Two and one. If you’re a Michigan football fan, that record
should sound very familiar to you. That’s because in each of the
past three seasons, the Wolverines have found a way to lose that
notorious third game. After securing those first two wins, the
Wolverines have fallen on their face the past three years,
squashing their national championship hopes in the process.
Every September, before the Big Ten season even gets underway,
Michigan fans have been forced to swallow hard and come to the
unpleasant realization that a national title is, once again, out of
Now, we all know the Wolverines don’t mean to lose the third
game. It just happens. The losses at UCLA (2000), Washington (2001)
and Notre Dame (2002) were heartbreaking and frustrating because
they weren’t blowouts. They all came down to one or two crucial
moments – moments that just did not end up going Michigan’s
In Southern California three years ago, the Wolverines held a
10-point lead with just over five minutes remaining in the third
quarter, but could not hold on and fell to the Bruins 23-20. Kicker
Hayden Epstein missed two field goals – including a 24-yard attempt
in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game – and a
In Washington in 2001, the Huskies scored back-to-back
touchdowns in the fourth quarter to come from behind and beat
Michigan 23-18. The first came on a blocked Michigan field goal
attempt that was run back 77 yards for a score. As soon as the
Wolverines got the ball back, John Navarre threw a pick that was
run back 21 yards for another touchdown. It was a tough series of
events to watch.
And finally, in South Bend last season, the game went down to
the wire, and the Wolverines even held a lead in the fourth
quarter, but were unable to seal the deal and fell to the Irish
25-23. Another third game, another aggravating loss.
Could this be the year that Michigan’s three-year third-game
losing streak ends? The game is being played at home, which is
encouraging. The familiar scenery could put the Wolverines at ease.
Plus, it’s against the Irish, who the Wolverines have been waiting
to get another shot at since Sept. 14, 2002, the day when the
Wolverines fell in South Bend.
“We want to win very bad,” Navarre said. “I think the whole team
is in the same boat. When you get a chance to play the same team
that you lost to the year before, it’s big.”
Thus far, Michigan has looked impressive to say the least. The
run defense was soft against Central, but airtight against Houston
(the Cougars had just 74 yards on the ground). The ground game has
looked like the best in the nation. And although the aerial
struggled Saturday, it flourished against Central and has the
capability of exploding at any time.
Now all that’s left is to bring it all together.
Is it too much to ask of the Wolverines to keep their fans’
hopes and dreams of a championship season alive until at least
October? Is it too much to ask of them to perform well in those
crucial, game deciding situations?
Not only would a win make up for last season’s loss to Notre
Dame, it would allow fans to keep their dreams of a championship
alive for the first time in four years.
Chris Perry commented on how Michigan would be preparing for
“We just have to take them as any other team,” Perry said. “They
are a great ballclub, but we just have to prepare like it would be
any other game.”
But this is not just “any other game.” This is the third game.
And this is Michigan’s chance to put this ugly streak to rest.
Naweed Sikora has never witnessed Michigan get past the third
game of its season undefeated, and is hoping that he won’t have to
graduate without seeing it. He can be reached at