The Michigan Wolverines don’t have a very extensive history with the Utah Utes, a series that only dates back to 2002. But a split record of 1-1 means one of the schools is going to walk away with the upper hand and keep it that way until they meet again in 2015 for the season opener, which will be at Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium.
2002 (Michigan 10, Utah 7)
Hoisting a 3-0 record in The Big House, Michigan welcomed Pac 12 foe Utah to Ann Arbor for the first time ever. It was a sloppy game—only 10 points scored in the first half and seven in the second half. Late in the first quarter, Michigan was finally able to capitalize on offense when John Navarre hooked up with Braylon Edwards for an 11-yard touchdown, which was set up by a previous connection between the two for 45 yards. Kicker Philip Brabbs booted one in from 37 yards out to give the Wolverines a 10-0 lead heading into halftime. That would be it for Michigan on the scoreboard, though.
After a scoreless third quarter, Utah quarterback Lance Rice connected with Travis LaTendresse to bring the Utes within three with nine minutes left to play. Brabbs loaned a helping hand to Utah by missing two field goals in the fourth quarter, but Wolverines safety Julius Curry picked off Rice’s pass with a minute remaining and Michigan was able to run out the clock and lock up the win.
2008 (Michigan 25, Utah 28)
The 2008 meeting between Michigan and Utah was a much different story. The Wolverines were playing under new head coach Rich Rodriguez for the first time, while Utah was looking to ride the back of Brian Johnson at quarterback for the season, beginning in front of a crowd of 108,000-plus at Michigan Stadium. This game almost matched 2002’s point total in the first quarter with Michigan climbing to a 10-6 lead.
Michigan was in danger of going scoreless in the second half for the second straight meeting, and Johnson was making it look easy for the Utes’ offense, which decisively outplayed the Wolverines’ defense for a better part of the contest. Michigan kicker Zoltan Mesko was called upon to punt the ball away seven times throughout the game, while quarterbacks Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet struggled to get things going on offense.
In the fourth quarter, Junior Hemmingway was on the receiving end of a pass from Threet, which went for a 33-yard touchdown on the only play of the drive. With just over seven minutes remaining, Michigan used another quick drive to put points on the board with a touchdown, courtesy of the legs of running back Sam Mcguffie, but a failed two-point conversion left the Wolverines behind by two, which is the way it remained. Utah turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter—once on downs, the other a fumble—and had its offense stall; however, Michigan was not able to capitalize, giving the Utes a victory at The Big House and kicking off what would be a miserable time under Rodriguez.