Great Games in IU-Michigan Series History - 1987
Nov. 8, 2006
Should Indiana defeat Michigan on Nov. 11, it would mark the Hoosiers' sixth victory of the season and qualify the team for bowl eligibility. In honor of this week's game, IUHOOSIERS.COM takes a look back at some memorable Hoosier-Wolverine matchups. Today's installment features 1988 All-Big Ten linebacker Joe Huff's recollections of Indiana's 14-10 triumph over No. 20 Michigan on Oct. 24, 1987.
When Bill Mallory took over Indiana's football program in 1984, the members of his first freshman class set a specific goal - to defeat every Big Ten team at least once during their careers. For a program that had compiled just two winning seasons in the 15 prior to 1984, that was no small task.
After a winless 1984 campaign, that first class got its first Big Ten win against Northwestern in 1985 en route to a 4-7 record. The following year, Wisconsin and Michigan State joined the list, and Ohio State and Minnesota both survived in two-point contests as the Hoosiers improved to 6-6. When 1987 rolled around, Big Ten opponents had reason to fear IU.
That fear was justified, and Indiana did something unparalleled in school history, beating Ohio State and Michigan in the same season. The closest the Hoosiers had ever come was a win over Michigan and a scoreless tie with the Buckeyes in 1959. By 1987, IU had not beaten the Wolverines in 20 years. But on Oct. 24, with No. 20 Michigan in town for a showdown in a packed Memorial Stadium, Indiana exorcised two decades of demons with a 14-10 win.
Joe Huff, a linebacker on that team and a member of that 1984 freshman class, recalls that win as especially satisfying.
"It was our goal as a group that started with Bill his first year to beat every Big Ten team," Huff said. "Of course, one of the hurdles was a Michigan team that IU hadn't beaten in many, many years. And when you beat a powerhouse like Michigan, it was a great victory and an important game for us."
The Hoosiers entered the game averaging just over 39,000 fans per home game, but the Cream and Crimson faithful showed up in full force for the game against Michigan, with 51,240 people in attendance.
"I've never been around an IU crowd that loud," Huff said. "Hearing the stadium that loud is something that very much ignited the players. That game, we definitely had the 12th man."
The 11 on the field did their parts, as well. Bill Reisert had Indiana's first blocked punt in five years in the first quarter, setting up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Dave Schnell to Ernie Jones. The Wolverines got a touchdown and a field goal in the second quarter to take a 10-7 lead into halftime, but the second half was all Hoosiers. Schnell scored on a three-yard run in the third quarter and Huff and the defense did the rest, limiting Michigan to just 88 total yards in the second half.
"I think there was no question we knew we could play with them," Huff said. "We knew playing at home worked on our side. We knew the types of athletes they had, and we didn't think they were superior to us. We knew we could play with them."
The victory over the Wolverines was the Hoosiers' sixth of the season, assuring them of a winning record in the regular season and making them bowl eligible for the second straight season.
"The win was important in looking to see what bowl we were trying to get into," Huff said. "Unfortunately we had a couple of losses we didn't think we should have had that year. It was definitely a talented team. There were probably 14-15 guys who ended up in the NFL. You look at the talent we had, there's no question we could have gone to the Rose Bowl, but we ran into a powerful Michigan State team."
Despite that loss to the 13th-ranked Spartans, the 1987 squad went on to finish the regular season 8-3, earning a berth in the Peach Bowl against Tennessee and securing consecutive bowl appearances for the first time in school history.
Huff did end up beating every Big Ten team during his career. In addition to topping Ohio State and Michigan in 1987, the Hoosiers crossed Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue off the list that year, leaving just Iowa. Huff, who redshirted in 1985, got that win over the Hawkeyes in 1988, completing work on a goal he had set four years earlier. But it was the 1987 squad that came up with one of the biggest seasons in school history.
"When you look back at the team that we had, we were definitely undersized and didn't have the talent as everyone else, but we were hardnosed people who worked hard, and as Bill Mallory said, we always had our jaws locked and were ready to play," Huff said. "We were well-coached, we had a good camaraderie, we felt, like with Coach Terry Hoeppner now, that we had that enthusiasm. We felt like if we listened to our coaches and did what we were supposed to do, that we could compete and win. It's all about attitude. No matter if we were down or good, we always had a good attitude."
The 2006 edition of the Indiana football team has created a lot of positive buzz by knocking off No. 13 Iowa and picking up a huge win over Michigan State on Homecoming, and is sitting on five wins with games against No. 2 Michigan and Purdue left on the schedule. IU is seeking its first bowl appearance since 1993, and needs just one win to become eligible. The Hoosiers will try for that win when it hosts the Wolverines on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 3:30 p.m.
"The good thing about the Indiana crowd, there's never a moral victory, they say, but Indiana fans just want to see players play," Huff said. "We don't want to lose, we want to win. Believe me, I know Coach Hep thinks he can win. They can win."
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