Michigan closes strong in biggest comeback at home

Updated: September 28, 2008, 6:49 PM ET
Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan's strength and conditioning program was revamped by Rich Rodriguez, who hoped the Wolverines would get stronger toward the end of games.

It might've just paid off.

"Sometimes it takes a win like this to verify that," Rodriguez said.

Unranked Michigan seemed stronger and faster in the second half Saturday against then-No. 9 and unbeaten Wisconsin, fueling its largest comeback in Big House history.

The Wolverines rallied from a 19-point, first-half deficit to beat the Badgers 27-25.

"The way they worked this summer in camp with their conditioning really showed," Rodriguez said. "We had a bounce in our step in the fourth and we pulled out a great win."

Michigan (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten) gave itself a good start toward its goal of showing Rodriguez won't be mired in a rebuilding mode during his debut season with the program. The Wolverines' next chance to prove they're a conference contender will be Saturday at home against Illinois.

Defensive end Brandon Graham, who had three sacks against a team that hadn't given up one this season, said he knows why the Wolverines made Wisconsin wilt.

"It was our conditioning," Graham said. "We just kept coming at them. Their tackles were getting tired.

"They weren't the same team they were in the first half."

The Wolverines weren't, either.

Michigan trailed 19-0 after fumbling three times, throwing two interceptions and picking up only one first down.

"I'd like to tell you things looked good at the half, but it didn't," Rodriguez joked. "There was no panic, though.

"But if there was a hole to crawl in, I'm sure a bunch of us, including myself, would have liked to crawl into it."

The Badgers (3-1, 0-1) don't have time to feel sorry for themselves after falling to No. 18 in The Associated Press poll.

"The thing we can't do is let Michigan beat us twice," defensive back Allen Langford said. "We just need to go out there next week and play the best we can."

Wisconsin is the first team scheduled to open Big Ten play with games against Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. The conference-opening collapse only makes home games against the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions this week and next even more important.

"We have high expectations and lofty goals," coach Bret Bielema said. "One thing I wanted those guys to know in the locker room is they are a very good football team that didn't play well enough today to overcome several blown opportunities."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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