With just under nine minutes left on Saturday, the Big House was
as quiet as it has been in years. DeAndra Cobb’s 64-yard
touchdown run gave Michigan State a seemingly insurmountable 27-10
lead. But the Wolverines weren’t quite ready to fold in the
97th meeting with their in-state rival.
”One of the things that we always talk about around here
(is) the things that it takes to be a championship team,”
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. ”There’s a lot of
things you have to be able to do: You have to continue to believe
in yourself when things look bleak.”
True freshman quarterback Chad Henne, who finished 24-of-35 for
273 yards and a career-high four touchdowns, adhered to
Carr’s demands for optimism: “We were sitting on the
sideline and everybody was down, and I was thinking in my head,
‘There’s still a chance.’”
And following an unbelievable finish to regulation, three
Braylon Edwards touchdowns and three overtime periods, the
Wolverines had completed one of the most improbable wins in school
history, prevailing 45-37.
“This is the greatest game I’ve ever played
in,” senior cornerback Marlin Jackson said. “The
feeling is unexplainable. It’s one of the greatest victories
I’ve ever been a part of, and maybe one of the greatest ever
at the University of Michigan.”
Michigan moved from 12th to 10th in the Associated Press
rankings and remained unbeaten in the Big Ten.
Michigan (6-0 Big Ten, 8-1 overall) began on the comeback trail
in its drive following Cobb’s touchdown. The Wolverines put
together a nine-play, 86-yard drive that ended with a 24-yard
Garrett Rivas field goal with 6:27 left to bring Michigan within
14. The drive was fueled by a 46-yard bomb to Edwards, who had
struggled in the game’s first three quarters.
On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore fullback Brian Thompson
recovered Rivas’s onside kick.
“It was not meant for us to lose,” Edwards said.
“If you get an onside kick, it’s like maybe we’re
supposed to win. It’s divine intervention — it comes
from above. I got down on my knees and thanked God. I said,
‘God, you put us in a situation to make it happen.’
Henne got the Wolverines in the endzone in just 15 seconds,
completing an 11-yard pass to Mike Hart — which was coupled
with a 15-yard face-mask penalty against Michigan State — and
then airing it out to Edwards for a 36-yard touchdown. On the
reception, Michigan State cornerback Jaren Hayes had positioning,
but Edwards just reached over Hayes’s head and ripped the
ball away before coming down in the endzone.
After two penalties on Michigan State’s next drive —
a problem that marred coach John L. Smith’s team all day as
it accumulated 14 penalties for 123 yards — the Spartans
punted to Michigan with 3:24 left.
Hart started the drive with a 26-yard run up the Michigan
sideline. Immediately following the run, Edwards reflected the
mounting excitement with a shimmy at the Michigan State 20-yard
line. And on the very next play, Edwards sent Michigan Stadium into
absolute pandemonium, as he once again beat Hayes in single
coverage for a 21-yard touchdown, tying the game at 27.
“(Edwards) made some unbelievable catches, and if he
doesn’t make those plays, we’re not standing
here,” Carr said. “He was an All-American today, and
he’s been an All-American all year long.”
Michigan State (3-2, 4-4) tried to end the game with a 51-yard
field goal into a strong wind as time expired, but kicker Dave
Rayner missed short and left.
In overtime, Michigan State won the coin toss and elected to
play defense first. The Wolverines failed to get a first down in
their drive and took a 30-27 lead on a 34-yard field goal by Rivas.
Michigan State drove the ball effectively in its possession and
faced a third-and-one from the four-yard line. The Spartans sent
Cobb, who finished with a career-high 205 yards rushing, straight
up the gut. But Michigan’s defensive line got a great push,
and senior Roy Manning tackled Cobb for a two-yard loss. Rayner
converted a 23-yard field goal to send the game into a second
Michigan State had the initial drive that time around. After a
15-yard completion from Damon Dowdell — who played the entire
second half after Spartan starter Drew Stanton dislocated his right
shoulder on a second-quarter hit by LaMarr Woodley — to Agim
Shabaj, Michigan State rode Jason Teague into the endzone, giving
the junior the ball three straight times. The Wolverines tied the
game at 37 with a five-play drive that ended in the corner of the
endzone on a third-and-goal touchdown grab by an outstretched Jason
Avant, who had dislocated his finger earlier in the game.
In the third overtime, Michigan had the first possession. On
third-and-nine, Henne found Edwards wide open over the middle, and
the senior scampered into the endzone for a 24-yard touchdown.
“They were trying to decide who was going to take
me,” Edwards said “Toward the end of the game, they
were manning Roderick Maples up, so whenever Hayes was on me, they
would switch and put Maples back on me. So I think Hayes was
expecting Maples to come over and he didn’t, so they were
probably a little off guard.”
Following two sub-par games, Edwards put his name back in the
Heisman Trophy race with 11 catches and 189 yards for three
touchdowns. Most of Edwards’s production came in the fourth
quarter and overtime.
“I knew what number they were going to dial, and I knew I
had to answer the call,” Edwards said.
After a spectacular two-point conversion catch by Tim Massaquoi
(by NCAA rules, teams must go for two after the second overtime
period), Michigan held a 45-37 lead.
Michigan State couldn’t do much on what would be its final
drive, and again shot itself in the foot with a big offensive pass
interference penalty on tight end Eric Knott. On fourth down,
Dowdell made one last heave to the endzone, but senior Markus Curry
broke up the pass intended for wide receiver Aaron Alexander and
the celebration began.
“We just kept fighting,” junior safety Ernest Shazor
said. “Coach Carr kept telling us we could do it, and we
believe in coach Carr 100 percent.”
The Wolverines received another stellar performance from Mike
Hart. The true freshman rushed for 224 yards and a touchdown on 33
carries, becoming the first Wolverine ever to rush for 200 yards in
three consecutive games.
“I thought Michael was outstanding,” Carr said.
“When you think about the first back in the history of
Michigan football to run for over 200 yards three consecutive
games, and he’s just a new arrival, that’s
Hart left the game in overtime, but according to Carr he should
be ready for Michigan’s next game against Northwestern in two
weeks. “He got a bruise on the thigh, and I think he’ll
be fine,” Carr said.
Michigan State took a 17-10 lead into halftime, behind
Stanton’s fine first half — the sophomore completed 10
of 13 passes for 95 yards and ran for 84 yards and a touchdown on
12 carries before he was hurt. The Spartans extended their lead to
20-10 early in the fourth quarter with a 19-yard field goal by