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Michigan's point total in Big Ten Championship Game victory serves as tribute to Oxford victim

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — It was the moment Jake Moody’s sixth extra point of the game sailed through the uprights that it hit Jim Harbaugh.

As the Michigan coach looked up and saw the number “42” pop up on the scoreboard next to the Wolverines’ name, the final dagger in a dominating 42-3 victory Saturday over Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game, he looked at senior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.

Tate Myre, who died in the Oxford school shooting, wore No. 42 for the school's football team. the Wolverines dedicated Saturday's game to him, then scored 42 points in their victory.

“Hey Aidan,” Harbaugh said. “That’s 42.”

It was roughly an hour after the confetti stopped falling at Lucas Oil Stadium that Hutchinson thought about the moment as his coach retold the story.

“Goose bumps,” is all Hutchinson could say.

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Those goose bumps could have been about what No. 2 Michigan had just accomplished. The Wolverines had just won the Big Ten championship for the first time in 17 years and locked up a spot in the College Football Playoff for the first time.

But no, that’s not what this particular moment was about.

This was about what that number stood for, and it was far more than simply the result of a complete effort by a football team that looks like it’s on a mission.

This was about honoring Tate Myre, the junior football player at Oxford High School who was one of four students killed this week in a mass shooting. Myre was No. 42 for the Wildcats and on Saturday, the Wolverines wore a patch honoring the victims that included the No. 42, the number Myre wore.

“When you read all the accounts and talking to Coach (Zach) Line at Oxford High School, Tate was a warrior, football player, wrestler, best athlete in the school,” Harbaugh said. “And the best athlete in the school could have easily made it out of that school and been the first one out.

“But while people were running away from that fire, he was running into it. And he's a hero. I'm glad — our players got soul, too. They’ve got big hearts. They're incredible guys.”

Myre’s family was also on hand, taking part in the pregame coin toss. Parents Buck and Sheri Myre were joined by their sons, Trent and Ty, with each wearing Oxford Strong T-shirts and Oxford hats as they stood at midfield just before kickoff.

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“When Aidan came to me, and it was Aidan that came to me,” Harbaugh said, “and wanted to dedicate the game to Tate Myre, I said, ‘Yes. Let’s do that.’ That was huge, and then when it was 42 points and we all looked up there, we were like …”

Harbaugh trailed off, looking to his star defensive end who had been named the game’s most valuable player.

“God works in mysterious ways,” Hutchinson said. “Man, it's crazy.”

The plan of having Myre’s family come to Indianapolis came together quickly, Harbaugh said. The idea came from Hutchinson and other players and soon athletic director Warde Manuel set out to make it happen.

“It was incredible,” Harbaugh said. “I mean, Aidan came to me, I went to Warde and they put everything together. (It was) just, how could we honor him? How could we honor his memory?

“You know, it's a community that needs all of our prayers, every one of them. And we just — yeah, we wanted to offer that up. We wanted to offer our prayers. They're a community that desperately needs it and offer them up to the one who conquered death and also honor Tate Myre and his bravery, his courage.”

More:Weeks before the Oxford High shooting, growing fears at school

Myre, 16, was one of four Oxford High School students who died Tuesday after a fellow 15-year-old student allegedly went on a shooting rampage at the school. Seven other people were injured, including a teacher.

Myre was a football player and an honor roll student at the school. He died in a patrol car as a sheriff's deputy attempted to get him to a hospital. Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17, also were killed.

“We wanted to play for 42,” Michigan center Andrew Vastardis said, “and all those that tragically lost their lives in that community and everything. It's up to God, man. We scored 42 points, man. So it just kind of — gave me chills when I noticed that.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau