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MICHIGAN NIPS VIRGINIA WITH MIRACLE RALLY

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The play of the century lasted less than a year, although it seemed like a lifetime to Michigan. And the Wolverines were overjoyed to replace it with a miracle of their own.

Freshman quarterback Scott Dreisbach lofted a 15-yard scoring pass to Mercury Hayes for an 18-17 victory over Virginia as time expired in the season-opening Pigskin Classic on Saturday.It was the greatest comeback in Michigan history and gave Lloyd Carr a winning debut as coach.

For the 101,444 fans in Michigan Stadium and millions more watching on television, the final play of the game will likely always be contrasted with the Hail Mary pass from Colorado quarterback Kordell Stewart to Michael Westbrook.

That 64-yard touchdown, in the south end zone, gave Colorado a 27-26 victory. It sucked the very breath out of the Wolverines. They were never the same after that, stumbling to their second straight 8-4 season.

"I've been on the losing side of some of those games and I know how he feels and I know how George Welsh and his players feel," Carr said.

The 14th-ranked Wolverines, starting a freshman quarterback for the first time since 1976, trailed 17-0 before rallying to beat the 17th-ranked Cavaliers.

"It's never over until it's over, and it wasn't over," Welsh said. "If we had gotten a first down, it would have been over."

The Wolverines, who scored on their final three possessions, got the ball back with 2:35 remaining. And they needed it all as they drove 80 yards in 16 plays.

Michigan had just 12 seconds left when Dreisbach dove for a first down at the Virginia 15. Three incompletions later, there were only four seconds left when Dreisbach took the fourth-down snap and looked 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 has hauled in between defenders Paul London and Ronde Barber in the back corner of the end zone.

"The players in the locker room told me that it's not all me," a dispondent Ronde Barber said. "There's 10 other guys on the field. It's not the end of the world."

Hayes barely kept one foot in bounds as he caught the ball. The crowd roared after 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.

"I knew it would be the last play. I caught the ball and then a whole bunch of guys jumped on me, so I knew it was over."

No extra point was attempted.

It turned out to be a record day for Dreisbach. He completed 27 of 52 attempts for 372 yards with two interceptions and two touchdowns. The attempts and yards broke school records. In the fourth quarter alone, he completed 12 of 24 for 236 yards, including two spikes to stop the clock.

Hayes had seven catches for 179 yards and two TDs.