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Twelfth man costs Huskies
One first down away or one man away from winning?
By: Richard Linde, 31 August 2002

Phillip Brabbs kicked a 44-yard field goal on the game’s final play to give Michigan a 31-29 victory over Washington, in front of 111,491 fans at the Big House in Ann Arbor. With the game in hand, but seconds earlier, the Huskies were assessed a 15-yard penalty for having 12 men on the field, which occurred on a failed pass attempt by Michigan's John Navarre from the Huskies' 42-yard line. In effect, the penalty gave the Wolverines the game.

Hauntingly, that penalty will always be remembered by those Huskies fans in witness. Sparingly for them, the game may have been lost seconds earlier. 

Pick your poison: (1) The Huskies came within one first down of winning the game; or (2) The Huskies came within one man of winning the game, having too many men on the field in the waning seconds of the game. 

In a game where both teams ran the ball anemically, the final outcome should have favored Washington due to its superior passing attack. And, as it turned out, the Huskies should have won.

However, if “ifs-ands-and-buts were candy and nuts, we'd always have a merry Christmas." For the Dawgs, it was a game of “ifs-ands-and-buts,” and for the Wolverines it was merry Christmas, as in presents.

  • If only the Huskies had made a critical try for point after closing the score to 14-6 with 8 minutes left in the second quarter. Instead, Anderson’s attempt was wide to the right after a bad snap from center affected his timing. Elliott Zajac's loss just before the season started hurt the "snapping" game.

  • If only the Huskies had made a two-point conversion from the one-and-one half yard line with 8 minutes left in the game. Instead, they took a tenuous 29-28 lead, Pickett missing tight end Kevin Ware on a pass.

  • If only the referees had seen the Michigan fumble, which occurred near the goal line; the missed call led to what was to be a "gift touchdown" for the Wolverines.  This occurred with 5 minutes to go in the third quarter and gave Michigan a 21-20 lead.

  • If only the Craig Carothers hadn't suffered leg cramps, stopping the clock with 32 seconds remaining and Michigan out of time outs. His injury gave Michigan time to set up a play on fourth and two at midfield.

  • If only Washington had recovered the ball after Braylon Edwards fumbled a Navarre pass on the next play. Tyrece Butler fell on the ball at the Husky 42-yard line. The fumble call could have gone either way, but close calls usually go to the home team.

  • If only the Huskies hadn’t had twelve men on the field, the ensuing penalty of which set up Michigan's field goal at the Husky 27 to win the game.

  • If only the Huskies had made a critical first down on their final possession of the game, which came after Michigan’s Troy Nienberg missed a 27-yard-field-goal attempt with 1:24 left. Instead, the Dawgs went three and out from their own 20, while taking just 16 seconds off the clock. However, that possession cost Michigan all three of its timeouts. The lack of a running game was critical at this juncture in the game and came back to haunt the Huskies as it turned out. The ensuing punt by Derek McLaughlin was downed at the Michigan 41-yard line.

From there, the Wolverines worked the ball to the Washington 27-yard line, aided by the critical 15-yard penalty, and Brabbs kicked the wining field goal.

It was almost a repeat performance of their last meeting, when the Huskies beat the Wolverines 23-18 in Seattle--a closely fought struggle, with the running game, more or less, taken away from both teams.  

Michigan fans say that Washington was lucky to win last season's game; most certainly Husky fans will say that Michigan was lucky to win this one, mistakes costing both teams in the final minutes and seconds of each game. 

Some afterthoughts:

-- Was the Washington coaching staff to blame for this loss, considering the apparent coaching blunder that led to the game-winning field goal? Maybe, maybe not. Certainly, having too many men on the field after calling a timeout seems implausible--maybe even inexcusable. Yet, for the most part, it was a well-coached game, especially considering it was the first game of the season. 

-- When Elliott Zajac returns to the lineup, the Huskies will have a much stronger offensive line than it had last season. His replacement, Dan Dicks, is the real deal, having made a crucial block on Alexis' 7-yard touchdown run.

-- Going into the game, Michigan had most of its defensive starters returning from last season and figured to be strong against the run. 

-- When the Huskies' rushing attack begins to gel this season, they will be a much stronger team. And most certainly, that will happen. 

-- The Huskies did not want to test Cody Pickett's off-season-repaired throwing shoulder by running the option. If his shoulder holds up, look for the Dawgs to run the option later in the season.

-- Washington proved it can play at any venue, under the most adverse conditions, and put points on the board. 

-- The Huskies outplayed Michigan after spotting them 14 points on their own field, in front of the largest crowd, most likely, that will watch a football game this season.  

-- Defensively, the Huskies appear stronger than last season. 

-- Wide receivers Charles Frederick and Eddie Jackson give Washington a much stronger receiver corps than it had in 2001.

-- Tight end Kevin Ware gives the Huskies a capable replacement for departed tight end Jerramy Stevens. 


First quarter Team Scoring How it happened
13:12 TD  Michigan (7-0) Chris Perry 57-yard run. Braggs kick.
Second quarter    
14:44 TD Michigan (14-0) Braylon Edwards 45-Yard TD Pass from John Navarre. Braggs kick.
8:00 TD Huskies (6-14) Kevin Ware 3-yard TD Pass from Cody Pickett. Anderson missed extra point attempt.
6:00 TD Huskies (13-14) Rich Alexis 7-yard run. Anderson kick. 
Third quarter    
9:00 TD Huskies (20-14) Charles Frederick 57-yard pass from Cody Pickett. Anderson kick. 
5:00 TD Michigan (21-20) Chris Perry 2-yard run. Nienberg kick.
0:00 Field Goal Huskies (23-21) John  Anderson 30-yard kick.
Fourth quarter    
12:40 TD Michigan (28-23) Perry 3-yard run. Nienberg kick.
8:00 TD Huskies (29-28) Alexis 1-yard run. Pickett's pass attempt failed.
0:00 Field Goal Michigan (31-29) Brabb's 44-yard field goal.


Washington 0 13 10 6 29
Michigan 7 7 7 10 31


Statistics Huskies Wolverines
First Downs 20 20
Rushing yards 85 149
Passing yards 323 271
Sacked-yards  2-17 2-13
Return yards (punts, kickoffs, interceptions) 2-17, 3-54, 1-0 1-15, 2-37, 1-0
Passes 28-45-1 22-38-1
Punts 6-39.3 5-44.4
Fumbles lost 2-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 5-40 2-14
Time of Possession    
Passing (Comp., Att., Yards, TD's, Int):
Cody Pickett 28-45-323-2-1
John Navarre 22-38-271-1-1
Individual Statistics:
Washington Attempts Yards TD
Tuiasosopo 1 2 0
Pickett 4 10 0
Alexis 29 93 2
Chris Perry 24 120 3
B.J.Askew 6 28 0
Bellamy 1 11 0
Navarre 5 -10 0

Washington Receptions Yards TD
Williams 6 73 0
Frederick 5 88 1
Ware 4 38 1
Jackson 3 36 0
Hooks 2 29 0
Reddick 1 17 0
Arnold 2 16 0
Tuiasosopo 1 8 0
Butler 6 87 0
Edwards 5 81 0
Askew 7 50 0
Bell 1 28 0
Bellamy 2 14 0
Joppru 1 11 0

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