20-Year CFB Anniversary: Late FG Lifts Michigan Past Washington in Top-15 Opener

Michigan and Washington have met 13 times over the years with four of those taking place in the Rose Bowl.

One of the most thrilling matchups between the schools, however, came in the season opener and on this day 20 years ago. After missing two kicks earlier in the contest, Michigan’s Philip Brabbs connected on a 44-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Wolverines to a thrilling 31-29 victory over Washington.

Setting the Stage

Michigan and Washington were both coming off 8-4 campaigns and top-20 finishes as they arrived in Ann Arbor on Aug. 31, 2002. The Huskies had won the year prior in Seattle, 23-18.

Michigan was ranked No. 13 for the contest while Washington was No. 11. It was the first meeting between the teams in Ann Arbor since 1984.

Brabbs Plays Hero

Washington had erased an early 14-0 deficit to take a 23-21 lead into the final quarter. More than six minutes through, the teams had traded touchdowns as the Huskies led 29-28.

A missed 2-point try had kept Washington from taking a 3-point lead. That would prove costly, but a 15-yard penalty would prove costlier.

With just seconds remaining, Michigan was well out of field goal range at the Washington 42-yard-line. Following an incomplete pass from John Navarre, however, the Huskies were called for too many men on the field. With five seconds left, Brabbs came on for a more makeable 44-yard attempt.

Brabbs had missed twice in the first half and Troy Nienberg missed a chip shot with less than 1:30 to play in the game. Given a chance to atone, Brabbs made the most of it as his attempt sailed through the uprights as time expired.

In addition to the 15-yard penalty on Washington, Michigan got another break when wide receiver Braylon Edwards appeared to drop a fourth-down pass in the final minute which was picked up by teammate Tyrece Butler. Officials ruled that Edwards had possession and that Butler had recovered the fumble.



Chris Perry rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns for Michigan in the win. Washington’s Cody Pickett passed for 318 yards and two scores in the loss. Rich Alexis added 98 yards rushing and two touchdowns for the Huskies.

In Hindsight

The heartbreaking loss would be part of what was largely considered a disappointing season in the final year of Rick Neuheisel’s tenure at Washington. The Huskies bounced back to win their next three games, but dropped four of five in October and early-November.

Washington closed the regular season on a 3-game winning streak with victories at No. 23 Oregon and No. 3 Washington State. With a Sun Bowl loss to Purdue, Washington finished 7-6.

Michigan would finish 10-3 and capped the year with a 38-30 Outback Bowl win over Florida. The Wolverines finished No. 9 in the final polls.

The 2002 season would be the third under Lloyd Carr in which the Wolverines finished in the AP top 10. It started with a thrilling win over Washington on this day two decades ago.

AP Photo

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.