Michigan vs Minnesota Football — Looking Back – 2003


Looking Back is a Special Feature by Jeff Cummins Highlighting Key Rivalry Games

The third installment of the series focusing on the football rivalry between Michigan and Minnesota takes us back to 2003. The Wolverines arrived in Minneapolis fresh off a frustrating loss at Iowa. Few expected Minnesota to give Michigan any trouble, but unusual things often happen in rivalry games.

Michigan entered the game as the lower-ranked team, but had every reason to expect to dominate Minnesota; the Wolverines hadn’t lost to Minnesota since 1986, a time that virtually none of the 2003 Wolverines could even remember. So Michigan could be forgiven for thinking a very should be in order, but in the third quarter, anyone wearing the maize & blue would glance up at the scoreboard in the Metrodome and realize that Minnesota was, in fact, leading by three touchdowns. This wasn’t an ordinary deficit by any means.

Somehow, the resilience that made those 2003 Wolverines Big Ten champions showed up late in the game, when they needed it most. John Navarre started the comeback when he connected with Chris Perry on a screen pass for a 10-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to cut Minnesota’s lead to two scores. After Jacob Stewart returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown, the Wolverines started to regain their confidence, while the Golden Gophers could hear the footsteps, as well as the burden of history. Suddenly, maintaining that lead must have seemed like a monumental task for the Golden Gophers, while the Wolverines experience a very familiar feeling, the fierce rush of adrenalin that comes with knowing you can achieve a goal. Michigan sensed the game was theirs for the taking, and they never took their feet off the gas, even after Asad Abdel-Khaliq scampered 52 yards for a touchdown that re-established a 14-point advantage for the Golden Gophers. Michigan responded with the obligatory big play from Braylon Edwards, who could be counted on to make at least one big play in every Michigan comeback. Edwards got by the Minnesota secondary and extended the ball across the goal line to cut Michigan’s deficit to one touchdown, which Perry erased on a 10-yard touchdown run deep in the fourth quarter. By the time that Garrett Rivas lined up for the decisive 33-yard field goal, there was a familiar silence in the Metronome, a place that always lacked a college football feeling. By the time Markus Curry intercepted Minnesota’s last gasp pass, there was an air of resignation in the Metrodome, as the Golden Gophers realized their fate.

Michigan went on to claim the Big Ten title that year, but the comeback win over Minnesota was the Wolverines’ most exciting game, by far.

As always, this blog post is strictly for the entertainment of fans. I do not profit in any way from it. Thanks to YouTube poster WolverineHistorian and ESPN for the video highlights below.

About Jeff Cummins

Jeff Cummins has written about football since 1998, including nine years with The Record of Hackensack, N.J. He frequently contributes feature stories to Touchdown Illustrated, an insert in the national college football game program, published by University Sports Publications, and he has also written the official pregame stories for the game programs of the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Gator Bowl, and the BCS National Championship game. He has written the preview story for the official program for the NHL Winter Classic at MIchigan Stadium, and numerous college basketball feature stories for College Hoops Illustrated, another game program insert published by University Sports Publications. In addition, he has written stories about theater, music, physical therapy, and newsletter marketing. He’s an avid Michigan football fan and long-time New York Jets season ticket holder, and he can be reached at jeffcummins@optonline.net.