the two-headed monster of Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer can do at WDE. Both are great athletes that showed flashes as true freshmen. That leaves the big question in the middle, that walking enigma: William Campbell. If Big Will can put together a solid or better season, I think it is a windfall for the rest of the defense. However, if Campbell can't hold ground in the center, everyone else's job is going to be a lot harder.
In the end I think the defensive line plays solid, experiences some growing pains, but the defense as a whole comes together to keep Michigan close in games. If it were anyone but Greg Mattison coaching I would worry, but the way he helped mold the 2011 defense into what it was (and there were a lot of guys who weren't highly thought of or were already considered busts prior to his arrival) gives me confidence that he can make this situation work well enough to keep Michigan's defense producing at a better than average level in 2012.
MSULaxer27: If, huge if, the UM defense can continue to improve in 2012 then the Wolverines may be a slight favorite in the Legends. For all the talk about the Spartan defense (and boy they were good) last season, UM was actually 3rd in the conference in total defense (based on yards per game allowed) and 4th in the B1G in scoring defense allowing 19.4 points a game. The big difference is that MSU brings back most of their D this season. UM has a great D coordinator in Mattison so for the Wolverine's sake I hope he will figure out a way to bridge the gap between what was lost and what is coming in.
Graham Filler: For years, it didn't really matter who was playing defense for Michigan, they would be tough as nails and well coached. So we saw what happened, in 2009 and 2010, when players are not well coached and don't understand their role in the defensive scheme.
That's why 2011 was so important. The first steps were taken to install a working defensive scheme. The first steps were taken to recruit the kinds of players who fit this working defensive scheme. And the holdovers from the RichRod era picked up the defensive ideas quicker than anyone expected.
So it seems, even with the loss of important defensive linemen, the culture has been changed so that we never go back to allowing 33 ppg.
KennardHusker: Michigan should see fewer lucky breaks, and losing that many talented defenders up front will really put a lot of pressure on the secondary. When Nebraska lost Suh to graduation, the team took a slight step back overall despite an amazing secondary just because they could not put as much pressure on the quarterback. It wasn't the most awful thing, and having Prince and Dennard helped soften the blow, but without Suh, it was much more difficult to force turnovers/bad plays and the PPG regressed. I think the same could happen for Michigan this year, but they are reloading, so it will be interesting to see how coaches take advantage of athleticism across the front 7.
MikJones24: Considering Air Force runs the option and Alabama runs the ball down your throat I'm not sure how much a solid pass rush will affect the outcome of the game. I know Michigan lost a couple of defensive starters on the line and I know those starters were very talented. I also know that Greg Mattison will find a way to make it so the defense doesn't miss a step. While I understand it's always tough to replace majority of your d-line, the Wolverines have the advantage of returning every single other player on defense.
Alex Cook: I doubt that a huge step back will happen. There might be a moderate one, but not a huge one. Along the defensive line, the only real concerns are the defensive tackle spots. Will Campbell is a former five star who hasn't done anything, and he, along with true freshman (and fellow five star) Ondre Pipkins, will play the nose, but with very little experience there, I wouldn't expect a lot. There's a reason why Mike Martin played out of position: nobody trusted Big Will. Now that he's essentially the de facto starter, we'll see if he can finally start living up to some of the hype. Jibreel Black is a former rush end at the 3-Tech spot, and while he's a little undersized and probably won't hold up well against the run, he'll be an excellent pass-rusher from that spot. The end positions are in good hands as Craig Roh has been a solid contributor for three years and the winner of the Brennan Beyer/Frank Clark position battle will have beaten out another extremely promising and talented up-and-comer. Losing Martin and Van Bergen, and to a lesser extent, Heininger is significant, and I doubt that the defensive line will be a huge strength, but the unit gets the most attention from the coaching staff -- Hoke, Mattison and defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery all give the line instruction every day in practice -- and I think they'll be fine. Virtually no one outside of Troy Woolfolk (who lost his starting job mid-season) is leaving in the back seven, so the linebackers and the secondary will probably be very solid units, at worst. If anything, I'm more concerned about rush defense than generating a pass rush -- between Jake Ryan, Clark, Beyer, Black, and Roh, there are plenty of guys who can get to the quarterback. As for a regression to the mean, we'll probably force fewer fumbles, but there's not much else that can regress too much.
The secret to Prometheus? Denard's dreadlocks are actually a sentient alien life form.
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4. Michigan Apple Dumpling: Even with the low completion percentage, we can all agree -- Denard Robinson is a freakishly talented athlete. Who's the most freakishly talented athlete in your team's history? Feel free to nominate either a freakish player, freakish coach, or just a freakish performance/play (a la Drake Dunsmore being unable to be tackled by just one man in the 2010 Outback Bowl on his way to a touchdown).
Ted Glover: As much as I love Eddie George and his dominating performance against Illinois in 1995, I'm going to go back a little bit farther and say the game Keith Byars had against the Illini in 1984 is the single greatest performance I've ever watched. OSU went down 24-0 early, but Byars lead the Buckeyes back, scoring the winning TD (he had 5 TD's and 274 yards rushing in the game) with under a minute left, and securing a 45-38 win in one of the most dramatic wins in school history. Byars was just a beast in that game, and in that season he ended up with over 1,700 yards rushing. It was one of the most dominating seasons an OSU RB has ever had.
Zach Travis: I'm probably not well versed in Michigan lore to answer this, but for my money the discussion starts and stops with Charles C. Woodson. Proof? You want proof?
That's Charles Woodson for you. Sixty minutes of anticipation at what the hell he might do next. Only three football players have inspired that kind of feeling in me: Barry Sanders, Charles Woodson, and Denard Robinson. Up until a couple years ago Woodson was my favorite UM player of all time. Now, I'm not so sure. Thank god Denard has one more year to convince me.
MSULaxer27: OK, before you other guys pick Zebediah "Zeke" "Happy Pants" Nagurelli from the 1917 Whomperstompers (or whatever your school's archaic former nickname was) as the greatest player in your school's history remember this: Harry Stuhldreher, one of the famed members of Notre Dame's four horseman was a three time All-American at QB from 1921-23. He stood 5'7'' and weighed 151 lbs. In fact, three of the four horseman stood under six foot and none of them weighed over 162 lbs. So while those old timers may have been great for their time and place, to compare them to today's athletes is comical. Many of them were smaller than what middle school teams average today. You really shouldn't talk about "greatest all-time" unless you're discussing players from after the full integration of the sport in the 70's.
Some say MSU's greatest athlete was George Webster, you might also talk about Kirk Gibson who was drafted in two sports, left the school as the all time leader in receptions, but played baseball instead. As far as what I have seen for pure talent and freakish athletic ability it has to be Charles Rogers. One of the writers at The Only Colors, HeckDorland covers his talent and the disappointment of what Rogers has become much better than I could in this short space.
Graham Filler: I love the Trent Richardson interview when he admitted that the Alabama trainers had stopped him from benching more than 475 lbs because a) they wanted him to avoid injury and b) he couldn't possibly get more jacked.
I also love the throw that RG3 made last year to beat Oklahoma. Off the back foot, fading away, perfect spiral to a wide receiver 45 yards away. That's freaky.
KennardHusker: The most freakishly athletic player I've seen at Nebraska has got to be Ndamukong Suh. I mean, there were so many plays that I watched where it looked like the offensive players were just ragdolls. His arm strength was out of this world, and he was just a man among boys that 2009 season. It's truly a shame Nebraska didn't have a complimentary offense. That team could've been special. Tommie Frazier comes in a close second. That run against Florida is etched into College Football lore. I'll never forget the Florida players after the game just bewildered at how many times they missed tackling him that day.
MikJones24: Off the top of my head I'd say Nile Kinnick. I understand the game was a lot different in the 1930's and I'd entertain the "they wouldn't hold up in today's game of football" argument for about 5 seconds before slapping you in the face and ranting about how awesome the Cornbelt Comet was for 45 minutes. If I had to name the most freakish Hawkeye in the modern era of football I'd say Tim Dwight. Just ask Penn State how athletic he was. Or Ohio State. Or Michigan. Or Indiana. Or Minnesota.
Alex Cook: The most gifted athlete that I've seen at Michigan Stadium was probably Dennis Dixon (who was en route to a Heisman trophy and a National Title before he tore his ACL in 2007), but as for a Michigan player, I'd have to go with Denard or Braylon Edwards. I guess I'm young, so I haven't seen as many special players in my lifetime, but Braylon was huge, fast, and could leap and high point the ball better than anyone I've ever seen. Yeah he had a lot of drops and he was a bust in the NFL, but there's a reason why he managed to win the Biletnikoff with a true freshman quarterback: he was an amazing athlete. His game against Michigan State is easily the most freakish performance I've ever seen by a Michigan player; Braylon finished with 11 catches for 189 yards and 3 touchdowns, and was the catalyst for a 17-point 4th quarter comeback and a triple overtime win.
Chadnudj: Northwestern's football program, during the time I've actively followed them (1997 through the present, although I did watch quite a few games from 1995-1996 when I was thinking about heading there for college), is littered with freak performances and athletes.....albeit not in the "athletic freak" category, per se.
Brian Musso was freakish in his ability to catch just about any ball thrown remotely in his direction (I once saw him catch a pass, one-handed, in the snow, between two Iowa defenders, and somehow end up coming out on the other side untackled to head in for a touchdown in a 1997 game). As I mentioned above, Drake Dunsmore could not be tackled by merely one player. Damien Anderson's game against Michigan in 2000 (save one dropped pass) was arguably one of the most dominant performances I've ever seen.
Biggest freak talent in Northwestern history? Zak Kustok in just about any game that was close at the end. Just as Minnesota. Or Wisconsin. Or Michigan. Or Michigan State in 2001. Zak didn't have the strongest arm, and while he was a decent running QB he didn't have anywhere near as much speed as T-Magic or Denard.....but I'm not sure there is a single QB in B1G history I would prefer in the huddle of a close, late game where my team needed a score to win.