There’s a photograph from 2004 that was taken during the pre-game tailgate in which my friends and I are wearing short-sleeve shirts, our baseball caps shielding our eyes from the sun. I think if you look close enough you can even detect beads of sweat on our foreheads.
When Michigan State broke a long touchdown run to extend its lead to 27-10, it was dark and the temperature had dropped to near freezing. In Ann Arbor, the weather can change just like that. So can a football game.
When Garrett Rivas kicked a field goal (this was back when Michigan could kick field goals) to make it a two-score game, many students had already left the Big House. Even as a freshman watching only my fifth game at Michigan Stadium I knew this was unacceptable. I also had a feeling they were going to miss out on something special.
It was Halloween eve, after all, and the Wolverines had a few tricks left.
Rivas’ field goal came with 6:27 left in the game to cut the deficit to 27-13. Michigan recovered an onside kick and two plays later freshman Chad Henne found senior Braylon Edwards for a 36-yard touchdown.
Michigan got a defensive stop (this was back when Michigan could get defensive stops), and once again, two plays later, Henne hit Edwards for a long score. The first catch was probably better—he really had to go up and snatch it away from the defender—but this one was certainly impressive, as Edwards contorts his body to snag it while the defensive back waits for a ball that never reaches him. Michigan had tied the game.
In overtime, Jason Avant made a spectacular catch for Michigan’s first touchdown, but it was Edwards who sealed the deal, slanting towards the middle of the field, hauling in a pass around the 10 and racing into the endzone. Michigan stopped the Spartans and won 45-37 in three overtimes. Edwards finished with 11 catches for 189 yards and three TDs.
Looking back at the box score, I was shocked to discover that freshman Mike Hart ran for 224 yards. In the highlight reel in my head, every Michigan gain is a bomb from Henne to Edwards. Can you blame me?
|In the Big House, a beautiful afternoon can quickly turn into a chilly evening. (Credit:ThatsHowIRoll)|
I still enjoy watching those highlights. Mike Tirico, an Ann Arbor guy, rises to the occasion and brings great energy, despite one of the other announcers constantly questioning the referees when they rule in favor of Michigan.
But what I remember most about this game was that it lasted fours hours and 31 minutes, ending at 8:11. Before that game I had never considered what happened when Michigan had 3:30 kick-offs; the answer was of course temporary lights.
I also remember thinking that Edwards had a legitimate shot at winning the Heisman Trophy that year (he finished 10th; 9th if you don’t count Reggie Bush). He was, simply put, a man among boys. What he was doing didn’t even seem fair. The defensive backs trying to cover him looked like dwarves.
I remember noticing Henne lock his eyes on Edwards basically as soon as they broke the huddle, and never looking anywhere else as he dropped back and eventually released the ball. This probably hurt Henne at times during his sophomore season—he sometimes seemed to forget how to scan his available receivers. That is of course a small criticism in what was a remarkable four-year career, and speaks a lot towards Edwards’ impact.
Finally, I’ll remember that walk home after the game. I was still freezing, but I didn’t really care anymore. I had just witnessed one of the greatest sporting events of my life.