|Conference Big Ten Conference|
Captain Allen Steckle
|1899 record 8–2 (1–1 Big Ten)|
Home stadium Regents Field
|Head coach Gustave Ferbert (3rd year)|
The 1899 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1899 college football season. The team was coached by former Michigan halfback Gustave Ferbert. The Wolverines opened the season with six consecutive shutouts, outscoring opponents in those six contests by a combined score of 109 to 0. However, Michigan finished the season by going 2–2 in their final four games, losing a close game to the University of Pennsylvania Quakers (11–10) and another to the Wisconsin Badgers (17–5). After the 1899 season, Ferbert resigned as Michigan's head coach to travel to Alaska to participate in the Klondike Gold Rush. He returned from Alaska several years later as a millionaire.
Michigan opened the season with three non-conference home games in which they outscored the opponents by a combined score of 54 to 0. The games were played against Hillsdale College (11–0), Albion College (26–0) and Western Reserve (17–0).
Michigan 12, Notre Dame 0
Michigan faced Notre Dame at Regents Field in Ann Arbor on October 18, 1899. Michigan won the game by a score of 12 to 0. A newspaper account reported that Michigan's defense was generally good, and the team's overall performance against Notre Dame was "much superior" to that displayed in the prior week's game against Western Reserve.
Michigan 5, Illinois 0
Michigan traveled to Champaign, Illinois for a late October game against the University of Illinois. The first half ended in a scoreless tie, and Michigan scored the game's only points on a touchdown in the second half. On the scoring drive, McLean gained 20 yards carrying the ball to the Illinois 12-yard line. Everett Sweeney ran for six yards, and Charles McDonald then took the ball over the goal line for the score. Other newspaper accounts noted that Michigan's weight won the game, which was hard fought, from start to finish," and the game was "the most hotly contested one ever played on the Illinois field."
Michigan 38, Virginia 0
Michigan next faced the University of Virginia in a game played at Bennett Park in Detroit. The Wolverines won the game by a score of 38 to 0. A newspaper account at the time reported that the game was a mismatch: "Virginia's light line was no match for the heavyweights from Ann Arbor, and in the second went all to pieces, the Michigan men gaining almost at will."
Penn 11, Michigan 10
Michigan traveled to Philadelphia to play the University of Pennsylvania Quakers on November 11, 1899. At the time, Penn was one of the three top football teams in the country. Michigan scored first on a 22-yard touchdown run by John McLean around Penn's left end. Neil Snow missed the kick for the goal after touchdown, and Michigan led 5 to 0 at halftime. Penn's All-American Truxtun Hare scored a touchdown in the second half (also missing its goal after touchdown attempt) to tie the score at 5 to 5. Michigan re-took the lead when McLean and Allen Steckle carried the ball to Pennsylvania's ten-yard line, and Michigan tackle, Charles McDonald, then carried the ball over the goal line for Michigan's second touchdown. Michigan's Everett Sweeley missed the goal after touchdown, and Michigan led 10 to 5. With less than seven minutes left in the game, Hare scored his second touchdown of the game, and Pete Overfield kicked the goal after touchdown to give the Quakers the win with a final score of 11 to 10.
Although Michigan lost by a final score of 12 to 11 on Penn's Franklin Field, the Wolverines gained national respect with a good showing against the Quakers. The New York Times reported on the results of the game as follows:
"The game was a royal battle from start to finish, and was marked by both brilliant and poor playing by both teams. Pennsylvania earned her victory because she had to play harder for her two touch-downs than did Michigan. The latter team, although beaten, was not disgraced, for the Western boys made their Eastern rivals work hard for every inch of ground they gained. ... The game was a beautiful one for the spectators to look at. Both teams were about as evenly matched as they could be. The Quakers excelled in line bucking and in kicking, while Michigan far outplayed Pennsylvania when it came to skirting the ends. McLean, Michigan's left half back, was almost invariably used for end running, and his brilliant sprinting around Pennsylvania's ends often brought applause from the followers of the Quakers. The interference accorded him was almost perfect, and this, in a great measure, helped him in gaining ground."
The game also featured a duel between two of the best centers in the country, Penn's Pete Overfield and Michigan's William Cunningham. Cunningham was Michigan's first ever All-American in 1898, when he was selected as a first-team All-American by Caspar Whitney, and Overfield was picked by Walter Camp as the first-team All-American of 1898. The New York Times reported on the match-up of Cunningham and Overfield as follows:
"The duel between Cunningnam and Overfield, the centre rushes, was interesting. Both are high-class players, and they played with a dash that was inspiring. Cunningham had much the better of it during the first half, but in the second period Overfield, through better staying qualities, made big holes through Michigan's bulky centre."
Michigan 28, Case 6
After its road trip to Philadelphia, Michigan faced Case at Regents Field in Ann Arbor. Michigan began the game playing its substitutes, and Case scored the game's first touchdown less than seven minutes into the game. Michigan scored a touchdown but missed the goal after touchdown and trailed Case 6 to 5 at halftime. In the second half, Michigan's substitutes were replaced by regular varsity players, and a newspaper account indicates that Michigan added 32 points in the second half. However, other records show Michigan's point total as 28.
Michigan 24, Kalamazoo 0
On the Saturday before Michigan's championship game against Chicago, the Wolverines played Kalamazoo at Regents Field in Ann Arbor. Michigan won the game easily by a score of 24 to 0.
Wisconsin 17, Michigan 5
The Western Conference championship was decided in a Thanksgiving Day match between Michigan and Wisconsin played on the National League baseball field in Chicago. Large numbers traveled from both Michigan and Wisconsin to watch the match, and the crowd was estimated to be 21,000—reported to be probably the largest ever to watch a football game in the West. A newspaper account described the scene as follows:
"Probably 21,000 people saw the struggle. Excursion trains were run from Milwaukee, Madison and Marinette, Wis., and from Ann Arbor and Menominee, Mich., and long before the game was called the immense stretches of bleachers and the grandstand at the south end of the field were packed so that hardly an inch of room was left. The brass bands of both universities were present, and before the game and between the halves marched around the gridiron trying to make themselves heard through the discord of tin horns and hoarse voices."
Wisconsin won the game by a score of 17 to 6, in large part due to the kicking of Pat O'Dea. O'Dea accounted for five points with a field goal from the 35-yard line and kicked a long punt to McLean which was fumbled behind the goal line where it was recovered by Wisconsin for a touchdown. O'Dea was later ejected from the game for slugging. Wisconsin's weak spot in the game was at left end, where Cochems gave up many long runs by Michigan, including the Wolverines' lone touchdown on a 45-yard run by McLain. Neil Snow played against Cochems and "bothered his man greatly, and frequently put him out of the plays."
Prior to 1898, no player from a "Western" school had been selected as a college football All-American. William Cunningham became Michigan's first All-American in 1898. The 1899 College Football All-America Team, as selected by the Philadelphia Inquirer, included three Michigan players:
Varsity letter winners
The following 13 players received varsity "M" letters for their participation on the 1899 football team: