As time ran out on 16th-ranked Notre Dame today, Dhani Jones lay flat on the turf, too tired to move. His Michigan teammates swarmed above him, thrusting fists and helmets into the air, celebrating their 26-22 victory in front of an NCAA-record 111,523 fans at Michigan Stadium.
"I was on the ground. I was too tired," Jones said. "I was on 'E', I was running on vapors. Everyone was jumping around, and my legs were dead and my body was dead."
One play before, Jones, a graduate of Churchill High School in Potomac, and teammate DeWayne Patmon had sacked Notre Dame senior quarterback Jarious Jackson for a 10-yard loss. Jackson completed his next pass, to flanker Raki Nelson, but it was short of the first-down marker on the Wolverines 11-yard line.
Both teams had squandered opportunities before that point, but with the pressure on, Jones--and seventh-ranked Michigan--rose to the occasion. It was one of the few times either team made the best of its opportunities.
"There's an emotion that surges through everybody," Jones said. "All I know is it was like gold, and I was grabbing it."
Notre Dame (1-1) committed three turnovers, but Michigan (1-0) scored just three points off those mistakes. Michigan penetrated Notre Dame's 20-yard line six times and reached the 21-yard line once. Those seven drives netted two touchdowns and four field goals.
Notre Dame had its chances, too. The Irish lost two fumbles, and Michigan senior safety Tommy Hendricks intercepted Jackson in the fourth quarter. Michigan missed these opportunities, too, and had to settle for a lone field goal by junior Jeff Del Verne.
The Irish seemed to have the Wolverines right where they wanted them when Jackson found a wide-open Jabari Holloway for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 4 minutes 8 seconds remaining. Jackson threw to split end Bobby Brown for the two-point conversion to give Notre Dame a 22-19 lead, but Brown was penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration, meaning Notre Dame would kick off to Michigan from its own 20.
"You can't have a celebration penalty in a situation like that," said Notre Dame Coach Bob Davie, who blamed himself for the Irish's missed opportunities. "I take responsibility. It's obvious we have enough talent on this team. It's obvious we have enough heart. Jarious kept us in the game."
For Michigan, the game was not yet over.
Anthony Thomas caught the kick at Michigan's 22 and returned the ball to its 42. Fifth-year senior quarterback Tom Brady, who had started but shared playing time with sophomore Drew Henson, then led the Wolverines to the winning touchdown.
Following an incompletion, Michigan was helped by a 15-yard late-hit penalty against safety Ron Israel that followed a 15-yard completion from Brady to tight end Shawn Thompson.
After Thomas ran for three yards, Brady passed to David Terrell for 20 yards to the Notre Dame 5. On second down and goal, Thomas appeared to score the go-ahead touchdown with 1:44 left, but game officials ruled his knee had touched the ground at the 1-yard line, leaving the Wolverines with a third and goal.
Again the call went to Thomas, who gained the most important of his 138 rushing yards before being tackled just after he crossed the goal line.
After the kickoff, the Irish threatened until Jones's sack. Jackson regrouped for another play--a pass over the middle to Nelson at the 9-yard line--but it was short of a first down, which would have stopped the clock. Before Notre Dame could run another play, time expired and Michigan's defenders ripped off their helmets and celebrated.
"It was a sickening feeling," Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr said. "I've seen a lot of bad things happen in the last minute of a football game. It seemed like an eternity. I wouldn't want to go through that again."
Jackson completed 18 of 29 passes for 302 yards and one touchdown, and also ran 12 yards for a score. But he also was sacked four times, threw a fourth-quarter interception and made several poor pitchouts. Altogether, he carried 15 times for minus-1 yard. He was tackled for losses totaling 47 yards.
"To beat Notre Dame in the Big House, in the opener," Brady said, "it doesn't get much better."
CAPTION: Notre Dame's Duke Cooper heads off as Michigan players surround Anthony Thomas after his touchdown put the Wolverines ahead in final minutes.