It’s Iconic Performance Week here at Maize n Brew and when you think through all the years of Michigan Wolverines football, there aren’t many better comebacks than what Chad Henne and Braylon Edwards put together in 2004 against the in-state rival Michigan State Spartans.
The day did not get off to an ideal start. Henne had only 53 yards in the first half and a subpar completion percentage to open up the contest. The Michigan State pass rush was wreaking havoc on the Wolverines’ offensive line producing several sacks and chasing Henne out of the pocket.
Edwards, another star in Lloyd Carr’s offense, was underperforming to his normal standards with three receptions for 38 yards in the opening half.
The Spartans jumped ahead to a 17-10 halftime lead; a typically tight game in the battle of Michigan.
Midway through the third, it appeared the Wolverines were going to tie the game as they marched down the field on a 10-play, 60-yard drive. Henne tossed a nice ball to the outside on an out-route by Edwards, but a surprise hit from behind led to a fumble on the sideline recovered by the Spartans, switching the momentum of the game on a single play:
Up to this point, it was a disappointing performance from one of the top quarterback-wide receiver combos in the country and the Spartans continued to pile onto their lead.
Michigan State running back DeAndre Cobb had a career day, carving up the Wolverines defense with 205 of the Spartans 368 rushing yards on the day. The ground game accounted for all four of State’s scores and Cobb tacked on his second of the day on this 64-yard house call:
Frank Beckmann was on the radio broadcast placed in this video and on the long touchdown run, he said, “It’s going to take a miracle for the Wolverines to come back now, we’ll see if they have some magic in them,” and understandably so. Michigan was now down three scores with time running out in the final quarter. Luckily, there was some magic in the air of the Big House that warm October day.
After a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff that bounced over the heads of several Michigan returners, they had 93-yards to go for a score. A 46-yard toss from Henne to Edwards helped propel the Wolverines into the redzone and gave the Wolverines an important field goal two make it a two-score game.
Still down two touchdowns with under seven minutes to play, Lloyd Carr decided to go for an onside kick with two kickers on opposite sides of the football. A Spartan special-teamer dove for the ball and it popped right out of his hands right back into the some Michigan returners.
After the recovery, Michigan struck right back with a 20-second, 63-yard drive resulting in their first touchdown of the second half for the Wolverines. Henne heaved a ball deep down the field and Edwards was just the better player, coming down with the 50-50 ball for his first score of the day.
Michigan forced a punt on the Spartans’ next possession and gave themselves the opportunity to tie up this game, and it didn’t take long. Mike Hart, who had a masterful performance himself in this game, ran the ball 26-yards on the first play of the drive. Then, Henne and Edwards would meet for their second score on yet another improbable catch:
The ball was just slightly overthrown, and Edwards adjusted and moved to the side of the Spartans’ defender before jumping and snatching the ball out of his grasp to tie up the game with under three minutes to go.
After a 52-yard field goal attempt that fell very short as time expired by Michigan State, the game was headed to overtime in one of the best games in the in-state rivalry.
Michigan settled for a field goal in the first overtime after a three-and-out, it was the first lead of the game for the Wolverines, but still, nothing to cheer about with the Spartans getting their chance to score needing only 25 yards to win the game. Despite breaking inside the Wolverines five-yard-line, Michigan State also had to settle for a field goal to tie the ballgame.
So, overtime two commenced with the Spartans once again getting possession of the ball. Once again, it looked like the Michigan defense was going to force a field goal on a goal-line stand forcing a third-and-goal from the three-yard line. But, Michigan State running back Jason Teague maneuvered his way into the endzone, which gave the Wolverines one time attempt to match the score.
A 10-yard pass from Henne to Edwards gave the Wolverines offense a first down, and Henne completed all three passes on the drive ending with a 6-yard toss from the Michigan quarterback to Jason Avant for six points on a spectacular grab in the back corner of the endzone:
Through two overtimes, the game was tied at 37 with a third overtime looming.
Michigan started off with the ball to start off the third overtime with momentum on their side following the recent score. They got all the yard they needed on a bullet pass from Henne to Edwards to once again take the lead as the combo met for a score for the third time.
The Wolverines defense stood strong after back-to-back touchdowns from the offense after an offensive pass interference penalty set the Spartans back to a 1st and 25 situation. After a 17-yard pickup on third down, Michigan State still had eight yards to go. Damon Dowdell went to the endzone to six-foot-five wideout Aaron Alexander, but it was tipped just out of his grasp by cornerback Markus Curry.
Down 17 points in the third quarter, Henne and Edwards led the charge in bringing the Wolverines back into this one with three scores in the fourth quarter and overtime. Edwards finished with 11 receptions and 189 yards with three touchdowns while his quarterback, Henne, had four touchdowns and 274 yards on 24 of 35 completions.
The 2004 Wolverines went on to a 10-2 season and a Rose Bowl performance against the Texas Longhorns. The horns squeezed out a win over Michigan 38-37 in a classic Rose Bowl game between two powerhouse collegiate programs.
A loss in this game against Michigan State would have cost the Wolverines a shot at “The Granddaddy of Them All”. Instead, this game goes down as one of the best contests in the heated rivalry between the Wolverines and the Spartans, and thankfully, one that Michigan escaped from.