Let me bring to you today a unique perspective of Michigan's 31-29 victory over Washington from Section 12, Row 2, Seat 10.
I sat in the north end zone bleachers at The Big House on Saturday and took in the action along with a few thousand purple-clad Washington fans.
Believe me, there was never a need to check the Jumbotron for the score, let alone the down and distance, never a need to see if there were a few precious seconds remaining in what only can be described as an Instant Classic.
The Washington fans told me all I needed to know at all times. The ebb and flow of the game was much like the reaction of the loyal Huskie backers, one moment up and the next down.
Both teams were terrific for extended periods. In a collective sense, both teams played with their heart hanging on their shirtsleeves. Both teams also made typical first-game mistakes.
Why was I seated in the end zone? I was with my wife and two sons and a group of friends, including Nancy and Rikh Paus, the father of Washington's redshirt freshman quarterback, Casey.
I have known Casey since he played football at New Lenox (Ill.) Lincoln-Way High School and Nancy since the days of Cory leading the Knights to the Class 6A title (big schools) in Illinois.
Cory is now the starting quarterback at UCLA. Casey was recruited by Michigan, but opted for Washington because of his relationship with coach Rick Neuheisel.
Following are some of my observations:
* Braylon Edwards' catch-and-fumble was just that -- a catch-and-fumble. He caught the ball with two hands and, while attempting to tuck it in, also turned up field.
He was stripped of the ball, and, thank goodness Tyrece Butler jumped on it to preserve Michigan's game-winning drive.
Those who want to argue otherwise -- that Edwards never had possession of the ball -- will not get any help from the television replay. It is inconclusive. I have reviewed it.
On the official call, I'll take the word of Cory Paus. He spoke with his mother after the game. She was on a cell phone at a tailgate party near Ann Arbor Pioneer High School.
Cory told his mom Edwards caught the ball and lost it after he attempted to turn upfield, that it was, indeed, a catch. That's good enough for me.
* Some say Michigan was lucky to win. After all, Washington was penalized for having 12 men on the field, a penalty that put Michigan's Philip Brabbs in position to kick his dramatic 44-yard field goal on the game's final play.
Luck had nothing to do with the penalty. Rather, that was a mental blunder on the part of the Huskies and their entire coaching staff.
Now, I'm sure Neuheisel knows how to count to 12. The question is not how could he let 12 men run on the field for a fourth-down play immediately following a timeout.
Rather, it's how come that type of situation doesn't happen more often in today's football world. Coaches are constantly running players in and out to match up with their opponents, to keep fresh bodies in the game, particularly in the heat of a late-August barn-burner.
In the frantic final moments, mistakes are going to happen.
Michigan was penalized for having 12 men on the field in its heart-breaking loss at Michigan State a year ago.
The penalty kept alive the Spartans' game-winning drive. All people talk about now is the extra second given the Spartans down on the goal line, a second that allowed them to run one more play, that allowed T.J. Duckett to break free in the end zone for that backbreaking touchdown.
What they should remember is Michigan had Michigan State stopped near midfield were it not for a penalty: 12 men on the field.
* As for college football openers, what more could anyone ask? There were six lead changes, all in the second half. There were 111,491 fans on hand to witness history in the making.
Every single one of those fans was on hand at the end. Michigan's players rejoiced, first amongst themselves and then with the student section at the south end.
No, this wasn't a victory of Rose Bowl proportions, but it was a victory, and the celebration was a beautiful thing. To see 300-pound college football players exchanging high-fives with their buddies in the front row, to see the outpouring of emotion, well it was enough to bring a tear to one's eye.
* Through it all, the bald eagle statue stood watch on top of the press box at Michigan Stadium. The coaches, the players and the fans kicked off Labor Day weekend in high style.
This was not only a football game, it was a slice of Americana. It was apple pie with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Yes, it was that good.
* Finally, I cannot sign off without commenting on the play of Michigan quarterback John Navarre. He completed 22 of 38 passes for 268 yards.
He threw one touchdown pass and one interception. Those are the hard stats. But how did he perform under fire? On a bootleg, he threw to the wrong receiver.
On a crucial third-and-inches, he inadvertently tripped and, in effect, tackled Chris Perry. When Troy Nienberg missed a chip-shot field goal, the Navarre miscue loomed large.
He never flinched. Twice in the final minutes, he drove the Wolverines into field goal position. He spread the ball around to six different receivers.
True, he was sacked five times. He also threw the ball away to avoid a game-ending sack moments before Brabb's winning kick.
Navarre deserves kudos for playing with courage. He is not Johnny Unitas, nor even Rick Leach. But as long as Navarre continues to improve, the rest of the Wolverines will follow suit.
Thanks for reading. Now I'll go back to my little Korner of the world.
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