Navy's football team gave seventh-ranked Michigan a severe scare today, but the Wolverines held on for a 21-16 victory before 105,213 at Michigan Stadium.
Steve Fehr kicked three field goals and an extra point and quarterback Marco Pagnanaelli scored on a 22-yard run in the fourth quarter to account for Navy's scoring, but the midshipmen ran out of time and chances.
They played the second half without their major offensive strength, tailback Eddie Meyers, who has a thigh bruise, yet they still almost pulled off their biggest upset in years even after Michigan took an early 14-0 lead.
Pagnanaelli, the backup quarterback, hurt Michigan with his running and passing and freshman Napoleon McCallum was Navy's leading rusher with 66 yards on 17 carries. Pagnanelli completed nine of 16 passes for 96 yards an ran nine times for 61 yards. He was sacked for 13 yards in losses, however.
"This was probably as good a football game as we can play," said Navy Coach George Welsh. "I just hope we can repeat it. We're going to be sore because they really hit us. Survival was one of my major concerns going into the game."
The Midshipmen (2-1) survived better than the Wolverines (2-1) did. In the second period, Michigan all-America wide receiver Anthony Carter sprained his right ankle and didn't play again. The Wolverines weren't the same after that.
Michigan lost three starters to injury in the first half, most notably Carter. Carter caught three passes for 50 yards before spraining an ankle. The Wolverines also lost guard Stefan Humphries, who injured his right knee, and defensive back Brian Carpenter, who hurt his left ankle.
Before today's game, Michigan's only obvious weakness was its passing. Sophomore quarterback Steve Smith had completed seven of 33 passes with five interceptions in the first two games. But today, he completed his first seven and scored the Wolverines' second touchdown on a two-yard run.
In the first quarter, the Midshipmen didn't get a first down and never got beyond their 29.
The momentum changed, though, on the Wolverines' first possession after they had taken a 14-0 lead. On first-down from the Navy 44, Smith tried throwing a long pass to carter, but he was well covered by Elliott Reagans and Jeff Shoemake. Carter tried to leap between the two Navy defenders and tap the ball to himself. It didn't work as Reagans came down with the interception at the two.
He also came down on Carter's right leg, spraining Carter's right ankle. With Carter gone, Michigan started looking average.
Coach George Welsh finally moved tight end Greg Papajohn outside and brought Pagnanelli in to play quarterback.
The Midshipmen got their first break when punt returner Tony Jackson fumbled a punt by Fehr and Carl Wagner recovered it for Navy at the Michigan 36.
Four plays later, Fehr kicked a 46-yard field goal to cut Michigan's lead to 14-3.
The Midshipmen stopped Michigan again and then mounted their best drive of the half, taking over at their 31 following a punt by Michigan.
McCallum, in for Meyers, went off tackle for 13 yards and got Navy's first first down with 2:26 left in the half. Then Pagnanelli completed a 14-yard pass to Papajohn and an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on Michigan added 15 more yards, moving the ball to the 27.
Pagananelli then scrambled for 11 yards to the 16. The drive stalled there, though, and Fehr came on to kick his second field goal of the half, this one a 31-yarder with 32 seconds left in the half. The Midshipmen trailed, 14-6, at intermission. carried the ball on eight of Michigan's first 10 plays and scored its first touchdown on a four-yard run.
Navy held Michigan to open the second half and appeared to have some momentum until a pass from Pagnanelli to fullback Tim Jackson bounced off Jackson's hands and was intercepted by Michigan's Evan Cooper, who returned it seven yards to the Navy 34.
Five plays later, Smith passed eight yards for the touchdown to split end Vince Bean. Ali HajiSheikh kicked the extra point for a 21-6 Michigan lead.
Later in the period, with Pagnanelli at quarterback, the Midshipmen moved 94 yards on 12 plays to cut the Michigan advantage to 21-13 as the fourth quarter began.