Aug 30, 2002
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Michigan defensive end Larry Stevens has waited all summer for Saturday's rematch with Washington.
Stevens, from Tacoma, Wash., endured merciless ribbing back home after the Huskies rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat the Wolverines 23-18 last season. Washington scored two touchdowns off a blocked field goal and interception return in the dramatic comeback.
No. 13 Michigan hopes to avoid the same outcome when No. 11 Washington visits Michigan Stadium in the season opener for both teams.
"It bothered me and hurt me the way we lost to them last year because I grew up with a lot of those guys," Stevens said. "I didn't leave that state to lose to them. It's a little more personal for me."
Coaches and players from both schools are excited about the marquee game.
"You know that you're playing in a football game that everyone in the nation who loves college football is going to be watching," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "So I like it."
Both teams hope to start the season better than the way they ended. The Huskies lost three of their last four games after beginning 7-1. Washington gave up 112 points in its last two games against Miami and Texas.
The Wolverines were 6-1, then finished the season 2-3. They lost the last two games of the season for the first time since 1984. Michigan was embarrassed in the Citrus Bowl, losing 45-17 to Tennessee, after Ohio State's first-year coach Jim Tressel backed up bold predictions with a win in Michigan Stadium.
"The team that wins the game is going to take away tremendous momentum to start the season off," Michigan tight end Bennie Joppru said. "You can't get that from anywhere else except from a big win. I think it's difficult, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
There will be several intriguing matchups Saturday.
Washington receiver Reggie Williams, who set Pac-10 freshman records last season, goes against cornerback Marlin Jackson, whom Carr has compared to Charles Woodson.
The Wolverines led the nation with 50 sacks last season and face a test against mobile and productive quarterback Cody Pickett.
One of the biggest questions for Michigan is the development of quarterback John Navarre under a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Navarre struggled in his last six games, throwing 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Washington coach Rick Neuheisel is excited for the big game to start the season.
"Anytime you're playing a program of that caliber, your competitive juices get flowing all the more quickly because you know that it is a memory maker," he said. "Those are the kind of games regardless of the outcome you're going to remember for a lifetime."