This is our last piece in a series looking back on The Michigan Daily’s coverage of seminal moments in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. Here, we have the game coverage of the 100th contest between the two schools — a 35-21 Michigan win in 2003 that sent the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl.

Sitting in the visiting locker room at Kinnick Stadium after a 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 said. “I never imagine 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 comber locker room 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 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 50.6 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 No. 1 defense in the nation. They’re the defending national champions, and they were a great defense.”

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr had to resort to trickery to get the Wolverines on the board with 39 seconds left in the first quarter. To the delight of the 112,118 strong at the Big House (a new NCAA record), Michigan receiver Steve Breaston lined up at center, and Navarre spread out wide with the Wolverines facing 3rd-and-goal from the 3-yard line. Breaston sprinted to his right and followed the right side of the line into the endzone, giving Michigan an all-important 7-0 lead.

Two minutes after Breaston’s score, Navarre hit Edwards on a slant. Edwards shed safeties Will Allen and Nate Salley on his way to a 64-yard touchdown reception, the longest of his career. Edward later put the Wolverines up by 21 with a 23-yard reception that capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive.

With less than six minutes left in the half, quarterback Craig Krenzel led the Buckeyes on an 81-yard drive to cut Michigan’s lead to 21-7 — the first points given up by the Michigan defense at home in the first half all season.

The Wolverines began the second half with a five-play, 62-yard drive capped off by a Perry 30-yard run for a 28-7 lead.

… Ohio State, showing the will of a defending national champion, fought back with two consecutive scores to come within 28-21. Krenzel hit Santonio Holmes for his second touchdown of the game, this one coming on a 13-yard fade route over cornerback Leon Hall.

Two drives later, Ohio State backup quarterback Scott McMullen, filling in for Krenzel (injured left shoulder), led the Buckeyes on a 10-play, 93-yard drive. Lydell Ross quieted the Big House crowd with a 2-yard touchdown run to bring Ohio State within seven.

On the Wolverines’ ensuing possession, Navarre underthrew Edwards, and Ohio State cornerback Chris Gamble intercepted the ball at the Ohio State 36.
“We love sudden changes,” Michigan linebacker Scott McClintock said. “We thrive on it. We like getting on the field with as much on the line as possible.”
With its season on the line, the Michigan defense held strong, giving the ball back the Michigan offense at its 12. Eight plays and 88 yard later, Michigan took a 35-21 lead on a Perry 15-yard scamper to the outside with less that eight minutes left in the game.

While in Pasadena, Calif., for the Rose Bowl, the Wolverines can look back to Iowa. The Michigan seniors addressed the whole team after that game, letting their teammates know that their season was far from over.

“We didn’t really know what this team was made of yet,” Diggs recalled.

The next week at Minnesota, trailing 28-7, Diggs and the seniors got their answer. The Wolverines showed that they were made of championship fabric, scoring 31 points in that fateful fourth quarter to win 38-35.

“I’d be a fool to say it wasn’t a turning point,” Perry said. “It showed how much heart and pride we had within ourselves.

“A lot changed that night in the second half.”

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