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Irish squeak by Wolverines

Michigan fails on a late 2-point try and again on its final drive as Notre Dame stays unbeaten.

©Associated Press
September 15, 2002

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- With 21 seconds to go, cornerback Shane Walton slid to the grass on the Michigan 38-yard line after his interception, the football tucked safely away in his arms.

No. 7 Michigan had made the final mistake in a comedy of errors and No. 20 Notre Dame won 25-23 Saturday to remain unbeaten in three games under new coach Tyrone Willingham.

"As soon as you saw it hit his hands, you're thinking "Get down, get down, get down,' " Willingham said. "Because the game was over."

Walton, who swatted away a 2-point conversion pass that would have tied the score with 2:53 left, said he received a message from Willingham before Michigan's last-chance drive.

"He pointed to me and said somebody needed to make a play," Walton said. "That's what I was trying to do."

Notre Dame is off to its best start since 1996 and scored its first offensive touchdowns of the season.

Each team lost three fumbles and had an interception. There were 18 penalties, 10 against Michigan for 88 yards and one that gave Notre Dame a safety.

"Just too many mistakes for a game like that," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "If you make that many mistakes, it's hard to win. And we made more mistakes than Notre Dame."

Michigan cut its deficit to 25-23 on John Navarre's 8-yard touchdown to Bennie Joppru late in the fourth. On the conversion try, Navarre rolled right and threw toward Braylon Edwards, but Walton leaped high and batted the ball with his right hand.

Irish quarterback Carlyle Holiday was 8-of-17 for 154 yards and an interception. He was sacked six times.

"It's a big win for us and our program," Holiday said. "Now we're just set to build on this."

Willingham, who arrived from Stanford to replace the fired Bob Davie, said he has no long-term plan to bring Notre Dame back to its glory days.

"Win today, that's the goal," Willingham said.

Navarre completed 19-of-42 for 230 yards and a touchdown.

The game boiled down to the Wolverines being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Irish led 16-7 at halftime, thanks to Ryan Grant's first score, a safety via a holding call in the end zone and Holiday's touchdown after a pass interference call.

Grant ran for the first of his two scores on the opening drive and had 132 yards on 28 carries for the game.

In the third quarter, the Wolverines fought back to go ahead 17-16 after Philip Brabbs kicked a 19-yard field goal and Chris Perry ran 2 yards for a touchdown.

Trailing for the first time this season, the Irish rallied on the arm of Holiday, who completed passes of 28 and 47 yards to Omar Jenkins. The 47-yarder took the ball to the 2, and two plays later Grant scored to put Notre Dame ahead 22-17. Holiday was sacked on a 2-point conversion try.

Michigan then made its final blunder: Perry fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Glenn Earl recovered at the Michigan 43. Four plays later, Nicholas Setta kicked a 46-yard field goal with 10:41 left for the winning margin.

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