ANN ARBOR - There was no long-drive contest yesterday at Michigan Stadium, but the Michigan Wolverines got the Big Bertha driver out for a 78-yarder that provided a 21-14 victory over upset-minded Wisconsin.
The 16-play march started 4:02 into the third quarter and, 8:43 later, ended on an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback John Navarre to wideout Braylon Edwards.
“The drive we had late in the third quarter was probably as well-executed a drive as we've had all season, and it certainly came at an important time,” UM coach Lloyd Carr said. “It enabled us to take the lead, and our defense held them off.”
Navarre, who completed 19 of 28 passes for 136 yards with one TD and two interceptions, said that possession defined the win.
“That was one of the longer drives we've sustained all season, and I think that was a turning point in the game,” Navarre said. “We were motivated and we converted on some third downs. We were running the ball real well and wanted to get a score. That put the pressure on them.
“We kept ourselves out of third-and-long by getting positive plays on first and second down. We had a very good balance and executed very well.”
Junior tailback Chris Perry, who had just 14 of his career-best 175 rushing yards during the key drive, watched Navarre, tight end Benny Joppru and Edwards take over at that point.
“Every time you get on the field you want to put together a drive that's efficient and takes time off the clock,” Perry said. “We came out in the third quarter and did that.
“We knew we couldn't turn the ball over like we did in the first half.''
ATTENDANCE MARK FALLS: Yesterday's crowd of 110,412 pushed the Michigan Stadium total to 773,763 for seven games this season, an NCAA single-season record. It broke UM's prior national mark of 745,139 set in the national-championship season of 1997, but will fall Saturday when Ohio State's eight-game total this year will exceed 800,000.
NAVARRE PASSES BRADY: On a 10-yard completion to Edwards on the first play of the fourth quarter, Navarre passed last year's winning Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady (New England Patriots) to move into fourth place on the Wolverines' all-time passing-yardage list. Navarre has 5,357 career passing yards to Brady's 5,351. Elvis Grbac is the all-time leader with 6,460.
Navarre is hoping for a better performance against Ohio State than he had last year in a loss.
“This is a big opportunity for me,” Navarre said. “I'm going to work extra hard this week. I want to be on top of my game, but I'm not going to over-analyze it. I'm just going to prepare myself to do the best I can. We need to eliminate penalties and eliminate turnovers, and give ourselves a better chance to win.”
LUCKY SEVEN: Wolverine senior tight end Joppru went out in style in his final home game, matching a career-high with seven receptions for 45 yards. He also made seven grabs against Notre Dame and Illinois this season.
CAN CATCH TOO: Michigan's 6-3, 233-pound senior fullback B.J Askew is a bruising runner with a light touch out of the backfield. With his three catches for 31 yards yesterday, he became Michigan's career leader in receiving yards for a back with 761. He passed Jamie Morris (1984-87), who had 756.
SELL THE MOWERS: Yesterday's game was the last on natural grass in Michigan Stadium for the foreseeable future. Artificial turf will be installed.
CLOSE, NO CIGAR: Wisconsin has lost six straight times to Michigan, the last four by a combined 18 points. Four of the Badgers' six losses this season have come by seven or fewer points and a total of 20 points in those contests.