ANN ARBOR - This one cost Michigan much more than the $500,000 it paid Toledo to visit the Big House.
And for the Rockets, well, they can't even put a value on it.
UT shocked the Wolverines, the oddsmakers and all of
college football yesterday with a 13-10 triumph in front of 107,267 stunned fans at Michigan Stadium. The Rockets, playing a varsity game against traditional national power UM for the first time in school history, were 16 1/2-point underdogs.
"As a team we came in confident, and we knew that we had a chance to win this game," said UT safety Tyrrell Herbert, who keyed the Rockets' victory with two interceptions - including one he returned 100 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
"We knew that we were the underdogs, but to get a play like that - it just fueled the fire," Herbert continued. "We knew that we could win in this
stadium and we knew that we could beat these guys."
Arguably the most surprising - if not biggest - win in UT history was sealed when Wolverines kicker K.C. Lopata's 26-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide left with four seconds left.
The Rockets defeated Penn State 24-6 on Sept. 2, 2000, but that UT team went on to win 10 games. The bunch who took the field against the Wolverines yesterday had just one win in five games, were losers of their last three contests (all at home) and hadn't scored a point in six quarters.
UM (2-4) is no doubt going through its own struggles under first-year coach Rich Rodriguez but entered the day 24-0 against current Mid-American Conference schools.
"This is obviously a great, great win," Rockets coach Tom Amstutz said. "All of them feel good, but this one is a special win for us as a team, and we will remember this one."
The three-point differential was courtesy of UT kicker Alex Steigerwald's 48-yard field goal that hit the crossbar and bounced through the uprights with 11:46 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Rockets dodged overtime when Lopata's kick missed but were able to stave off defeat by pitching a second-half shutout. They intercepted UM backup quarterback Nick Sheridan twice - both on errant, tipped passes - and put the Wolverines on the ropes when Mark Singer picked off Sheridan with 3:44 to go.
But the Wolverines got the ball back, and Sheridan drove UM from its own 33-yard line with
1:32 left into field-goal range. He connected with Sam McGuffie for a 29-yard pass down to the UT 18 but had to throw the ball away on second and third down from the 9.
"A game shouldn't come down to K.C. Lopata," said Sheridan, who took over for starter Steven Threet after halftime because of Threet's bruised elbow. "He's a great kicker, and none of the blame should rest upon his shoulders."
The loss did nothing to hurt the Wolverines' Big Ten standing but was a huge blow to their hopes of reaching a bowl game for the 34th consecutive year. Their next game is Saturday at No. 6 Penn State, and four of their final six contests are road games.
UM was outgained once again by its opponent, this time 327-290. The Wolverines were burned by UT receiver Nick Moore, who set a school record with 20 catches for 162 yards.
"I'm extremely disappointed and embarrassed," said Rodriguez, whose tone changed from angry after UM's loss to Illinois to melancholy following yesterday's defeat.
The Rockets still haven't scored an offensive touchdown since the first quarter against Florida International on Sept. 27. But Herbert found the end zone when he stepped in front of Whitmer High's Kevin Koger and picked off Threet's pass, taking it 100 yards the other way with 6:05 left in the first quarter.
Threet responded with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Minor that withstood a video review over a possible fumble. Minor never returned and was hospitalized with injured ribs.
UM's last points came early in the second quarter on Lopata's 26-yard field goal - the same distance he missed from when another huge home disappointment was hanging in the balance.
"It's probably the biggest win of my college career," Herbert said. "This is something I'll always remember."
Contact Joe Vardon at:
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