ANN ARBOR - Michigan's stirring comeback yesterday might have topped last year's Miracle at the Metrodome.
By RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
The 12th-ranked Wolverines rallied from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit in the final 6:27 to tie rival Michigan State, then won the shootout 45-37 in the third overtime on Braylon Edwards' third touchdown catch of the game.
"What our guys did in front of their home crowd, I don't know if it will ever be forgotten," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
A year ago, Michigan rallied from a 21-point deficit after three quarters to beat Minnesota 38-35. It was the greatest comeback in school history and helped serve as a springboard for the Wolverines' Big Ten regular-season championship.
Yesterday's improbable win may do the same for Michigan (8-1, 6-0), which sits alone atop the Big Ten standings, a half-game ahead of idle Wisconsin (8-0, 5-0).
"We're still in the race. We still have a chance to do something, and that's good," Carr said.
Michigan holds a 64-28-5 advantage in its series with Michigan State (4-4, 3-2), including a 32-16-3 mark at home, and kept a firm grip on the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
"It was nerve-racking, but we got it done," freshman quarterback Chad Henne said.
DeAndra Cobb's 64-yard touchdown run with 8:43 to play in the fourth quarter had given Michigan State a seemingly comfortable 27-10 lead.
And the Spartans looked to be on their way to their first win in the Big House since 1990, when they upset the No. 1 ranked Wolverines 28-27 on a controversial no-call after Michigan receiver Desmond Howard was tripped on a failed two-point conversion try.
But the Wolverines refused to lose.
Garrett Rivas kicked a 24-yard field goal with 6:27 left in regulation to pull Michigan within 27-13, then the Wolverines' Brian Thomspon recovered an onside kick that bounced off Michigan State's Jerramy Scott.
Michigan State QB Drew Stanton is tripped up by Michigan's Gabriel Watson. Stanton left the game with a separated shoulder.
Two plays later, Henne tossed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Edwards, getting Michigan within seven with 6:12 remaining. Edwards wrestled the ball away from Michigan State cornerback Jaren Hayes, who had single coverage.
Edwards burned Hayes again with 2:59 left, out-jumping him in the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown reception that tied the game and forced overtime.
In the third overtime, Edwards ran a slant pattern and hauled in a 24-yard touchdown reception from Henne.
"When we were down 17, I knew what number they were going to dial and I knew I had to answer that call," said Edwards, who finished with 11 catches for a career high 189 yards.
Henne, who struggled most of the game, is 3-for-3 in the month of October when it comes to game-winning drives.
He engineered a six-play, 87-yard touchdown drive to beat Minnesota in the final minutes on Oct. 9. He led a nine-play, 45-yard game-wining field goal drive against Purdue last week.
And yesterday he threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Edwards in the third overtime period on a third-and-nine play.
"You just put the ball up there and you know Braylon's going to go up and get it," Henne said. "They were running zone coverage on the last touchdown. I went through first progression and he popped up in my face and I figured I'd just give him the ball."
Edwards praised Henne for his poise and his play.
After completing just 8 of 15 passes for 56 yards in the first half, Henne finished 24-of-35 for 273 yards and four touchdowns. And he was sacked just once in the second half and overtime periods after being sacked three times in the opening 30 minutes.
"Chad is one of those quarterbacks who has proven throughout the year so far that when it's time to make a play, he can make them," Edwards said. "When it's time to make a drive to win the game, he can do it.
"Chad made a beautiful throw on the last touchdown, the line had perfect protection, and the ball was right there on the money."
Michigan State had a chance to tie the score after Edwards' third touchdown, but the Spartans gained just two yards and the game ended with an incomplete pass to the end zone.
Michigan tailback Mike Hart rushed for more than 200 yards for the third consecutive game, finishing with 224 on 33 carries and one touchdown, and went over 1,000 yards for the season in the first half. But he was knocked out of the game on the first play of overtime with a bruised leg.
That put Edwards and Henne on center stage.
"There's no question if Braylon doesn't make those plays, we don't win," Carr said. "Those were great catches. Henne made some great throws and Braylon made some great plays."
Contact Ron Musselman at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6474.