Players don't blame Navarre for loss

John Navarre is not a great quarterback, you could put forth an arguement that he is a bad quarterback. But he did not cost Michigan a game on the road in South Bend.

When people look back at the Notre Dame loss weeks from now, they will remember John Navarre's overthrown balls, the tipped passes, and the balls tossed behind his receivers.

Somehow all the drops get selectively forgetten. Perhaps this is the curse of being a less-than-stellar quarterback at an institution with such rich tradition at that spot. Perhaps Navarre's late-season implosion last year has left him as too easy a target.

No matter what the reason, Michigan fans are not happy with Navarre -- at all.

Here are the facts. Navarre completed just 19-of-42 passes for 230 yards a touchdown and an interception.

He led the team down the field in the final minutes, completing a touchdown pass to Bennie Joppru that gave his team a chance to tie.

"If we had won the game, everyone would be talking about how great John Navarre is," Joppru said. "The fact is we lost. Everyone will look for someone to blame, and that's who they're going to blame. It's too bad for Johnny that he has to take a lot of heat.

"I think he played a good game."

It is too bad for Johnny Navarre. He works hard, he is a good guy. But he is plainly not living up to expectations in Ann Arbor.

Michigan fans don't expect Donovan McNabb behind center, but OL Tony Pape could have scored if given the opportunity Navarre had rolling out to his left in the third quarter.

"There were some plays that we would expect him to make that he did not make," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.

But there were just as many plays that other Wolverines failed to make on Saturday.

Let's ignore the fact that three other players fumbled, because those mistakes were obvious to everyone.

In the Wolverines' final drive, Navarre overthrew a wide-open Ron Bellamy on second and short. But after running to pick up the first down, Navarre had to watch as Tyrece Butler dropped two balls that would have moved Michigan into the Irish end of the field, possibly setting up another long and dramatic kick for Phil Brabbs.

"As a receiver, I'm supposed to make big plays, and I didn't make big plays," Butler said. "That's what I'm here to do."

Navarre didn't make the big play to win the game. But neither did Butler and the receivers, neither did the defense that let a no-name Irish back tally more than 100 yards on the ground, and neither did the numerous Wolverines who hurt their team with penalties and turnovers.

Everyone wants to string Navarre up and bring in the latest and greatest unknown players. But he never took a sack on Saturday, he never fumbled, and his interception was a despirate heave while being hit.

He isn't a quarterback to write home about. But at least this weekend, he did his job and put Michigan in a position to win the game, despite being surrounded by slop.

"John's come a long way from last year, taking all the criticism," receiver Braylon Edwards said. "He's played well this year, and even (Saturday) he played pretty well. If his teammates catch the ball, he'll be alright."

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