When Rich Rodriguez was exiled from the University of Michigan, the dark spot in his career was losing to a 3-9 team from the Mid-American Conference on October 11, 2008.
I didn't watch this game. A five-hour drive to southern Indiana for a business trip consumed my Saturday, although I had a good idea of how it was going to unfold. Toledo was 1-4 and had allowed over 35 points per weekend. They had some success scoring but even catching Michigan in a transitional period, this wasn't the time to pull off a seismic upset.
That was the thought, at least.
Then Tyrrell Herbert picked off Steven Threet's pass and ran 100 yards the other way for the touchdown. It's the turnaround play you always dream about but never see happen. A red-zone INT? Sure, those are thrown, and they're huge momentum changers. But taking the ball and running it all the way across the field requires a series of events so rare, especially against a team like Michigan, you categorically reject them from the realm of physics. Then again that was the theme of the whole damn game.
Herbert grabbed a second interception off a deflection and Alex Steigerwald's go-ahead 48-yard field goal bounced off the crossbar and in. Nick Moore caught twenty passes for 162 yards. Also picking off a pass late in the game was freshman safety Mark Singer, still playing with the Rockets this season (although his interceptions have improved).
The game repeatedly broke canon with every other "near win." Michigan would get close, then Toledo would take the ball back. Once UT turned it over on downs, Michigan marched right back, got a huge gain on a Nick Sheridan pass to Sam McGuffie, and eventually set up a 26-yard tying field goal. They had to make this one, you thought. And ... nope, from the right hash, they pushed it left.
Michigan finished a dismal 3-9, their worst in program history, but even more astonishing is Toledo also finished with the same record. Less than a month later, head coach Tom Amstutz announced he was resigning to "assume a position with the University as the director of special projects in the Alumni Relations Office." I always thought it had something to do with the point-shaving scandal, possibly a face-saving move to amicably expunge the coaching staff and start fresh. The way he left was a bit weird, but the Michigan win over a non-Michigan Man was an excellent coda for the career of a lifelong Toledo Man.
And don't get me wrong, the win is still huge, because I'm writing about its four-year anniversary. But Michigan got better and so did Toledo. The wound for Wolverines fans is now a scar they look at from time to time (such as today) but overall didn't affect them much. It did give OSUbros another joke to sling at them, as if App State wasn't trendy enough.
Likewise, Toledo and the MAC were able to add another collection to their trophy case, but in the macro sense that's all it was: another notch. There will be others, although perhaps none as bizarrely won by one of the MAC's weaker competitors, although CMU sure as heck tried.