The Hail Mary play was a season ago, a coach ago. It is history.
The Comeback is now. So is The Miracle.
When redshirt freshman quarterback Scott Dreisbach lofted a 15-yard scoring pass to Mercury Hayes as time ran out Saturday in the Pigskin Classic, it capped the greatest rally in Michigan history, beating Virginia, 18-17, for new Coach Lloyd Carr.
The 14th-ranked Wolverines had trailed, 17-0, against the 17th-ranked Cavaliers.
For the 101,444 fans in Michigan Stadium and millions more watching on television, the final play of the game will probably be contrasted with the Hail Mary pass from Colorado quarterback Kordell Stewart to Michael Westbrook.
That 64-yard touchdown gave Colorado a 27-26 victory and sucked the breath out of the Wolverines’ 1994 season. They were never the same after that, finishing 8-4 for the second year in a row.
“I’ve been on the losing side of some of those games . . . and I know how [Virginia Coach] George Welsh and his players feel,” said Carr, who replaced Gary Moeller, who resigned after his drunken outburst in a local restaurant last spring.
Michigan, which scored on its last three possessions, got the ball for the final time with 2:35 to play. And the Wolverines needed all of the time to drive 80 yards in 16 plays.
Michigan had only 12 seconds left when Dreisbach dove for a first down at the Virginia 15. After three incomplete passes, Dreisbach took a fourth-down snap and looked to his left.
“There were four seconds left and I knew I had to put the ball in the end zone, especially because the linemen were yelling at me to throw the ball in the end zone,” Dreisbach said. “I was going to go to Amani Toomer, but Virginia rotated their coverage. So, I looked across to Mercury Hayes and he was wide open.”
Dreisbach lofted a high, arching pass that was hauled in between defenders Paul London and Ronde Barber in the end zone.
Hayes kept one foot in bounds. Field judge Collin McDermott pointed his finger emphatically inside the line, and then raised both arms to signal a touchdown.
“My goal was go make sure I was in bounds and catch the ball,” Hayes said. “I was stutter-stepping to stay in bounds, but I was really concentrating on the ball.”
No extra point was attempted.
Dreisbach completed 27 of a school-record 52 passes for 372 yards--another school mark--with two interceptions and two touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, he was 12 for 24 for 236 yards, including two spikes to stop the clock.
Hayes had seven catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
“I haven’t solved Mercury Hayes yet,” said Virginia safety Percy Ellsworth. “He’s a great receiver, and he took the game over in the fourth quarter.”
Virginia had taken a 17-0 lead on touchdowns by Mike Groh and Tiki Barber, the latter on an 81-yard run, and a field goal by Rafael Garcia, and most of the crowd began to boo the Wolverines.
“Right after the crowd started booing, the team rallied around me and we went down the field and scored twice,” Dreisbach said.
Dreisbach completed passes of 41 and 43 yards to Hayes on a 76-yard, five-play scoring drive, Ed Davis running the final two yards.
Hayes converted a short Dreisbach pass into a 31-yard touchdown to make it 17-12.
The rest will become part of Michigan football lore. It was the Wolverines’ greatest comeback since the school began keeping such records in 1900.
“I never thought it would end up this way,” offensive lineman Joe Marinaro said. “I’m glad we were on the good end this time. Last year was a heartbreak, and I’m sure Virginia’s feeling the exact same way we felt.”