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October 25, 2019 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily

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FootballSaturday, October 25, 2019

Before the Wolverines took the
field for the first-ever night game
at Michigan Stadium in 2011, they
heard from Desmond Howard and
Charles Woodson.
The two Michigan legends talked
about the importance of the rivalry
with Notre Dame. They told the
team about how to win big games
like this. They said these were the
types of matchups where legacies
are made.
happened next. Down by as much
as 17, Michigan clawed its way back,
capping off a comeback when Roy
Roundtree jumped up and caught
the ball in the corner of the end zone
with two seconds left to lead to an
improbable 35-31 win.
But not long after the traditional
frenzy of the rivalry with the
Fighting Irish reached its apex that
night, Notre Dame canceled the
series. The two teams added one
more home-and-home — with the
Fighting Irish’s portion last year
and the Wolverines’ on Saturday
— but after that, there are no more
scheduled games between two of the
oldest rivals in college football.
Though most members of the
current Michigan team were in
middle school — or even elementary
school — during the original “Under
the Lights,” the program today still
has shades of that game. Roundtree is
a member of the staff, helping coach

wide receivers. Ed Warinner, Notre
Dame’s offensive line coach in 2011,
now holds the same position with
the Wolverines. Pictures of scenes
from the game can be found in the
locker room, just before running into
the tunnel, as well as the museum
where press conferences are held
and the press box.
That’s not even to mention that
Saturday’s game kicks off at 7:30
p.m., and while night games at the
Big House are not nearly the novelty
they were in 2011, there’s no question
what people remember when they
think about Michigan vs. Notre
Dame under the lights.
It’s safe to say most Wolverines
today are familiar with the legacy.
But on Saturday, Michigan will have
its last chance, at least for a while, to
add their names to the legacy.
The original “Under the Lights”
was about as hyped as a matchup
between two unranked teams could
possibly be. For all the shortcomings
Brandon, he pulled out all the stops
for that night. Both teams wore 1960s
throwbacks and even the referees
got in on the uniform nostalgia.
There was a pep rally on the Diag. A
special ceremony honoring Howard
happened on the field before the
For two teams with such storied
expected to be that good in 2011.
Michigan was in its first season
under Brady Hoke after three

lackluster years of Rich Rodriguez.
Notre Dame lost its opener to South
Florida, of all teams. Despite that,
College GameDay still ticketed the
game as its featured matchup.
distributed to nearly 115,000 fans
— a record at the time and still
assembled at the stadium. It was a
crisp September day, not too hot, not
too cold — perfect football weather.
The excitement was palpable, and it
was every bit the spectacle everyone
had hoped.
“I think that’s probably the loudest
I’ve ever heard the Big House, since
I’ve been there,” then-Michigan
quarterback Denard Robinson told
The Daily. “Since I came afterwards,
I think it’s the loudest I’ve ever heard
the Big House.”
Robinson hated night games,
because he’d get butterflies all day
and come into the game too amped
up. Day games didn’t give you as
much time to think. Robinson still
appreciated the atmosphere, the
uniforms, the tradition, but his
worry of being too anxious came to
fruition, and the Wolverines came
out playing sloppy.
They were down 24-7 at the start
of the fourth quarter. Even their next
touchdown came from a fumble at
the goal line that Robinson picked up
and ran in.
its groove and scored two more
touchdowns in the quarter, but when
the Fighting Irish got the ball back

and scored with 30 seconds left, it
seemed like the Wolverines’ death
knell. To everyone but them.
“One thing about our team, we
kinda chilled and got through well,”
Robinson said. “We all had that same
common goal and the seniors that
year was some great seniors and we
had great leaders on the team. We’d
been through so much and if we
could go win the game together, we
could do anything together.
“ ... (We knew) we could win the
game and no matter how much time
was on the clock, we could win this.
So when they left 30 seconds on the
clock, I turned to them, I said, ‘That’s
too much time.’ ”
Every Friday, Michigan practiced
three plays for situations like this. In
the waning seconds against Notre
Dame, Hoke called two of them.
And after missing a wide-open
Jeremy Gallon on first down,
Robinson got a second shot. It was
a different playcall, but the same
uncovered Gallon. Robinson didn’t
miss twice, and the play went for 64
Down three, the Wolverines were
playing for a field goal. But with eight
seconds left, Robinson took one last
Roundtree hadn’t been targeted
all day. He turned to Robinson.
“I need the ball,” Roundtree said,
according to Robinson.
Robinson responded: “I trust
There was no time to doubt.
Robinson had to get the ball out

quickly so there was still time left
to kick a field goal if the pass fell
incomplete, and he couldn’t take a
sack. So he found Roundtree in the
corner of the end zone. Roundtree
jumped up, and the rest was history.
“It was probably the loudest I ever
heard the Big House,” Robinson said.
“It reminded me of — I couldn’t hear
myself. I couldn’t hear, everyone was
yelling, ‘Get up! Get up! We gotta
do our celebration!’ I couldn’t hear
it. (Someone) was just grabbing me
by the chest like, ‘Get up!’ I’m like,
‘Alright, cool, I’ll get up,’ and I moved
and it was like amazing.
“You can’t even put into words the
feeling of what happened, and how
you felt at that moment.”
touchdown is immortalized now. It’s
the first thing you see when you walk
into the locker room from the tunnel.
Roundtree declined to comment
for this story, but Michigan players
say he still talks about the play
sometimes — albeit as merely
something that happened “back in
his day.” Even eight years later, the
history lingers.
“I get to work side by side for
two years now with the guy who
caught the pass on the last play to
win the game,” Warinner said. “ …
Just the angst that you have when
it happened, but then, because I’m a
part of Michigan culture now and I
work with Roy, I’m like, ‘Man, what
a great play!’ For the rest of his life,
he’s a hero.”
The significance of the game —
and the play in the pictures plastered
everywhere — isn’t lost on the
Wolverines. Neither is the gravity of
the coming matchup.
Jim Harbaugh said Monday that
he’d be open to resuming the rivalry,
and that there are already discussions
being had. Still, Michigan’s schedule
is full through 2028, so even if there
is an agreement, chances are the
series is over for the near future.
That gives it even more weight
in the eyes of the Wolverines, and
Roundtree is there as a beacon of
that same message Howard and
Woodson gave him eight years ago.
“It’s historic and being able to
be a part of this game coming up
on Saturday,” said senior defensive
tackle Carlo Kemp. “ … And one of the
things that I think is really cool is,
this game I don’t think is scheduled
for a little bit, so there’s a chance to
make a name for yourself, a name for
this team, a name for the offense, a
name for the defense, historically.
“And they can talk about what
happened in this Michigan-Notre
Dame game in 2019.”

In Michigan’s locker room, memory of ‘Under the Lights’ endures

Daily Sports Editor

Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson found Roy Roundtree for the game-winning touchdown with two seconds left when Michigan played Notre Dame in 2011.

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