By Dan Ryan
Lloyd Carr went out a winner for his seniors. Michigan’s seniors went out a winner for Lloyd Carr.
The Wolverines snapped a four-game bowl losing streak Tuesday, Jan. 1, with a 41-35 Capital One Bowl victory over the Florida Gators before a Florida Citrus Bowl crowd of 69,748 and an ESPN on ABC national television audience in the final appearance for Carr and a senior class that won its first post-season game.
MVP Chad Henne threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns, and Mike Hart rushed for 129 yards and two scores as the Wolverines claimed their first bowl victory since a 38-30 victory over the Gators in the 2002 Outback Bowl.
Carr concludes his storied Michigan coaching career with a 122-40 record, the 1997 national championship, and five Big Ten championship. On this day, the key was to send a beloved coach on a positive note.
“We definitely wanted to do this for Coach Carr,” said wide receiver Adrian Arrington, who finished with 153 yards on nine catches. “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.”
“As we’re often reminded, we haven’t won a bowl game in a while,” Carr said. “To beat a team like Florida is a exciting way to start a new year. This is extremingly meaningful on a personal level . . . to come out with an effort like this and finding a way to win creates memories we’ll celebrate for years to come.”
Henne’s second touchdown to Adrian Arrington, an 18-yarder with 4:12 remaining, put the Wolverines (9-4) ahead for good after Florida (9-4) took a 38-35 lead on Percy Harvin’s 10-yard run with 5:34 to play.
Michigan’s defense stymied the Gators on their final two possessions to preserve the victory.
The Wolverines racked up 524 yards on Florida’s defense, slowed only by four turnovers — three inside Florida’s red zone.
“After the first drive, I told the players only we could stop ourselves and we did,” Carr said. “That was a very confident offensive team today.”
Florida coach Urban Meyer was dismayed with the defense.
“We have some glaring errors that need to be corrected,” Meyer said. “I don’t think we tackled well and we certainly didn’t cover well.”
Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow registered 211 total yards — 154 passing and 57 rushing and four touchdowns as Florida rallied from a 28-14 deficit to tie it at 28-28 on Tebow’s 14-yarder to Andre Caldwell in the third quarter.
Michigan took a 31-28 lead on KC Lopata’s 37-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, but a tipped pass by Andre Johnson intercepted by Maurkice Pouncey set up the Gators at the Wolverine 34. Harvin, who rushed for a game-high 165 yards and caught nine passes for 77 — scored five plays later.
Caldwell’s first score gave Florida a 14-7 lead on the opening play of the second quarter. Michigan answered with a 3-yard Hart run that capped off a 12-play, 56-yard drive.
A 66-yard Harvin dash put the Gators at the Michigan 14. But after a sack, Florida had to settle for a field goal attempt that was blocked by Tim Jamison, leaving the Gators scoreless on a red zone possession for the first time in four games.
Michigan took a 21-14 lead on a Henne to Arrington 1-yarder eight seconds before halftime.
Mario Mannigham registered Michigan’s first touchdown on a 21-yarder from Henne on the Wolverine’s opening drive.