Ten years ago I was sitting in Ross-Ade Stadium for one of the better games I have seen. After having a blast at the Minnesota game earlier in the season I picked up a student ticket for the Michigan game. It was an impulse decision that I am glad that I made. At the time Purdue was 3-2 and needing a win to stay in the Big Ten hunt. Michigan on the other hand was ranked sixth in the country with a 4-1 record. The quarterback matchup was a good one between Drew Brees and Drew Henson. Michigan also had a running back named Anthony Thomas who was nicknamed the “A Train.” In my mind the only man that can have that nickname was Mike Alstott.
Michigan got the ball first and took it right down the field to score a touchdown. During the drive we saw a lot of Anthony Thomas and the Michigan power run. They really looked good on the first drive. Purdue did a good job of taking the ball right down the field themselves. A.T. Simpson let a third down pass go right through his hands while wide open in the end zone. Purdue had to settle for a field goal to make the score 7-3. Michigan drove right back down the field to get a first and goal again. Purdue stopped them twice, but Michigan scored on a Henson pass on third down. The score sat at 14-3, and the Michigan offense looked as though it couldn’t be stopped. Then the officials missed a call when they said that a Brees pass was picked off on the goal line. The replays show that it was not, but in 2000 the call on the field was the call on the field. After the Brees interception Anthony Thomas took off on a 61 yard run to make the score 21-3. Things were looking bleak in West Lafayette. Purdue finally got a touchdown when Drew Brees hit Vinny Sutherland for a score. Vinny made a great move to make the first defender miss, and then it was a foot race to the end zone. That touchdown was big because it put Drew all alone in the Big Ten passing Chuck Long. Michigan would get another score before the half though to go ahead 28-10. Michigan’s offense looked tough in the first half. The had the ball four times, and scored touchdowns all four times. There were no cheap drives either. The four touchdown drives were 82, 80, 80, and 89 yard drives. The Boilers were going to have to do something to slow the Wolverines down, or this game was already over.
The first half was good if you like offense. Neither team punted the entire first half. Purdue scored on their first possession of the second half. The score was helped by a tough run from running back Montrell Lowe. His tackle breaking 26 yard run set up a Steve Ennis dive into the end zone. The play before it appeared that Ennis scored on a toss. This time the officials couldn’t deny him the touchdown. The score sat at 28-16 after a failed two point conversion, and suddenly the Boilers were right in this thing. Purdue’s offense was very methodical in the second half. They drove right back down the field to make the score 28-23 on a Montrell Lowe run. That touchdown run put him over 100 yards on the day. The Boiler offense was fun to watch in the second half. The tables had completely changed after halftime. Purdue was hard to stop, and Michigan was having trouble putting points on the board. After being stopped in Purdue territory the Wolverines executed a beautiful pooch punt to pin the Boilers on their own five yard line. A Boiler punt put the Wolverines in good field position which they used to kick a field goal. That would be the only points that Michigan would get in the second half. With 6:45 left in the game Brees hit John Standeford on a crossing route to bring the Boilers to within two. Tim Stratton fell down in the end zone, and the Boilers would stay down two. In the stands the what ifs started. What if we had kicked an extra point earlier. We could have tied the game with an extra point there. If that would have happened though the game would not have been as interesting.
Purdue stopped the Wolverines once again to set up what could be a game winning drive. The Boilers had a nice drive to take the ball down into field goal range. On a third and short Brees hit Standeford again on a crossing route to get the ball just inside the twenty for a first down. After three straight plays that did not gain a first down, Travis Dorsch was brought in to kick a 32 yard field goal from the left hash. The ball seemed to go straight, and was wide left. So that meant that Michigan would get the ball with 2:11 left on the clock and a two point lead. All they had to do was run the clock out to get a win. Michigan ran the ball twice on first and second down to no avail. They tried a pass on third down that failed, and stopped the clock. Michigan was forced to punt and Purdue got the ball back with 1:41 left on the clock and sixty yards between them and the end zone. The Boilers showed some guts with a key pass to Standeford on 3rd and 1 to keep the drive going. With little time and no time outs they did a great job of moving the ball. The Boilers had a first down on the 21 yard line with 45 seconds left in the game after another nice catch by Vinny Sutherland. Purdue tried to clock the ball after the Sutherland catch, but it didn’t matter as Michigan had too many men on the field. A run by Purdue was very costly as far as time was concerned. They were left with a 2nd and 5 with twenty three seconds left. As the drive was going on they kept showing Dorsch on the sidelines getting encouragement by his teammates. On the second down play Drew Brees just took the ball and centered it on the field to set up his kicker, and then clocked the ball. Dorsch came onto the field with a shot at redemption. Of course Michigan called timeout to give Travis a little more time to think about the kick. So there sat Dorsch with eight seconds left with a chance to fix things. That bit of centering by Brees proved to be the game winner as the ball just slipped inside the left goal post to give the Boilers the one point lead. My favorite memory though is of Dorsch running off the field flipping off the Purdue student section. Here was perhaps the biggest moment of his career, and he does that. Football is a game of emotion though, and sometimes emotions can get the best of you. All Purdue had to do was stop Michigan on the kickoff to win the game.
Final Score: Purdue 32 – #6 Michigan 31
When the final gun sounded the fans stormed the field. I was in Ross-Ade twice before when the field was rushed, but did not take the field. I wasted no time after this win. I had some trouble containing myself, and went crazy out on the turf. At one point I was in front of the ABC camera yelling. Anyone who saw the footage from the Ohio State game last year can see that clearly some things never change.
It is hard to go from one extreme to another in a football game, but Travis Dorsch managed that. The crowd really got on him when he missed his field goal with just over two minutes left in the game. Then he comes back in with just enough time left for a field goal to kick one that was even further back. I don’t agree with his celebration after the kick, but he did win the game for the Boilers. Drew Brees had a good game as well. He threw for 286 yards, and also rushed for 80 yards. I loved watching Tim Stratton catch the football again. He was a great option for Drew. Of course this was the game that he famously lost his helmet after the game trying to climb the goal posts.
I still remember to this day leaving campus talking about the things that could happen to make the Rose Bowl a possibility. Every time I turn off of Stadium onto Grant street the memories of that day come back. Ten years later and many trips through that intersection later, but the memories are still vivid. I remember thinking how steep of a climb we had ahead of us, but after a huge win like that you start to think that anything can happen. Of course we all know how that turned out.
It was great to relive this great game through the magic of the internet. If you want to watch a replay it is up right now at hulu. The decision to head down to West Lafayette was a good one that weekend. I had a chance to go the Ohio State game as well, but turned it down. Of course Brees and Morales made history that day making me regret that decision ever since.