Huskies lose heartbreaker

With 111,491 crazed fans looking on, Phillip Brabbs nailed a 44-yard field goal with no time remaining to lift Michigan to an improbable 31-29 victory over the Washington Huskies earlier this afternoon. Brabbs had missed two earlier kicks in the game but with the game on the line, he was perfect.

In all probability, Michigan should've never had the chance at the final kick. Washington looked to have stopped the Wolverines cold when linebacker Ben Mahdavi stuffed Michigan FB BJ Askew short of the first down, setting up a fourth and two at midfield with just 0:32 remaining in the game and no time outs left.

Greg Carothers went down with a cramp and the clock stopped while he was assisted off of the field, providing Michigan with time to set up their fourth down try.

On fourth and two, Michigan QB John Navarre connected with Braylon Edwards, who fumbled the ball after making the catch. Fellow WR Tyrece Butler alertly fell on the ball, allowing the Wolverines to maintain possession on the Husky 42-yard line. Still, the clock burned further toward 0:00.

Navarre had two straight incomplete passes and then on third down the Huskies committed the crucial error from which they would not be able to recover. During a time out, Washington made some last second defensive personnel changes. One player in the secondary did not get the message and while Navarre threw incomplete across the middle and the clock ticked down to 0:12, Washington was whistled for too many men on the field. The result was a 15-yard penalty and Michigan had the ball on the Husky 27-yard line. After spiking the ball, Brabbs came on to end the game with his kick, the longest of his career.

Even before that entire melee, Washington looked to have won the game when Michigan's back-up field goal kicker, Troy Nienberg, pushed a 26-yard attempt wide right with just 1:24 left.

Washington was not able to pick up a first down, however, and Michigan used their three timeouts to keep the clock burn to a minimum. A roll-out punt by Derek McLaughlin only netted 20 yards, giving Michigan the ball on their 45 yard line with just under a minute left to make their final drive.

Husky quarterback Cody Pickett had a huge game, going 28 of 45 for 318 yards and two scores while throwing one interception. He threw the ball to nine different receivers, with Reggie Williams grabbing six for 72 yards and Charles Frederick catching five balls for 88 yards and a score.

Michigan's Navarre was 22 of 38 for 268 yards and one touchdown and one interception.

Washington looked like they would get blown out early, as it only took Michigan 14 seconds to put the first points on the board. On second and six, John Navarre handed the ball off to tailback Chris Perry who blew through the Husky front seven that had been caved in by the Michigan front. Perry blazed into the Husky secondary and was off to the races for a 57-yard touchdown to put the Wolverines on top 7-0.

After that play, neither ILB Joe Lobendahn nor FS Jimmy Newell played another snap for the half. Clearly Defensive Coordinator Tim Hundley was sending a message. Newell didn't return as he was injured, but Lobendahn returned in the second half for some snaps.

The first play of the second quarter was a Wolverine masterpiece. The Huskies brought the house at John Navarre, who had but one back behind him on a third and 10. Michigan let the Dawgs come in and threw a screen to Perry over him who took the ball 22 yards up the Husky sideline. The next play Navarre sat back in the pocket and waited for sophomore Braylon Edwards to come free across the middle. Edwards beat Roc Alexander on a deep post and the ball was on the money from Navarre. The result was a 46-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Michigan lead and it looked as if the blowout was on.

That would be the last positive Wolverine offensive play of the half, and there were 14:00 left.

After a Michigan punt, the Huskies started their drive at midfield. After a Michigan pass interference penalty, Pickett reloaded and found Williams open for 20-yards in a gap in the Wolverine zone defense. The gain put the Dawgs on the Wolverine 26 yard line. Washington picked up nine yards in three plays and went for it on fourth down. Alexis picked up exactly one yard behind Todd Bachert to keep the drive alive. Two plays later Pickett once again scrambled to buy time and this time found Kevin Ware open for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked, leaving Michigan ahead 14-6 with 8:00 remaining in the half.

Washington's defense then forced a turnover when LB Jafar Williams hit Perry after a four-yard gain. Perry put the ball on the ground and Kai Ellis recovered at the Michigan 25. Pickett wasted little time in finding Eddie Jackson for a 19-yard gain to the Wolverine six. One play later Dan Dicks paved the way for Rich Alexis to go six yards around right end and into the endzone and the Michigan lead was sliced to 14-13.

Washington could've taken the lead, pushing the ball all the way to the Michigan 8, but once the drive stalled, John Anderson's 28-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Carl Diggs, and picked up by Shantee Orr, who returned it to the Michigan 36-yard line.

Michigan couldn't capitalize, however, as Brabbs attempted a 42-yard field goal on the last play of the first half. His kick was hooked horribly left and never got off more than eight feet off of the ground.

Washington finally vaulted into the lead on a big play from Charles Frederick. Facing third and 20 from his own 49-yard line, Pickett pump faked and launched it long for ET, who was being double covered. Both Michigan defenders mistimed their leaps, allowing Frederick to make the catch at the 10 and saunter into the endzone to put the Huskies on top 20-14.

Michigan finally ended the string of 20 unanswered Husky points. Navarre found Tyrece Butler for 22 yards to move the ball quickly into Husky territory. On third and three, Michigan ran fullback BJ Askew on a circle drag route and Navarre hit him out of the backfield as he ran to the backside of the Husky defense where no one was home. He was not tackled until the Husky 11-yard line. On third and one from the two, Askew bolted over right guard for the go ahead touchdown.

Washington defensive end Kai Ellis came up with a gargantuan effort when he blocked and intercepted Navarre at the Michigan 20 late in the third quarter. Ellis jumped up and suffocated the ball as Navarre threw it, and came down with the pick. The Huskies weren't able to punch it in but were able to jump back into the lead 23-21 on a 30-yard John Anderson field goal.

After completing two passes to Calvin Bell for 12 and 28 yards apiece, Michigan began the fourth quarter on the Husky 40-yard line. Ronald Bellamy picked up 11 on a reverse and then Navarre found TE Benny Joppru for 11 to move into the red zone. Four Chris Perry runs later, the final one a 3 yard burst up the Husky middle, and Michigan was back in the lead 28-23 with 12:40 remaining. The drive covered 80 yards in 8 plays and the Husky defense began to look a bit confused for the first time since the first quarter.

Washington counter-punched right back. Reddick caught a 12-yard pass to move the chains and then on third and two, Rich Alexis followed Aaron Butler and Joe Toledo, who blew apart the right side of the Michigan line. Alexis ran free down the Husky sideline for a 59-yard gain, all the way to the Wolverine six. On third and goal from the one, Pickett pitched to Alexis who punched it in and the Huskies were back on top with 8:24 left. The two-point conversion failed, as a pass sailed behind Charles Frederick.

Those two points proved to be the difference in the game.

Also crucial in the game was Washington's inability to establish the running game. Late in the fourth quarter when they could've taken some time off of the clock, or even salted the game away, Rich Alexis was not able to find any room. Alexis picked up 98 yards on 28 carries, but 59 came on one play. Take away that long run and his average yards-per-carry drops to 1.4.

On defense, linebacker Marquis Cooper was the leading tackler, coming up with 11 solo stops. Greg Carothers had seven, and Evan Benjamin and Ben Mahdavi had six tackles apiece. All-American LB Victor Hobson had nine stops to lead the Wolverines.

Washington vs Michigan Box Score


Notes:
Not so special teams: Washington had several breakdowns in special teams this afternoon. If John Anderson can make that first extra point, in all likelihood the Huskies aren't going for two later in the game. The two point conversion failed. Ben Mahdavi struggled with his deepsnaps to the punter as well, and on two of the placekicks, the snaps were a bit high. Tim Galloway was taking Elliott Zajacs place as the snapper.

Ah youth: Several young players made great showings this afternoon including free safeties Evan Benjamin and James Sims. Both made good showings, particularly Benjamin who in all likelihood has earned the starting job. However, it was a young player that ran onto the field to cause the 12 men on the field penalty. Rick Neuheisel declined to name the player in question but it was a defensive back.

Ellis is back: Kai Ellis had an outstanding game, and despite being covered with ice from head to toe, told us after the game, "You got 100% of me today." Great to have him back. Now hopefully those knees will hold up.
Player quotes will be posted tomorrow when we return from Michigan.

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