Roles reverse since Michigan football's thrilling 2005 win over Penn State

Michigan upset undefeated Penn State with last-second touchdown pass


Michigan and Penn State will meet on the football field for the 20th time Saturday as the unranked Nittany Lions visit Ann Arbor.

This weekend's matchup is a huge game for both teams. Michigan is ranked No. 4 in the country and has its eyes set on a potential Big Ten East title. If the Wolverines want to accomplish that goal, they have to beat Penn State at home.

On the other hand, Penn State is looking for a statement win. The team has been spinning its wheels since James Franklin took over, never winning more than seven games in a season. Without a few upsets, it looks like Penn State is headed for another mediocre finish.

It feels like Michigan should crush Penn State -- an 18.5-point underdog -- this weekend.

But do you remember when the scripts were flipped? When Penn State sat atop the college football world and Michigan struggled to crack double-digit wins? The matchup didn't go as planned that year.

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Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions traveled to Ann Arbor on Oct. 15, 2005, as a top 10 team. Penn State was 6-0 and coming off back-to-back wins over ranked opponents.

Michigan wasn't enjoying much success. After dropping a nonconference game to Notre Dame, the Wolverines lost to Wisconsin on the road and Minnesota at home to enter the Penn State game at 3-3.

One team had national championship aspirations. The other had bowl aspirations. Sound familiar?

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Despite facing an uphill battle, the Wolverines' defense dominated the first half, shutting out Penn State and giving Michigan a 3-0 lead at halftime. When Mike Hart capped a 10-play, 72-yard drive with a rushing touchdown in the third quarter, Michigan's 10-0 lead seemed insurmountable.

But Penn State had one big run left.

The Nittany Lions finally got on the board with 10 seconds left in the third quarter, thanks to a Kevin Kelly 25-yard field goal. Four minutes later, the real fireworks went off.

Penn State tied the game with 11:56 remaining as Michael Robinson rushed for a touchdown. Just 17 seconds later, Alan Zemaitis returned a Chad Henne fumble 35 yards to give Penn State its first lead.

The Nittany Lions went for two. They were successful. Just like that, Michigan trailed 18-10.

Henne responded immediately, hitting Mario Manningham for a 33-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive. Mike Hart punched it in for the two-point conversion, and the game was tied at 18 with under 10 minutes left.

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After a defensive stop, Michigan took the lead on what figured to be a game-winning 47-yard field goal from Garrett Rivas with under four minutes to go. Leon Hall's interception two plays later appeared to all but seal it.

Lloyd Carr played it conservative on offense, and Penn State used its timeouts to get the ball back with 2:37 left on the clock. Robinson put the offense on his back, orchestrating a 12-play, 81-yard drive and rushing into the end zone to give Penn State a 25-21 lead with under a minute to go.

Michigan needed a touchdown in 53 seconds. It didn't look good.

Steve Breaston gave the offense a chance by returning the kickoff close to midfield. Henne's next pass hit Jason Avant for 18 yards, and Michigan was in business at the Penn State 36.

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On the very next play, Henne completed a pass to Carl Tabb near the left sideline, but Tabb couldn't get out of bounds before being brought down. Carr used a timeout, and got into a heated argument with officials about how long it took the clock to stop. After Carr's outburst and a long delay, the officials agreed to put two seconds back on the clock.

Two measly seconds. Big deal, right?


Two plays later, Hart rushed left for a big gain and brought Michigan down to the 17-yard line. Henne completed a pass to Manningham that put Michigan on the 10-yard line, then missed Breaston short of the goal line with one second left.

One measly second.

On fourth and 4, the final play of the game, Henne took the snap, dropped back, looked right and fired a seed to Manningham in the end zone. Manningham hauled it in on the big block "G," and chaos ensued as Michigan mobbed a fleeing Manningham on the field.

Penn State's undefeated hopes went down the drain. Its top 10 ranking vanquished. Four weeks later, Penn State finished the regular season 10-1 and settled for an Orange Bowl appearance. A win over Florida State landed the Nittany Lions at No. 3 in the country.

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Since that season, Penn State has twice come close to playing for a national championship -- both 11-2 years in 2008 and 2009. Michigan's thrilling win didn't end Penn State's run, it was just a heartbreaking bump in the road.

But even though the Nittany Lions had other chances, none came as close as the year they were just one measly second away.