September 17, 2002
By J. Brady McCollough
Daily Sports Writer
Overthrows, batted balls and passes thrown
behind receivers. These are the things most
Michigan fans will remember about John
Navarre's performance in the Wolverines' 25-23
loss at Notre Dame.
But Navarre, who completed just 19-of-42
passes for 230 yards, could have completed many
more with a little help from his receivers.
In Michigan's final drive with less than two
minutes to play, both Navarre and the Michigan
receivers failed to make a play to win the game.
After a nine-yard completion to fullback B. J.
Askew, Navarre overthrew a wide-open Ronald
Bellamy. The junior quarterback then ran for a
first down to keep the drive alive.
On the ensuing play, receiver Tyrece Butler
found a hole in the Notre Dame zone, and
Navarre put it right on the numbers at the Irish
35-yard line. But Butler couldn't hold onto the
football, keeping the Wolverines out of field goal
"As a receiver, I'm supposed to make big
plays, and I didn't make big plays," Butler said.
"That's what I'm here to do."
Players were adamant that Navarre shouldn't
receive the lion's share of the blame for the loss.
"If we had won the game, everyone would be
talking about how great John Navarre is," Joppru
said. "The fact we lost, everyone will look for
someone to blame, and that's who they're going
to blame. It's too bad for Johnny that he has to
take a lot of heat.
"I think he played a good game."
Those are refreshing words for Navarre, the
greatly scrutinized quarterback who was nearly
run out of town last season after throwing nine
interceptions in the last five games. Fans and
media clamored for a coup by junior transfer
Spencer Brinton, or even highly-touted true
freshman Matt Gutierrez.
But Navarre was unfazed by all of it. He just
worked with new quarterbacks coach Scot Loef-
fler to learn everything possible about offensive
coordinator Terry Malone's new scheme.
"John's come a long way from last year, taking
all the criticism," receiver Braylon Edwards said.
"He's played well this year, and even (Saturday)
he played pretty well. If his teammates catch the
ball; he'll be alright."
Navarre, known for taking sacks too often last
season and not being able to get rid of the ball,
didn't take one sack Saturday.
"I thought he moved particularly well in the
pocket and made some great throws," Michigan
Field rush uncalled for
Saturday in South Bend, Ind., I was
shocked to see Notre Dame's stu-
dent section, donning bright
green "Return to Glory" t-shirts, rush-
ing the field at the end of the game.
What does this say about the way Fight-
ing Irish fans view their team? It could
be interpreted in a number of ways,
none of which are very flattering for
Michigan has seen its fair share of
fans rushing the field or basketball
floor against them, almost all of which
were justified. But last Saturday's dis-
play was ludicrous.
I believe that fans should rush the
field/floor only on very special occa-
sions. I may have been trained by
Michigan fans, who only try to reach
the field very rarely and even then are
met with extreme force. For example, if
Purdue beats Michigan for a Rose Bowl
berth, Duke beats East Carolina for its
first win in the modern era or if Col-
orado clobbers Nebraska, 62-36, go
ahead. Tear down the goal posts while
you are at it.
But Notre Dame's ugly 25-23 win
over Michigan was not a special occa-
sion - it was a rivalry game, and quite
an even rivalry at that (The Wolverines
lead the all-time series 17-12-1 after
Saturday). This is much better than
Michigan and Minnesota's "rivalry."
Notre Dame did not earn a BCS
berth (yet?), win the national title or
notch a major upset. The game wasn't
No. 1 vs. No. 2; it was No. 7 vs. No. 20
in the third game of the season. Rush-
ing the field proved how little respect
the fans have for their own team and
how much respect they have for Michi-
gan - which, while flattering to the
Wolverines, is a bit misplaced at this
point in the season.
Though they have fallen on hard
times a bit over the past few years, the
Fighting Irish defeated Michigan four
years ago and are two seasons removed
from a BCS bowl. If Notre Dame's win
was an upset, it was mild one. There is
a sports cliche for this situation: "Act
like you've been there." It may have
been a few years, but Notre Dame has
The Notre Dame football team did
not view the win as an upset. After-
wards, the players talked about Fiesta
Bowl possibilities - which, while
extremely premature, show their confi-
dence in the young season. They were
not surprised by the outcome.
The fans conduct also contrasts the
way new coach Tyrone Willingham
holds himself: With dignity and class.
He expects to win and expected to
defeat Michigan. He was reserved at
the press conference, joking with
reporters and while he enjoyed the win,
he knew that it was just another win.
When Willingham was he was
thinking when he saw the students
coming onto the field, he jokingly
He later clarified that he, in fact, was
. "How many times have you seen the
crowd like that on the field, jumping
around and somebody gets hurt?" Will-
ingham said. "That is my concern. That
is why the word 'help' jumped to
And why shouldn't he be? Not only
should he be worried about his own
safety, but also his players.' As I walked
off the field Saturday, police escorted a
fan whose head was bleeding out of the
stadium. I'm not saying that Carlyle
Holiday was at risk for a closed-head
injury, but it is a risk.
Above all risks, Notre Dame fans
should have more respect for them-
selves, their team and their coach.
While the fans' intention mayhave
been to support their team - and they
have done a great job - the Fighting
Irish still deserve better for their sur-
prise start. If Notre Dame is in fact in
the middle of a "Return to Glory" fans
should not disgrace it by overreacting.
Michigan quarterback may not have led the Wolverines to victory Saturday in South Bend, but he's not the only
one to blame this time. Several dropped passes and fumbles contributed to Michigan's downfall.
coach Lloyd Carr said. "I thought he made very
good decisions. I thought he threw the ball to the
right people with a couple of exceptions."
Notre Dame defensive tackle Cedric Hilliard
talked after the game about how he didn't expect
Navarre, who hit 19-of-42 passes for 230 yards,
to be so tough to sack.
"He was a big guy and he was able to move up
into the pocket," Hilliard said. "I think we rattled
It's rare that anyone wishes the 6-foot-6, 228-
pounder to run, but down 16-7 in the third quar-
ter with his team inside the 10-yard line, Navvare
could have made a play to bring his team within
two. He rolled left on third-and-goal, and for an
instant, had a touchdown staring him in the face.
But he waited for a receiver to break open
instead of making a break for the goalline, giving
the Irish defenders a chance to bring him down.
The Wolverines were forced to settle for a field
"There were some plays that we would expect
him to make that he did not make," Carr said.
With the extra time given by his line and
improved pocket presence, Navarre was able to
go through his reads and pick out his receivers
accordingly - something fans didn't see last
season with Navarre looking for Marquise Walk-
er in most situations.
Notre Dame was giving Michigan the pass to
the tight end, and to Joppru's delight, Navarre
See NAVARRE, Page 11
Jeff Phillips can be reached at
Utah's leading rusher
done for the season
By Joe Smith
Daily Sports Editor
Just when Utah coach Ron McBride
thought things couldn't get any worse,
Two days after McBride fumed over a
disputed call which led to a controver-
sial loss to Arizona, the Utes announced
yesterday that starting tailback and lead-
ing rusher, Marty Johnson, will miss the
remainder of the season with a torn
medial collateral ligament and lateral
meniscus in his right knee. Johnson suf-
fered the injury in Utah's win over Indi-
ana on Sept. 7.
Johnson, who led the nation in rush-
ing with a 202.5 yards per game aver-
age in the first two games, hoped the
injury was repairable so he could con-
tinue the season. But after undergoing
arthroscopic knee surgery yesterday to
get his meniscus cleaned out, a return
See JOHNSON, Page 11
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