The final three games of the 2004 season for the Michigan Wolverines found the team gasping on defense. Against Michigan State, Northwestern, and Ohio State the Maize and Blue relinquished a startling average of 254 yards per game rushing and 462 yards of offense overall. Mobile quarterbacks posed a particular problem -- and those issues foretold the Wolverines' fate in dealing with Texas QB Vincent Young on New Year’s Day.
The defense opened contest in a 4-3 look with Lamarr Woodley and Pierre Woods on the ends, and Gabe Watson and Pat Massey at the tackles. Jim Herrmann’s unit attacked early and Lawrence Reid registered Michigan’s only sack of the day when Woodley flushed the elusive Texas quarterback right into his blitzing arms. However, the huge loss was nullified on the very next play. On 3rd and 16, Young evaded pressure in the backfield and scrambled up the right sideline for 24 yards. The defense subsequently held and forced a punt, but they wouldn’t fare as well on the next series.
When the Longhorns went back on offense, Young went to the air to his tight ends and marched right down the field. On 3rd and 4 from his own 21, Young found David Thomas on a crossing pattern for 10 yards. Then he connected with his other tight end, Bo Scaife, two straight times; first on a wide open out pattern for 21 yards and then on a pass over the middle for another ten. After a few Cedric Benson runs Mack Brown’s bunch was at the 20 yard line. Vincent Young did the rest from there. The sophomore quarterback dropped back and then wove his way through the Wolverine defense on his way to the end zone for the game’s opening score.
Each team went three and out on their subsequent offensive series, and then the Wolverines answered with their first scoring strike. On first and 10 from the Texas 39, Chad Henne dropped back and lofted the ball high in the air to a streaking Braylon Edwards behind the defense to knot the score at 7-7. Things, however, wouldn’t stay that way for long.
Young advanced his squad right back down the field on their next possession. This time, though, he finished the drive off through the air with an 11-yard rollout pass to Thomas for the touchdown to put Texas up 14-7.
The Longhorns had an opportunity to extend that lead right before the half after they forced the Wolverine offense into another three and out. Adam Finely booted a 38-yard punt to Texas’ Ramonce Taylor, but he muffed the catch and Anton Campbell recovered the ball at the Texas 34 yard line.
This time it was Chad Henne's turn to come up huge. The freshman QB stepped up in the pocket and completed a pass over the middle to Breaston on 3rd and 11 for 16 yards, putting the ball at the Texas 19. The Wolverines got it all of the way down to the eight yard line before Henne finished the drive off with an eight yard touchdown lob to Edwards in the back of the end zone to send the teams to the locker room tied 14-14.
Coming out of the half, Texas didn’t miss a beat. After being forced into 3rd and 9 from his own 40, Young came up with another big play. The Michigan defenders pressured him in the pocket, but he maneuvered through a host of winged helmets and outran the entire defense up the right sideline for a 60 yard touchdown. That was an emphatic opening drive for Mack Brown’s club, but the Wolverines were ready with a counterpunch.
Steve Breaston continued his record setting performance with another huge return of 42 yards (he'd opened the game with a 44 yarder) out to midfield. Two plays later, he responded to Young’s long score when he caught a Henne pass over the middle and cut diagonally across the field before outracing the Texas defenders to the corner of the end zone to re-tie the score at 21.
After the defense forced a three and out, the Michigan offense went back on the field and picked up right where it left off. Henne jump-started a drive that started at his own 23 when he stepped up in the pocket to evade a big rush and found Tim Massaquoi dragging across the middle for a 20 yard gain. A face mask penalty at the end of the run moved the ball to the Texas 29. A couple of Mike Hart runs put the ball on the end zone’s doorstep. Then, Henne connected with Edwards again on a nine yard slant pass for #1’s 3rd touchdown of the day, giving Michigan its first lead of the game, 28-21.
The Maize and Blue tipped the momentum completely in their favor when the defense came of with its biggest play of the day. After a few penalties helped Texas move the ball to midfield, Young attempted to hit his tight end on a seam pass over the middle, but Prescott Burgess, who had dropped deep into coverage, picked the ball off and returned it to the Texas 45. The Wolverines managed to move the ball 18 yards on their subsequent drive before stalling, but Garrett Rivas salvaged the scoring opportunity by connecting on a 44-yard field goal to give Michigan a 31-21 lead with 2:35 remaining in the third period.
The Longhorns finally came back to life when they got excellent field position at the 50 early in the fourth. Young started things off by getting his tight ends involved again. First he found Scaife for 18 yards and then Thomas for another 6. Fifteen additional yards were tacked on to the end of the second pass when freshman Jamar Adams was flagged on a roughing the passer penalty. Despite that, the Michigan defense regrouped and forced Texas into a 3rd and goal from the 10 yard line. On the following play, Pat Massey busted through the Texas offensive line and had Young wrapped up. The 6-7 290-lb. lineman flung the Longhorn QB around, but somehow, was not able to put him to the ground. Young escaped his grasp, cut to the outside, and raced to the end zone for the improbable touchdown to cut the lead to three, 31-28, with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game.
The Wolverines almost answered the Texas score with a homerun of their own when they attempted a flea-flicker pass. They missed their chance, though, when Henne overthrew a wide open Edwards running behind the defense down the middle of the field. He was still able to guide his team into field goal range, setting up Rivas for a 32-yarder to give the Maize and Blue a little more breathing room with 6:09 to go. Unfortunately for Michigan, no lead was safe with Young on the opposing side.
The 6-5 220-pounder completed two big passes for 36 yards to move Texas down to the Michigan 23. He then completed the three play drive by scrambling around the left end and outrunning the defense once more for a touchdown to re-take the lead at the 4:50 mark. The Wolverines had no answer for the athletic phenom, but the same can be said of the Horns’ attempt to stop Steve Breaston.
The western Pennsylvania native returned the ensuing kickoff 53 yards to give Michigan wonderful field position yet again. Mike Hart moved the chains 18 yards, but the drive stalled at the Michigan 25. Rivas then booted another one through the uprights (42 yards) to re-take the lead yet again, 37-35.
If there was a problem with that offensive drive, it was that it only took 1 minute 52 seconds. Nearly three minutes remained on the clock when Young got his hands on the ball again, and he made great use of them.
Starting at his own 34 yard line, Young rushed for 42 of the drive’s 47 yards to put Texas on the Michigan twenty yard line with just two seconds left on the clock. The Wolverines attempted to ice kicker Dusty Mangum by calling two straight timeouts. When the Horns finally snapped, Prescott Burgess broke through and leapt up for the block. The ball slightly grazed the inside of his outstretched arm and was re-directed, but not quite enough. The ball still had enough juice to barely make it over the uprights and give Texas the 38-37 victory.
On the game the Wolverines set or tied a number of records. Chad Henne finished 18/34 for 227 yards and tied the Rose Bowl record for passing touchdowns with four, Steve Breaston set a Rose Bowl record with 315 all purpose yards, and Braylon Edwards’ 10 receptions for 109 yards and 3 touchdowns gave him the Michigan and Big Ten record for TD’s with 39 (eclipsing Anthony Carter’s 37), and the Rose Bowl career reception record with 20 (surpassing UCLA’s JJ Stokes who had 14). And Michigan's Lamarr Woodley was named Defensive Player of the Game.
Vince Young, who was named the Rose Bowl MVP, finished with 21 rushes for 192 yards and three touchdowns and was 16/28 through the air for 180 yards with one touchdown and one interception.