ANN ARBOR — Unranked, my foot.
Call those pollsters. Wake them up this morning. Let the phone ring 100 times if you have to.
And when they finally grunt a “hello?” let ’em have it full blast, in your loudest shish-boom-bah voice:
Michigan 20, Notre Dame 12.
Put that in your computer banks.
This is Wolverines football, fellahs, don’t forget, and leaving them out of both pre-season Top 20 rankings hurt their Wolverines’ feelings.
So what they did on opening day, before a mere 105,000 fans and a national TV audience, was knock off a team ranked 11th by UPI, 13th by AP and as high as seventh by the Sporting News.
A team with a Heisman candidate running back, Allen Pinkett, who gained less than 100 yards Saturday and could probably tell you which Wolverines defender has the worst breath, he spent so much time in their arms.
Michigan 20, Notre Dame 12.
Didn’t let them score a touchdown.
And, best of all, U-M won with — are you ready, are you sure, are you certain? — imagination. Offensive imagination.
Well, a little, anyhow.
It didn’t show right away
Now everyone knows that fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and Michigan gotta run.
And run. And run. And run.
Left, right, up the middle. And then left, right, up the middle.
It doesn’t always stir the creative juices, but, hey, it wins ball games —
with considerable help from the defense. At least it has in the past. And despite promises by Bo Schembechler this summer about a new look to the offense, more passing, more points, it was the old standard model that came out for the first half Saturday.
Run, baby, run.
And they went into the locker room down, 9-3.
Not a whole lot of new there.
Tailback Jamie Morris was the designated workhorse this time around, a sophomore who stands only 5-feet-7 but moves like a pinball off a bumper. By the time his blockers open a hole he’s through it, tackled and back in the huddle saying, “Me again, please, me again, can I, huh?”
As good as Morris is, however — and that’s pretty good, considering his 119 yards Saturday — going to him so often can get predictable.
It got that way in the first half, and the Fighting Irish shut Michigan down short of the end zone every time.
But in the second half, we saw something, uh, different.
After Notre Dame kicked a field goal to go ahead, 12-10, the Wolverines embarked on a drive that must be considered, well, yes, I’ll say it, imaginative.
They passed. They ran off guard. They passed. They ran a delay. They passed on first down. They rolled out. They scrambled.
And the opening day crowd came to its feet, applauding as the team moved downfield, 40 yards, 50, 60, 70, touchdown. I think the Goodyear blimp even stopped to watch.
There’s always old reliable
Another mix-it-up drive netted them a field goal. And it would have been sweet had they rolled on that way, scoring point after point, arousing the attention of Doug Flutie groupies everywhere.
But let’s not ask for miracles.
Instead, Notre Dame recovered a Morris fumble and started a drive with 3:43 left in the game that brought the Irish all the way to the Michigan 11.
Now, the first thing you’re inclined to do in such situations, when the opposing team is within spitting distance of your end zone and the clock is winding down and 105,000 people are screaming their heads off, well, the first thing you’re inclined to do is pray.
Of course, when you’re playing Notre Dame, that doesn’t always work, since you figure they get first dibs on prayer.
So Michigan sucked it up and pulled out old reliable — defensive pressure
— and intercepted a fourth-down pass and that was it.
Yes, the defense got the save, but the offense — dare we call it colorful? — got the win. They kept the ball on the field. They scored with it a few times. And how pleasant a start to U-M’s 1985 season.
It reminds me of when Coke came out with the New Coke this year.
“Looks pretty much the same,” one would say.
“Well, yeah,” says the other, “but it’s a little sweeter.”
And so is this. Michigan 20, Notre Dame 12.
Unranked beats ranked.
“Guess we’re not the dog people think we are,” Schembechler said afterward.
Hear that, pollsters? Wake up.
It’s Sunday. And Michigan is 1-0.