Nov. 24, 2003

Sitting in the visiting lockerroom at Kinnick Stadium after
their 30-27 loss to Iowa Oct. 4, the Michigan football team’s
seniors were in the midst of some major soul searching.

The Wolverines were 4-2 and had lost their chance at a national
championship. With one more loss in their remaining six games, the
seniors would likely leave Michigan without playing in a Rose
Bowl.

“We never thought we’d be 4-2 at that point in the
season,” Michigan fifth-year senior captain Carl Diggs
recalled. “I never imagined that.”

But celebrating their 35-21 win over Ohio State Saturday on a
rose-covered field with an emotional student body, the Wolverines
were a long way from their somber lockerroom in Iowa. With six
straight wins, three over top-10 teams, Michigan rewrote the script
of its season, clinching its first outright Big Ten title and Rose
Bowl berth since 1997.

“It’s like a storybook (ending),” senior
tailback Chris Perry said. “It feels surreal right now, but
after I get home and sit down and think about it, it’ll feel
even better.”

Perry better have gotten some ice before he sat down. Struggling
with pain in his right hamstring throughout the 100th meeting
between Michigan and Ohio State, Perry ran for 154 yards and two
scores on 31 carries. The Heisman Trophy candidate also caught five
passes for 55 yards, giving him his fifth game this season with
more than 200 total yards (209).

Perry and quarterback John Navarre benefited from a determined
offensive line, which shut down one of the nation’s most
dominating defensive fronts. The Buckeyes, previously leading the
country allowing just 50.5 rushing yards per game, gave up 170 to
the Wolverines. The Michigan line also gave Navarre ample time to
throw, holding the Buckeyes without a sack.

“It’s a great feeling,” Michigan offensive
tackle Tony Pape said. “That was the number-1 defense in the
nation. They’re the defending national champions, and they
were a great defense.”

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