Big Ten champion Wolverines end Ohio State's title hopes 35-21.
By Wire services
Published November 23, 2003
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - John Navarre cradled the Big Ten trophy as he walked into the interview room with tears in his eyes and a championship hat on his head.
The coronation was complete.
He may be the the most maligned quarterback in Michigan history but he will end his prolific career as conference champion.
Navarre made all the big plays in the biggest game of his life, throwing for 278 yards and two touchdowns Saturday to lead the fifth-ranked Wolverines to a 35-21 win that ended No. 4 Ohio State's hopes for a repeat national title.
"This is something we haven't had in a while. The Big Ten championship was our goal and the rest was gravy," Navarre said. "It's a dream come true."
The Wolverines snapped a two-game skid against their biggest rival and won the conference title outright for the first time since 1997.
They will play in the Rose Bowl unless they move from ninth to second in the BCS standings and earn a berth in the national title game at the Sugar Bowl.
"We're excited about any opportunities we're presented with," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
Ohio State's loss opens the door for Southern Cal and LSU, who trailed the second-place Buckeyes in the BCS standings.
"It's frustrating to be that close to be back in the championship game," Buckeyes backup quarterback Scott McMullen said. "Losing to Michigan doesn't make it any easier."
Michigan used a balanced offense to hand the Buckeyes their second loss in 26 games. The Wolverines ran for 170 yards and threw for 278.
Perry ran through huge holes and Navarre had plenty of time to throw in the 100th edition in one of football's greatest rivalries.
Braylon Edwards had seven catches for 130 yards and two scores for the Wolverines.
"They've got a great offense," Buckeyes QB Craig Krenzel said. "I think they're playing as well as any team in the country."
Perry ran for 154 yards and two scores as Michigan's offensive line dominated Ohio State's stellar front seven, which led the nation by allowing 50.5 rushing yards per game.
Perry also had 55 yards receiving despite being helped off a couple times after hard hits.
"There was no way I was coming out of the game," Perry said. "This is one of those games that's going to be remembered."
The victory was vindication for Navarre, who holds nearly all the Michigan passing records but hadn't come up with the big wins until this season.
Booed for much of his career, Navarre received a loud ovation from the NCAA-record crowd of 112,118 when the seniors were honored before the game.
Then he delivered to cap a season featuring wins over Michigan's three biggest rivals, Ohio State, Michigan State and Notre Dame. He was mobbed as the students rushed the field after he took a knee on the final play.
"I felt I was established already," Navarre said. "But the reality was I was going to be defined by this game."