Wipe the slate clean. John Navarre’s
career record as a Michigan quarterback is now 0-0. He’s
passed for zero yards and zero touchdowns and holds zero Michigan
career passing records.

Janna Hutz

The reality is that if Navarre does not beat Ohio State today,
he’ll be remembered as a zero. Regardless of being the most
prolific passer in Michigan history after this season, Navarre will
be the zero most Michigan fans always expected him to be.

“If you want to be recognized around here as a coach or a
player, you beat Ohio State,” former Michigan coach Bo
Schembechler said this week. “That’s what you’re
here for.”

Then judging by Navarre’s 0-2 record against Ohio State as
a starter, he’s been here for nothing.

“Nothing?” you say, now that you’re in
Navarre’s corner. Come on, I know you love telling people
about what a good quarterback Navarre has turned out to be just as
much as I do. It’s a great story — from school
laughingstock to poster child for all that is right with this

But what will you do if Michigan loses tomorrow to a Buckeye
team whose offense can’t use the bathroom without help from
its defense? The majority of Wolverine nation will look at Navarre
as the ultimate disappointment.

Imagine it. Three tries at the Buckeyes with all the talent in
the world surrounding him, no wins. Michigan hasn’t lost to
Ohio State three times in a row since the Wolverines lost seven
straight from 1957-63.

Defensive tackle and senior captain Grant Bowman,
Navarre’s roommate, spoke candidly about his friend’s

“It probably (will define his legacy), and it’s
probably unfair, but a lot of things are unfair,” Bowman
said. “With a game like this, the opportunities are bigger
and the chance for loss is bigger. But that’s what you have
to love as a competitor.”

Navarre is that competitor. He’s shown that by improving
markedly each season he’s been here. Under the tutelage of
quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, Navarre’s passing
efficiency rating has improved from 116.43 his sophomore year to
122.17 last year all the way to 134.65 this season. That’s 18
points worth of blood, guts, sweat and sacrifice.

But you’ll forget all of that if he doesn’t bring
you your Rose Bowl — if you have to watch those damn Buckeyes
celebrate on your field again.

“I don’t think there’s any game that defines
any football player as a person,” Lloyd Carr said.
“Your character defines you as a person.”

No one is questioning Navarre’s character. They’re
questioning his ability to win the biggest football game of his
life, which is, believe it or not, how athletes’ careers are

“You really only have a chance for greatness in critical
situations,” Bowman said, “and this is a critical

Got that right. Not only will Navarre go down as the most
disappointing quarterback in recent Michigan history if he loses,
this group of seniors will be remembered as underachievers as

But then there’s that chance for greatness Bowman
mentioned. It’s up there hanging in the balance, constantly
teasing Navarre, begging him to grasp it in his arms for the first
time today. How the Cudahy, Wis. native goes to sleep during this
week is beyond me.

If Navarre wins, all is forgiven. The four picks he threw
against Ohio State in the 2001 loss and his two fourth-quarter
turnovers in the 2002 loss will simply reinforce Navarre’s
legend — the ultimate story of perseverance and heart.

He’ll be a Michigan quarterbacking hero — right up
there with Jim Harbaugh, Elvis Grbac and Brian Griese, who made a
habit of winning Big Ten titles and beating Ohio State.

Today, the gap between zero and hero for Navarre is
three-and-a-half hours long.

After three-and-a-half years clawing his way to the brink of
greatness, it would be a shame if he had to experience the

J. Brady McCollough can be reached at





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