The largest comeback in Michigan football history was orchestrated by quarterback John Navarre on a Friday night in 2003. It was the 100th anniversary of the 1903 matchup between the Michigan Wolverines and the Minnesota Golden Gophers. They would go to battle on the gridiron for college footballs oldest trophy, The Little Brown Jug.
Coming into this game, Michigan won the last 14 against their rival. Michigan lost its last two games of the season, dropping them down to #20 in the country, now looking to rebound against the 6-0 #17 ranked Golden Gophers. This historical game would prove to be a tale of two halves. Was it a miraculous comeback or a colossal collapse? I think a little of both.
On this Throwback Thursday, I remember this Friday night well. I had to record the game because I was working that night. Without hearing anything about the game, I started this roller coaster of a game at 11:30 pm. Watching from my couch with the family all asleep, I tried to be quiet but it was very difficult at times. I watched a first half full of Michigan short comings and defensive mistakes. Michigan did not have 1 red zone opportunity nor any points going into halftime. Minnesota had the lead 14-0, behind a great two headed rushing attack. The third quarter would be more of the same despite the Wolverines getting a touchdown. At the end of the 3rd, Michigan trailed 28-7 and showed no signs of making a comeback. I almost just shut it off and went to bed. Boy am I glad I didn’t, I witnessed a awesome fourth quarter come from behind victory!
John Navarre started the fourth quarter with a touchdown drive that only took 36 seconds of the quarter. Then 90 seconds into it, the Michigan defense picked off Minnesota QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq and ran it back for a touchdown. Now they only trailed 28-21. My expected feeling of defeat was turning to hope. Abdul-Khaliq would then extend Minnesota’s lead after a 52 yard touchdown run. Again Navarre answers eight plays later with a 52 yard strike to Braylon Edwards, who finished with 93 yds receiving and a TD, to make it 35-28. Wolverine running back Chris Perry, who would have 207 yards of total offense, added a 10 yd score to tie the game with 5:48 to play. At this point I didn’t care how loud I was cheering, knew they could win.
Michigan’s final drive of the game almost made my heart stop. Perry fumbled the ball. All I could think was, this great comeback was ending by this one grave mistake. Luckily the ball was recovered by the Wolverines. This would set up Garret Rivas for a 33 yard field goal attempt. With 47 seconds to play the ball was kicked, the referees hands went straight up signaling ITS GOOD! They took the lead 38-35 as I leaped off the couch in celebration. It was all up to the defense to stop Minnesota. Markus Curry would make his best play of the night, intercepting Abdul-Khaliq with only 9 seconds on the clock. Michigan wins the Little Brown Jug for the 15th time in a row! Wow what a comeback that was, so glad I did not give up on my team.
This was John Navarre’s best performance, going 33-47 353 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a TD reception of his own. The Michigan offense went 4/4 in the red zone for the second half. Despite Minnesota totaling almost 500 yds of offense, they just run out of steam at the end. Coach Llyod Carr would credit the team win to having tremendous spirit. Those men never gave up or got down on one another but played with heart and determination. That determination would give them the greatest comeback in Michigan history and gave all Michigan fans a thrilling memory.
Chad Finley TBHR Contributor
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