It’s Oct. 30, 2004. Usher’s “Yeah!” is blasting from the speakers in the Big House. Though it’s unseasonably warm for late October in Michigan – the day’s high is 73 degrees – the student section is uncharacteristically quiet. Dejected fans flood out of Michigan Stadium as their Wolverines trail Michigan State, 27-10, with 8:43 left in the game.
That was a decision that many of them ended up regretting, as Michigan would score 18 points to come back and win, 45-37, in triple overtime during one of the most iconic games of the in-state rivalry.
Trailing by two possessions with the clock ticking, the Wolverines needed to make plays, and fast. When quarterback Chad Henne connected with wide receiver Braylon Edwards on a 46-yard bomb with 7:11 left in regulation, that’s exactly what they got. That play set up a Michigan field goal, and an onside kick that the Wolverines recovered. Michigan capitalized on that opportunity, as Henne connected with Edwards again for a 37-yard score. Exactly three minutes later, Henne found Edwards yet again for a 22-yard touchdown to tie the game and send it into overtime.
In the first overtime period, both teams put up field goals, extending the game into a second overtime. Touchdowns from Jason Teague for Michigan State and Jason Avant for Michigan tied the game at 37, forcing a third overtime.
And it was in that third overtime period that the game finally tipped in Michigan’s favor. Henne and Edwards connected a final time from 24 yards for what would be the game-winning touchdown. Henne found Tim Massaquoi in the end zone for the two-point conversion, and Michigan’s defense stopped the Spartans’ last-ditch effort on fourth down to put the game away.
The game cemented Edwards’ status as a Michigan football legend. His stat sheet for that day – 11 catches for 189 yards and three touchdowns – read like those of the NFL player he would become. The Browns selected him third overall in the 2005 NFL Draft; he went on to play for the Jets, 49ers and Seahawks.
“I said several weeks ago, I think he’s the best football player in the country, and I believe that,” then-Michigan coach Lloyd Carr told The Daily in 2004. “Braylon Edwards made plays today that I don’t think anybody else can make.”
The Wolverines went on to win the Big Ten that year – the most recent season in which they have done so. They finished the season with losses to Ohio State in Columbus and Texas in the Rose Bowl, making the comeback victory to save the Paul Bunyan trophy one of the high points of Michigan football’s 2004 season.
“It was one of the greatest games I’ve ever been in,” Carr said.