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Posted on Sat, Nov 21, 2009 : 7:14 p.m.

Don't let bad season overshadow what Brandon Graham meant to Michigan

By Pete Bigelow


Michigan's Brandon Graham is all smiles as he walks on to the Michigan Stadium field with his parents prior to Saturday's game against Ohio State. (Photo: Lon Horwedel |

Outside the Michigan Stadium tunnel, a raucous crowd of Ohio State fans and cheerleaders celebrated their victory Saturday, waving red roses in the air as the Buckeyes began preparations for Pasadena.

Amid the crowd, Brandon Graham’s grandmother stood to the side with a single yellow rose wrapped in cellophane.

The contrast looked the same as it did inside the stadium all afternoon, when Graham was the lone standout for the Wolverines amid a sea of scarlet at the Big House.

There are plenty of other storylines following Michigan’s 21-10 loss Saturday, its sixth consecutive defeat in the rivalry with Ohio State.

The one that one could easily be drowned out by all the talk about Rich Rodriguez’s job security and Tate Forcier’s five-turnover performance is Graham’s afternoon. In his final game as a Wolverine, he willed the Michigan defense to its best outing of the season. The Wolverines held Ohio State to 318 offensive yards, which is no small feat considering it’s the fewest yards they’ve allowed to any Big Ten opponent this season. They contained Terrelle Pryor, the quarterback who spurned Michigan to attend Ohio State less than two years ago. He completed 9 of 17 passes for 67 yards. At the center of that effort was Graham, who had a sack and 4 tackles for loss. “He just got better and better,” said Brittany Duncan, his sister, who waited with his grandmother to congratulate Graham on his big game, big season and just-completed college career. “I just know that he wanted that quarterback,” she said. “He wanted to stop Terrelle Pryor.” On a third-quarter Ohio State drive with Michigan trailing only 14-10, Graham single-handedly kept Michigan in the game, stuffing Dan Herron for a 2-yard loss and sacking Pryor for an 8-yard loss the following play. Graham has made plays like that all season, and should go down as one of the best defensive players in Michigan history. He might not. The defense turned dreadful during his time on campus. The cracks first formed in the infamous Appalachian State game three seasons ago, and never really healed. In his breakout junior season, the Wolverines missed the postseason for the first time in 33 years. In his just-completed senior year, the defense cratered around him while he faced double and triple teams. Some NFL team will be very happy to learn Graham overcame that attention to post 25 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks this year. But at Michigan, though, the 2009 season will be remembered for the continuation of the postseason drought, the NCAA investigation and the dilapidated state of the program. Graham’s best came in the dark ages of Michigan football. If he’s not remembered as one of the best Wolverines ever, he should at least go down as one of the most underappreciated. For his part, Graham kept his head up Saturday evening. “We fought hard to the end, and I’m proud of everyone,” he said smiling after the game. “We left it all on the field. We left it on the field against a good Ohio State team.” Earlier this week, Graham didn’t want to talk about the end - couldn’t talk about the end. He nearly broke down in tears when he started to ponder playing his last game in the Big House. He probably didn’t envision what transpired Saturday, when he ran out of the tunnel and into a stadium filled with nearly as many Buckeye fans as Wolverine faithful. That sorry spectacle won’t be forgotten. But it shouldn’t overshadow Graham’s game or culmination of his career. At the rate the Wolverines are going, it may be a long time before there’s someone like him playing here again.

Pete Bigelow covers sports for He can be reached at or 734-623-2556.



Sun, Nov 22, 2009 : 11:46 a.m.

I hope this story bubbles to the top again...I'd much rather concentrate on someone who has absolutely played his heart out for Michigan. See ya in the NFL, Brandon, YOU had a great season.


Sun, Nov 22, 2009 : 12:57 a.m.

Brandon Graham's play has been absolutely brilliant all year long. Too bad for Michigan that he's a senior. Brandon, best of luck to you in the NFL and I've enjoyed watching you play. Thank you.


Sat, Nov 21, 2009 : 11:43 p.m.

Brandon, as a true UM fan I have enjoyed watching you this season, thanks for your hard work, your dedication, your leadership and your football excellence. If anything you have shown our young team what it takes to be a champion and hopefully future UM football players will follow you examples that you have shown. You had an awesome game tonight, I wish it would have turned out differently but I know you will succeed in the NFL. GO BLUE!


Sat, Nov 21, 2009 : 10:51 p.m.

you know what guns4me... i honestly cant tell if your a michigan fan or not. i sure hope not because you have no right to insult people for being faithful to their team when everything you post is negative so dont call yourself a michigan fan if you are and if your a buckeye fan or a fan of someother school get a life and stop posting here..actually even if you do call yourself a michigan fan (which would make me sick) stop posting anything period.


Sat, Nov 21, 2009 : 10:23 p.m.

Kudos to Brandon from an OSU fan. His achievements are all the more remarkable considering the double- and triple-teams he faced all year. I commend him for sticking around and showing the kind of class he did. Good luck to him in the NFL.


Sat, Nov 21, 2009 : 9:43 p.m.

Nice tribute Pete. Can you imagine this season if we didn't have Brandon Graham?


Sat, Nov 21, 2009 : 9:15 p.m.

This guy is a would be nice if the Lions somehow got him. It was great watching him play this was the only thing worth watching on D this year. I was surprised by our D today..they really didn't play too bad...until the Buckeyes started using that zone read and Pryor held onto the ball a couple times and our D didn't know who the hell to tackle. Too bad Tate the Great can't take care of the ball.


Sat, Nov 21, 2009 : 9:11 p.m.

The stadium was all scarlett and gray.What a bunch a fair weather fans.All in for michigan,how that working for you losers!


Sat, Nov 21, 2009 : 8:59 p.m.

Graham was a beam of light on this year's otherwise dark and dismal defensive team. I wish he was just a junior and could play another year because this team desperately needs more players like him who share his ability and drive.