IOWA CITY A decade after Desmond Howard last scored a touchdown in Michigan Stadium, fans still remember “the catch.”
Charles Woodson went down in Maize and Blue history for “the interception” in 1997, a one-handed, gravity-defying pick against Michigan State.
Great players often have one moment that secures their place in college football lore, and Marquise Walker may well have gotten his in the third quarter of Michigan”s comeback win Saturday.
But if you”re looking for an explanation of Walker”s seemingly impossible grab that gave the Wolverines their first lead of the game Saturday, don”t look to coach Lloyd Carr.
“This kid keeps making catches that defy description,” Carr said. “I didn”t think that ball had a chance of being caught.”
Even the Hawkeyes were left in disbelief over Walker”s version of “the catch.”
“It was probably one of the best catches I”ve seen in person in my football career,” Iowa running back Ladell Betts said. “I”ve seen a lot of great catches on TV, but as far as being in person, that was probably one of the best I”ve ever seen.”
Whether Walker”s name gets added to the list of Heisman contenders in the waning weeks of the season remains to be seen. But on Saturday, at least, the senior wide receiver was literally single-handedly responsible for leading one of the most memorable comebacks in recent Michigan history.
Walker caught six passes for 72 yards to propel the Wolverines to a 32-26 win over Iowa.
But Walker”s third-quarter, six-yard touchdown swung momentum back to the Wolverines and gave Michigan”s offense confidence that it would find a way to score enough points to win. Senior quarterback John Navarre overthrew Walker in the right corner of the south endzone, but Walker skied above the defense, and higher than anyone though possible, to catch the ball with the fingertips of his right hand.
“We needed six points and wherever the ball was I was just going to grab it and get it,” Walker said. “I think it was just a normal catch for me. The ball was in the air and when the ball is in the air, the coaches taught us to go get it.”
The victory keeps Michigan on track for a Big Ten championship and Bowl Championship Series bid. With Ohio State suffering its second Big Ten loss, Michigan would have to lose two of its final four games to not capture the conference crown and coveted BCS bid.
Going into Saturday”s game, the Wolverines weren”t expecting to need any late-game heroics to escape Iowa City with a win.
But Michigan found itself down 20-7 in the second half and having not been able to move the ball offensively at all, its sole touchdown coming off a Zack Kauffman blocked punt that was recovered for a touchdown.
A Tyrece Butler 77-yard reception set up a Chris Perry touchdown, bringing the Wolverines within six, and Walker took it from there.
Plays like Walker”s catch are often the difference between championships and second-place finishes. Since Woodson”s departure, the Wolverines have lacked the one player who could take over games and find a way to make a play that ultimately wins a game, that his team should lose.
Saturday, Michigan found that player.
“Walker made some fantastic plays,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “And down there in the endzone. He had more than that obviously, but that was a tremendous grab.”