Michigan celebrates 500th game in Big House with big win

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Rich Rodriguez earned the right to be hailed at Michigan for the first time.

Rodriguez, in his fourth game as coach, directed the Wolverines' biggest comeback in Big House history, helping them rally from a 19-point deficit to beat No. 9 Wisconsin 27-25 Saturday.

The first significant victory of his debut season in Ann Arbor wasn't sealed until Allen Evridge misfired on a 2-point conversion with 13 seconds left.

"Never had a doubt," Rodriguez joked.

It didn't seem like the Wolverines were going to have a chance to celebrate their 500th game at Michigan Stadium when they had five turnovers, trailed 19-0 and were booed off the field at halftime.

"If you were anywhere in the Ann Arbor vicinity, you heard that," Rodriguez said.

Nearly 110,000 fans changed their tune when the Wolverines sang "The Victors" in front of -- and in the stands -- with their fans.

"They weren't booing at the end," Rodriguez said.

The Wolverines (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten) gave their followers fodder to be disappointed by fumbling three times, throwing two interceptions and picking up only one first down by halftime.

"This one was really pretty gloomy," Rodriguez acknowledged.

Wisconsin was the one who went home somber after blowing a chance to win at Michigan Stadium for the first time since 1994.

"To have it go down that way was disheartening," coach Bret Bielema said.

After the Badgers squandered their cushion, they had two opportunities to snatch the game back.

Evridge fumbled inside the Michigan 10 on their next-to-last drive.

On Wisconsin's final possession, David Gilreath had a 22-yard touchdown catch and Travis Beckum caught a reception for 2 in the final seconds. But the 2-point conversion that would've tied the game was negated by a penalty. On the retry, Evridge's pass went high and through the end zone.

Bielema said illegal man downfield was the right call because Beckum didn't line up correctly.

"He should've been lined up off the line of scrimmage," Bielema said. "Obviously, it would've made the play legal."

The Rodriguez-era had gotten off to a rocky start with losses to Utah at home and Notre Dame. The Wolverines were in danger of starting 1-3 and losing a Big Ten home opener for the first time since 1967, two years before Bo Schembechler arrived on campus.

Instead, Rodriguez can already claim one of the most memorable victories in the history of college football's winningest program.

Previously, Michigan's largest comeback wins at home came after being down by 17 points against Virginia in 1995, coach Lloyd Carr's debut, and in 2004 against Michigan State.

"They told us about it and that just makes this that much sweeter," said defensive end Brandon Graham, who had three sacks and forced two fumbles. The Wolverines rallied for a win from a 21-point deficit five years ago at Minnesota.

Few saw the latest comeback coming.

But Michigan played turnover-free ball in the second half and finally scored with 2:22 left in the third quarter when Steven Threet connected with tight end Kevin Koger for 26 yards.

The Wolverines took a 20-19 lead on John Thompson's 25-yard interception return for a touchdown with 10:27 left in the fourth quarter, just seconds after Brandon Minor's 34-yard touchdown run.

Sam McGuffie's 3-yard touchdown run made it 27-19 for Michigan with 5:11 left. The Wolverines turned a stunned and silent crowd into a euphoric one.

"It's pretty good when you get 100,000 people cranked up," Rodriguez said.

Threet finished 12 of 31 for 96 yards, a score and two interceptions. He ran for 89 yards, including a 58-yard gain that stunned everyone in the stadium and set up McGuffie's TD.

"He surprised a lot of people -- probably even himself," Rodriguez said. "That was a huge play."

Evridge was 20-of-37 for 226 yards with a TD and two interceptions. P.J. Hill was held to 70 yards on 22 carries.

"I heard all the same things that were being yelled from the stands when they were coming in at halftime," Bielema said. "To respond the way they did in the third quarter, my hat goes off to them."