Michigan wins one for Carr
ORLANDO - Lloyd Carr went out a winner.
Michigan, paced by a methodical offensive attack, sent its retiring coach out victoriously by holding off Florida for a 41-35 win at the Capital One Bowl on Tuesday.
"This is extremely meaningful on a personal level," said the 62-year-old Carr, who compiled a 122-40 record in 13 years at Michigan. "To come out with an effort like this and finding a way to win creates memories we'll celebrate for years to come."
The funny thing is, Florida's offense came in as the unstoppable force.
But Michigan (9-4) stole the stage from Heisman winner Tim Tebow.
Michigan charged back from a 35-31 deficit to score 11 points in the final 5:49 to beat the 2007 national champions and set the tone for a revamped 2008 as Rich Rodriguez takes over for Carr.
Behind Tebow, No. 9 Florida (9-4) could not muster a first down on its final two drives, failing twice on fourth-down tries.
Tebow's counterpart fared a little better.
Quarterback Chad Henne, the game's MVP, licked his chops upon seeing the space Florida's young secondary allowed his receivers.
Running back Mike Hart, who along with Henne played his final collegiate game, left with a gritty performance, rushing 32 times for 129 yards.
Michigan's offense came out with an intensity for their coach and did not let up.
"We definitely wanted to do this for Coach Carr," said wide receiver Adrian Arrington, who led everybody with nine catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns. "We wanted to have his legacy end the right way. He kept on telling us, do it for the team and we kept telling him -- no we're doing it for you."
For Florida, the game can be taken as a learning experience for a young team that returns its top playmakers (Tebow and Percy Harvin) and potentially nine starters on defense.
The secondary gave Michigan way too much space, the offensive line played arguably its worst game since a loss to Georgia in October and Henne faced very little pressure.
Add to that two missed field goals and an on-side kick recovered by Michigan.
The Gators could be ranked No. 1 heading into the 2008 season, but they'll have to swallow Tuesday's loss before thinking about that.
"Right now you are upset about it," said Tebow, who tried to fend off the Heisman jinx by completing 17-of-33 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns. "You just have to work harder and do better and use it as motivation."
Florida did have some positives.
Sophomore wide receiver Percy Harvin, perhaps spearheading his 2008 Heisman campaign, ran for a career-high 165 yards on 13 carries for a 12.7 yards per rush.
He also led the team with nine catches for 77 yards and a touchdown, giving him 235 all-purpose yards on the day.
Freshmen Major Wright and Mike Pouncey came up with turnovers, and the team forced Hart into his first two fumbles since 2004, a span of 1,002 carries.
But New Year's Day at the Citrus Bowl belongs to Michigan, the tough Big Ten school that bullied the class of the athletic Southeastern Conference.
"(Carr) made a comment to me that someday I'm going to retire, and my players will play as hard for me as my guys did," Meyer said.
Player of the Game: Michigan quarterback Chad Henne. The game's MVP, Henne directed the offense everyone expected to see from Michigan all season. Unfortunately, the Wolverines stumbled out of the gate and succumbed to injuries. But they put it all together on Tuesday. In his final college game, Henne went 25-of-39 passing for 373 yards and three touchdowns.
Play of the Game: An 18-yard touchdown pass from Henne to Adrian Arrington with 4:12 left. Arrington beat Jacques Rickerson by a couple of steps to get open in the end zone, and Henne had no problem sliding the ball into a couple yards of open space. The score put Michigan up 38-35 and proved to be the game-winner as Florida failed to score again.
Next Up: Florida could be the No. 1 team in the country to open 2008, and it will certainly be the favorite to win the SEC. Michigan is in store for a lot of changes with a new head coach, a new quarterback and a new running back. Next season could be a rebuilding year for the Wolverines.