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Wolverines

NEBRASKA 32, MICHIGAN 28: Seeing red

Wolverines again fail to win in late going, this time in Alamo

December 29, 2005

BY MARK SNYDER

FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

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Nebraska's Cory Ross runs for a first down as U-M's Brandon Harrison tries to chase him down during the fourth quarter of Wednesday's game. (ERIC GAY/Associated Press)

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How we remember this Alamo

  • • Well, we can finally call that whole 1997 Huskers-Wolverines national championship split settled. The true champion was Nebraska all along.


    • There were no miracles at this Alamo, either. On the bizarre last play, U-M lateraled at least five times to try and score. Tight end Tyler Ecker, the last man with the ball, was about 37 yards and one cut away from immortality. Where was the Michigan band? Ecker could have used a block from a trombone player.


    • Five losses for Michigan, its worst showing since 6-6 in 1984. It's time for Lloyd Carr to make some serious changes.


    • Can we change instant replay? It helped burn the Wolverines. What a waste of timeouts.


    • The worst call was a Chad Henne fumble that led to Nebraska's winning TD. Henne was clearly throwing the ball, and it should have been ruled an incomplete pass. Where's the Tom Brady "tuck rule" when you need it?


    • The curse of San Antonio continues. The Pistons, MSU hoops, MSU football also lost there. But the Lions won in San Antonio, didn't they? Well, that's a negative because the victory gives them a worse draft pick.

Feeling blue

  • Michigan fans are shocked and upset, but here are a few good things to remember.


    • Chad Henne and Mike Hart are just sophomores.


    • Steve Breaston has a year of eligibility left.


    • Ohio State went 7-5 in 2001 and won the national title the following season.


    • At least you're not MSU.

  • All these years, we've wondered what Michigan should do against running quarterbacks. Now we know: The Wolverines should use one themselves! Henne scrambled numerous times, showing some speed and guts along the way.


    • Official play-by-play of the bizarre ending: Henne pass to Avant, lateral to Breaston, lateral to Hart, lateral to Avant, lateral to Manningham, lateral to Avant, lateral to Bihl, Beall fumbled, Hart recovered, lateral to Ecker, Ecker ran out at Nebraska 13.

SAN ANTONIO -- Of course it was a heart-stopper.

It was only appropriate that this Michigan football season ended with a game decided in the fourth quarter.

A combination collapse by the Michigan offense and defense showed the Wolverines at their worst as they lost the Alamo Bowl to Nebraska, 32-28, Wednesday night.

Even in a game in which he tied an Alamo Bowl touchdown record, quarterback Chad Henne made a crucial mistake, fumbling on his own 24-yard line with 5:56 left in the fourth quarter.

When Nebraska took the lead three plays later on a 13-yard touchdown catch by Terrence Nunn, the eventual winner, Henne was sharing negative attention with the defense, which had allowed two short touchdowns in a four-minute span.

Michigan's final sustained drive ended on an incomplete pass to Mario Manningham. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr expected a pass interference call.

"We had a great drive and some things happened there at the end," Carr said. "I have to see it on film. I think our players deserve better."

The lesson of three losses by four points or fewer appeared wasted on this team.

Henne had done his part earlier with three passing touchdowns and one rushing, tying an Alamo Bowl record. But when Michigan needed a drive to win the game, it stalled at the Nebraska 19.

From there, Michigan watched as another team reached out and stole a close game in the fourth quarter.

It seemed fitting for the team that finished this season at 7-5, the worst U-M record since 1984's 6-6.

"We just needed a couple plays here and there and the record's different," running back Mike Hart said.

"We had two (late) turnovers on offense, and we just didn't do it. If we want to win games, we've got to finish. We keep saying it, but we just didn't finish."

It hurt even more because it looked like Michigan was pulling away early in the fourth, building a 28-17 lead.

The Cornhuskers (8-4) answered Henne's rushing score that created the 11-point lead with a quick touchdown. Given life by a punt return that put them at Michigan's 38, it took only two plays for Cory Ross to race for a 31-yard touchdown.

Michigan fell apart when Jason Avant fumbled on the next play. Then, after the defense made another stop, Henne turned it over, giving Nebraska a short field and, likely, a season-making victory.

Michigan's offense did march in the first half, using short passes to get moving before Henne hit Manningham for a 21-yard touchdown, Henne's third of the game, and a 21-17 lead. It capped a 58-yard drive and showed the Wolverines might have some momentum.

That came just after the Wolverines went down, 17-14, on 20-yard field goal by Nebraska . But U-M was satisfied to give up just three points because it was the result of a reversal of a called touchdown.

Zac Taylor's third-down pass to Nunn in the end zone was ruled incomplete after Carr called a time-out to pressure the officials into a review. Replays clearly showed Nunn never had control of the ball.

The 14-14 halftime tie was the result of both teams' inconsistent play. Both spiked on a few series but were unable to sustain any momentum, especially the Wolverines, who totaled only 129 yards of offense in the half.

Michigan was able to use a short field to score both its first-half touchdowns. Steve Breaston's 69-yard kickoff return and Leon Hall's second interception gave the Wolverines about a 30-yard field to work with each time.

Henne took advantage both times, connecting with his tight ends for touchdowns -- first to Tyler Ecker for 13 yards and then to Mike Massey for 16. Massey played in place of starter Tim Massaquoi, sidelined with a leg injury suffered in November.

Though productive enough, the Michigan offense wasn't very effective before halftime, rushing for only 44 yards and throwing for 85.

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