Michigan Downs Florida in Capital One Bowl, 41-35
Jan. 1, 2008
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -Michigan coach Lloyd Carr was doused with water, surrounded by dancing players and then carried onto the field.
He went out a winner.
Chad Henne threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns, Mike Hart ran for 129 yards and two scores and the Wolverines upset No. 9 Florida 41-35 Tuesday in the Capital One Bowl to win their first bowl game since 2003.
This one was special.
Michigan's senior class won its first bowl game in four tries and Carr ended his coaching career on a high note.
"It's extremely meaningful on a personal level," Carr said. "But the reason it's meaningful is because I can be in that locker room with the guys that did it. Our coaches put together a great game plan, our players executed. Of course, we were big so-called underdogs.
"To come up with that kind of effort and to find a way to win means that we have some memories that we're all going to be able to celebrate for years to come."
Henne, Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham torched Florida's secondary all game. Arrington caught nine passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns, and Manningham added five catches for 78 yards and a score.
The Gators (9-4) kept it close thanks to four turnovers and plenty of big plays by Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and speedster Percy Harvin.
Playing with a broken bone in his non-throwing hand and facing constant blitzes, Tebow was 17-of-33 for 154 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 57 yards and a score.
Harvin ran 13 times for 165 yards and a touchdown, and caught nine passes for 77 yards and a score.
It wasn't enough.
Florida failed to convert a fourth-down play at its 25 yard line, and K.C. Lopata's 41-yard field goal put Michigan (9-4) ahead 41-35 with 2:21 remaining.
The Gators got another shot, but Tebow threw four straight incompletions to end any chance of a comeback.
"You definitely don't want to end the season on a losing note, so it definitely does take a little bit of the positive out of (the season)," Tebow said.
The Wolverines dumped a bucket of ice water on Carr in the closing seconds, then players started jumping up and down and dancing around their retiring coach.
They also carried him to midfield for the postgame handshake and interviews. His players dropped him off and headed straight to the Michigan section for a raucous celebration - one they haven't had after a bowl game since beating Florida in the Outback Bowl.
"We couldn't ask for anything else," Hart said. "We were all happy for him. Any time we get a victory, we're always happy. But we knew it was his last game, the seniors' last game, and when we leave on top like that, it's awesome.
"Obviously it was emotional after the game. It's sad but happy. It was my last game in a Wolverines jersey and his last game coaching. We all had mixed emotions."
Carr announced his retirement Nov. 19, two days after another loss to Ohio State. Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez to replace him, and Rodriguez watched part of the game from the sideline and part from a private box, trying not to be a distraction.
He wasn't for the players, who vowed to send Carr out with a victory.
"It was an amazing feeling for us to send him out the right way," said Henne, who completed 25 of 39 passes. "He deserves so much and we really played our hearts out and put everything out on the field and let him go out the right way."
Michigan may have had a much easier game had it not been for the turnovers.
Hart fumbled on the Florida 4 in the second quarter, and Henne threw an interception near the goal line on the next possession.
Michigan started to pull away in the third. The Wolverines recovered the kickoff - a pooch kick the Gators couldn't field - and promptly marched to the 1. Hart's second rushing touchdown made it 28-14.
Tebow got Florida right back in it, though, driving the Gators 56 yards and capping it with a 1-yard scoring run.
Florida's defense continued to struggle, allowing Henne to move the Wolverines with ease. But Hart's second fumble - this one at the goal line - gave the ball back to Florida.
The Gators looked like they would stall, but coach Urban Meyer called for a fake punt on fourth-and-7 at the 23. Florida scored a few plays later to tie it up.
Florida capitalized on Henne's second interception and led 35-31 with 5:49 to play. But the lead was short-lived.
Henne put Michigan ahead for good with his 18-yard strike to Arrington with 4:12 remaining. He was 3-for-3 passing for 61 yards on the four-play drive that included Arrington's juggling, one-handed catch along the sideline.
"I don't think we coached very well in certain areas," said Meyer, who lost for the first time in his last five bowl games.
Meyer sized up the loss this way: Florida didn't give Tebow much time to throw, couldn't get pressure on Henne and failed to cover Michigan's receivers.
"The deflater is when you go ahead and score on the fake punt and that (touchdown) drive and then boom, boom, boom, right down the field and they score," Meyer said. "You have to answer score for score. I really thought we'd have a chance to come back and win that thing, but we didn't get it going."
Michigan did - and it sent Carr out a winner.
"What they did in this game and this environment, well, I love them to death," Carr said.