Life isn't always fair. Ask Scott Dreisbach: What's it like to
be a 19-year-old kid making your college football debut in front
of 101,444 impatient, sweaty fans? What's it like to be 13
minutes from suffering the ultimate humiliation--a home shutout
at tradition-rich Michigan? What's it like when your backups are
the son of an NFL Hall of Famer and the son of your head coach?
Life isn't always fair. Ask Lloyd Carr: How does it feel when
you're given a one-year contract and feel that nothing short of
the Rose Bowl will be good enough to renew it? How does it feel
to replace Gary Moeller, still revered by his players even now,
four months after his sudden ouster?
Life didn't seem fair to 14th-ranked Michigan in last Saturday's
Pigskin Classic. With 12:55 to go, the Wolverines trailed
17th-ranked Virginia 17-0. Michigan was on the brink of losing
for the fourth time in its last six home games and knocking
itself out of national championship contention before Sept. 1.
Time was running out on Carr, and the boos were getting louder.
Replacing the freshman Dreisbach, who had thrown two costly
interceptions, seemed like a logical option. The first pickoff
had set up Virginia's first score just 16 seconds before
halftime; the second had snuffed a Michigan drive in the end
zone after the Wolverines had reached the Virginia six late in
the third quarter. Sophomore backup Brian Griese, the son of
Hall of Fame signal-caller Bob, had even taken it upon himself
to loosen his arm, helmet on and all. Would Carr pull the plug
on Dreisbach? No way. "I told Scott all week, 'Don't look over
your shoulder, because there's no one there,'" Carr said.
It proved to be Carr's first great coaching decision. Dreisbach
led his troops on a pair of scoring drives to cut the deficit to
17-12, then got the ball back again, on his own 20 with 2:35 left.
The Wolverines' 16-play drive would prove to be more Pollock
than Picasso, but with 18 seconds left, Michigan had a first
down at the Virginia 15. Dreisbach overthrew tight end Jay
Riemersma. Then he missed wide receiver Amani Toomer. On third
down he made a freshman mistake, throwing a pass toward wide
receiver Tyrone Butterfield at the 11. Michigan was out of
timeouts, and a well-covered Butterfield would have had little
chance to score or get out of bounds to stop the clock. But
luckily for the Wolverines, the ball slipped through his hands.
Four seconds remained.
Carr called a double-post corner route, and wideout Mercury
Hayes broke sharply toward the right corner of the end zone.
Dreisbach lofted a perfect spiral to Hayes, who somehow managed
to get his left foot in bounds with no more than a nanometer to
spare. "It seemed like five minutes," Dreisbach said, "before
the referee put his hands in the air." Final score: 18-17.
No Michigan quarterback had ever brought a team back from more
than a 14-point deficit to win a game, and Dreisbach had done it
in 13 minutes of the fourth quarter. He had also thrown for more
yards (372) in a game than any Wolverine quarterback.
What of the near-tragic preceding play? Butterfield, who had
dropped two passes earlier, said afterward, in effect, that life
isn't necessarily fair. "Someone said it was the greatest
dropped pass of all time, but it wasn't; it was a knockdown," he
said as he lobbied for his place in Michigan history while
signing autographs in the stadium parking lot after the game.
"Nobody believes me." But no Michigan fan will argue with the
COLOR PHOTO: ERIK CAMPOS, THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS/AP The Wolverines' comeback win was secured only after Hayes put his foot down. [Mercury Hayes]
COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN MASCK Dreisbach kept Virginia defenders at arm's length while passing for 372 yards, a Michigan record. [Scott Dreisbach]