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Hail Mary! Colorado’s Prayer answered at Michigan

Michael Westbrook makes "The Catch"

On Sept, 24, 2004, Kordell Stewart's 64-yard touchdown pass to Michael Westbrook, via a Blake Anderson tip, gives No. 7 Colorado a stunning 27-26 win over No. 4 Michigan as time expired.

"The Catch" was immortalized on the cover of Sports Illustrated and the national play-of-the-year in all of sports and won an ESPY. (Keyed in by CU Student Assistant SID Allison Gomez).

Chicago Tribune
(Sept. 25, 1994)

 

 

Ann Arbor, Mich. – The Michigan Stadium scoreboard didn’t register it for the longest time.

It still showed MICHIGAN 26, COLORADO 21, even as the victorious Buffaloes rioted on the turf, even as Colorado hero Michael Westbrook screamed “Give it up! I can’t hear you!” at the multitude of shocked fans, even as Colorado quarterback Kordell Stewart tearfully kissed the grass in the end zone.

It was as if the scoreboard operator was hoping someone could erase the last 6 seconds. But an awful lot happened in those ticks: Stewart threw a bomb, and Michigan’s No.1 ranking hopes exploded.

The numbers finally moved on the board, confirming No. 7 Colorado’s 27-26 comeback stunner over the fourth-ranked Wolverines on Saturday. The winning score came when Westbrook, a Detroit native, snagged a deflected 64-yard pass from Stewart in the end zone as time expired.

“ Never in my life,” Stewart said.

Scribble Stewart’s name on the page next to that of Doug Flutie, the Boston College sprite who heaved that 48-yard Hail Mary to Gerald Phalen to stun Miami, 47-45, in November 1984. But Stewart’s throw will go down as one of the longest last-play winning touchdowns in NCAA history.

Until he released the ball from his own 27-yard line, Stewart was looking like the goat of the game. He had fumbled the ball on the Michigan goal line with 5:08 left in the game and the Buffaloes trailing 26-14.

But the Buffs held Michigan and then drove 72 yards in 1:36, with running back Rashaan Salaam scoring from a yard out to make it 26-21.

Michigan recovered the onside kick at 2:15. But the Wolverines could only run the clock to :21 before punting. The Buffaloes had 15 seconds to go 85 yards.

Stewart hit Westbrook at the Colorado 36, then spiked the ball to kill the clock with 6 seconds left.

Most of the 106,427 fans had to be counting this a s a Wolverine victory. Down in Section 1, Row A, Seat 5, Michael Westbrook’s mother, Mercy, noticed that members of her family were hanging their heads.

“ I told them there’s still time,” Mercy Westbrook said. “Did I believe? I always believe. I’m a mom.”

Westbrook, though, wasn’t the intended receiver on the play. Because he’s 6 feet 4 inches, he’s supposed to outleap everyone and try to tip the ball to a teammate.

But as Westbrook streaked for the end zone, he could see that the ball was well beyond his reach; Stewart had uncorked it for an amazing 73 yards. As the ball descended out of the twilight, three white jerseys and four blue ones converged at the goal line.
What happened next is anyone’s guess.

“ I had the ball in my hands,” Michigan free safety Chuck Winters said. “I tipped it…it bounced off my hand.”

Westbrook slid behind the pileup and pulled the ball into his jersey, dragging Michigan cornerback Ty Law with him.

“ Words can’t describe what I’m feeling right now,” said Colorado coach Bill McCartney, a Detroit-area native who served as an assistant under Bo Schembechler at Michigan. “For me personally, this is the ultimate victory.”
Make that for everyone in the visiting party.

 
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