EMU v Michigan Wolverines all-time series
EMU has never defeated a Big (12) Ten team — they’re 0-27 all-time — and nine of those losses came at the hands of the Wolverines. No other series has been as lopsided for the Eagles, although Michigan State is close behind at 8, and Michigan’s freshman teams are 7-0-3 (games from 1899 through 1917). The Eagles are, however, 1-0 against Michigan Alumni (1897), 1-0 against Michigan Junior Lawyers (1892), and 3-3 against Michigan JV (1894-1932). But let’s talk some more about EMU’s series against the actual Michigan football team.
In the late 1890s, the teams met three consecutive years. Michigan opened its 1896 season with a home game against Michigan State Normal, which the Wolverines won, 18–0, scoring two touchdowns in the first half and a goal and a safety in the second half. The Worldof New York reported on the game as follows: “The University of Michigan opened its football season here this afternoon by a loosely played game with the Michigan State Normal eleven. Only four members of last year’s ‘Varsity eleven were in the game, although four of them were on the ground ready to play.” Not only was this Michigan State Normal’s only loss of the year, but no other team even scored on them. In 1897, Michigan again opened their season at home, at Regents Field (on South State Street, where Schembechler Hall now stands), against Michigan State Normal, and the Wolverines again won, 24-0; Michigan State Normal finished the year 2-3. Michigan State Normal provided an opening game in Ann Arbor for a third time in 1898, losing 21-0; the Wolverines finished the season 10-0 and champions of the Western Conference (now the Big Ten), while the “Normalites” ended the year 1-5-2 with the win coming over Ypsilanti High School.
The next two meetings came more than 30 years later. By 1930, under head coach Elton Rynearson, in addition to adopting a new nickname, the Hurons had experienced several years of tremendous success, posting a 34-3-2 record over the past five years, including four conference championships, 28 shutout games (20 in three years from 1925 through 1927), and undefeated seasons in 1925 and 1927. Michigan opened their 1930 season with a home doubleheader at Michigan Stadium. In the first game, the second-string players beat Denison College 33-0, and in the second game the first-stringers beat Michigan State Normal 7-0, easily EMU’s best showing in the series. According to a United Press account of the game, the Hurons “outplayed the Wolves in two quarters, held them even in another, and broke just long enough in the third period to allow Michigan to flash through two forward passes and a lateral pass for a touchdown.” Michigan’s sole touchdown in the Michigan State Normal game was scored by Charles DeBaker, a “fast-running halfback from Muskegon.” Michigan went on to an 8-0-1 record and the Big Ten co-championship, while MSNC won their remaining six games by a combined 145-7 score, taking their fourth consecutive conference championship and fifth in six years. In 1931, Michigan broke form by hosting MSNC the second weekend of the season (they hosted Central State Teachers’ College — now Central Michigan University — the first week), but the result was the same: a 34-0 Wolverines win, and it ended as a down year for the Hurons, with a 3-2-1 record. EMU does have an off-field win over Michigan from that era, however; one year after Michigan opened their women’s union, the Michigan League, because women weren’t given regular access to the Michigan Union, MSNC opened McKenny Union as a gender-integrated student center and the first student union on the campus of a normal school.
The Wolverines didn’t schedule “the men from Ypsilanti” again until 1998, when coming off a national championship, Michigan lost their first two games to Notre Dame and Syracuse. A 59-20 win over the Eagles — the first time EMU ever scored against Michigan — got them straightened out, and the Wolverines recovered the season with 8 consecutive wins, while Rick Rasnick’s Eagles finished 3-8. In 2005, again coming off a tough home loss to Notre Dame the week before, Michigan put the hurt on Jeff Genyk’s EMU team to the tune of a 55-0 dismantling. In 2007, EMU generally kept things close, and a blocked kick returned for a touchdown gave a respectable final score of 33-22. The last meeting was Ron English’s first year, 2009. EMU had a strong first half, with the game tied at 10-10 early in the second quarter and down just 17-24 at halftime. Michigan handed fifth-year senior quarterback Andy Schmitt a career-ending injury and held the Eagles scoreless in the second half, going on to win 45-17.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the Eagles only hope to win this game is if the Wolverines have a big letdown the week after the Notre Dame game (the first night game in Michigan Stadium history), if the transition to Hoke’s system proves harder than expected, and if EMU fields one of their best teams ever. It would also take a bit of luck.