U-M Survives Halloween-Freakish-Plays vs MSU

Michigan running back Chris Perry had a record day, and the Spartan receivers had the dropsies all day. Two freak plays made it close, but this time the Wolverines survived the weirdness at Spartan Stadium, 27-20.

The Michigan offensive line dominated the MSU defensive front seven from the get-go, as Chris Perry had 70 yards in the first quarter and 37 a touchdown in the second stanza. John Navarre also hit Braylon Edwards for a 40 yard touchdown pass in the second quarter as Michigan led 13-3 at the half.

In the second half the Wolverine ground domination continued, as Chris Perry went on to rush for a total of 219 yards on a school-record 51 carries, surpassing the previous record of 42 set back in 1967 by Ron Johnson (versus Northwestern) and tied in 1999 by Anthony Thomas (versus Indiana).

John Navarre also threw two second half TD passes, a 26 yarder in the third quarter to Andy Mognery and 16 yard strike in the fourth quarter, again to Braylon Edwards. Navarre finished with 17 for 31 passing for 223 yards.

In the meantime, Michigan State was only able to run for 36 total yeards, and the Spartan receivers had a bad case of the double-digit dropsies.

Michigan ended up with 439 total yards to 290 for the Spartans, and dominated the time of possession 39:38 to 20:22. In addition the Wolverines converted 13 of 18 on 3rd down compared to 3 of 13 for the Spartans.

But ... the game was not a blowout. In fact it was a white-knuckler, and MSU had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to tie, and the game ended with a failed MSU Hail Mary pass.

So, why was it close? Had to be those Halloween-freakish Spartan Stadium plays? Precisely. MSU scored two touchdowns on freak plays -- and this year they were even due to the actual play on the field, not to a time-warp clock or anything truly ghoulsish like that. One play came late in the third quarter on a blown-coverage 73 yard touchdown pass to MSU receiver Agim Shabaj (closing the score to 20-10 at the time). And the freakiest play came with Michigan having driven to the MSU 35 yard line with six minutes left and a 27-13 lead, on the verge of scoring and putting the final nail into the Sparton coffin. John Navarre was hammered dropping back, fumbled, and MSU DL Clifford Dukes scooped the ball up and rumbled , untouched, 65 yards for another MSU touchdown.

Suddenly it was 27-20 with six minutes to go. And Michigan only took the ensuing kickoff to the ten. But 'tricks' finally turned to 'treats' for the Wolverines, as they drove the ball for five minutes before giving it back to MSU on their own 20 yard line with one minute left -- too much field with too little time. The final Spartan Hail Mary from the 50 was intercepted by Scott McClintock -- and the victory was Michigan's!

Towards the end of the game Chris Perry looked like he could barely pull himself up off the ground and get back to the huddle for the next play. Was it exhaustion, or was he just 'sand-bagging it' to fool the Sparties? After the game Lloyd Carr said in the post-game press conference, "The plan certainly was not to run the ball 51 times. But I kind of like it. I promise you, he didn't want to come out." Perry agreed, but added, "I need a hot tub. Fortunately we've got one in our apartment." He can spend the upcoming bye week soaking up the victory!

Michigan now has its destiny in its own hands: if the Wolverines beat Northwestern and Ohio State in its final two games, they will be Big Ten Champs and go to the Rose Bowl. As John Navarre said to the assembled post-game press, "We have to finish this off." And Braylon Edwards added, "We control our destiny, and the way we've been playing, we're going to be hard to beat."

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