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Article published Friday, December 30, 2005
Bad call? One would be blaming refs

SAN ANTONIO - OK, so now it's the officials' fault.

The officials lost the Alamo Bowl for Michigan, rather than the Wolverines losing 32-28 to Nebraska, fair and square.

That's what many of the angry e-mails are telling me, that the Wolverines were cheated by several blatantly bad calls.

The 7-5 Wolverines.

The first UM team to lose at least five games in a season since the 1984 Wolverines.

Yeah, those Wolverines.

Pay no attention to the 161 rushing yards by Nebraska's Cory Ross, or the three touchdown passes by Cornhuskers quarterback Zac Taylor.

Ignore how UM turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions late in the game.

Forget that the Wolverines were ranked No. 20 and Nebraska was unranked.

Don't point the finger where it belongs, at UM's coaches and players. Blame the officials for everything.

UM coach Lloyd Carr, for one, had the right idea.

Bad officiating aside, a good team, a Top 20 team like Michigan, doesn't blow an 11-point fourth-quarter lead like the Wolverines did.

In analyzing another frustrating loss, Carr summed up the entire season in his postgame press conference.

"We have to be able to run the football. We haven't been able to do that going back to the Wisconsin game,'' Carr said. UM rushed for 130 yards and averaged 3.1 yards per carry against Nebraska.

Addressing the performance of his defense, Carr said UM is behind the times and needs to catch up to opposing offenses. Safety Willis Barringer of Toledo led UM with nine tackles. It's never a good sign when a defensive back leads his team in tackles.

"Defensively we have to find a way to keep them out of the end zone," Carr said. "College football has changed. Everyone has the ability to spread you out and it's not easy to stop them for four downs."

With a chance to put Nebraska away for good, UM went three and out.

On first down at the Michigan 31 with 10:02 to play in the fourth quarter, running back Mike Hart was spilled for a five-yard loss. On second down, quarterback Chad Henne, under major duress from Nebraska's defensive front, ran out of the pocket for two yards. On third-and-13, Henne threw incomplete to Mario Manningham, forcing a UM punt that Nebraska returned 28 yards to the Wolverines 38.

Nebraska's Ross quickly scored on a 31-yard run to slice UM's lead to 28-25.

UM's response?

The Wolverines lost fumbles on their next two possessions.

The second fumble, a controversial turnover by Henne, proved costly.

It appeared Henne's throwing arm was moving forward when he was hit by Nebraska's Blake Tiedtke, which normally signals an incompletion. However, officials, after consulting with instant replay, ruled the play a fumble with Nebraska taking over at the UM 17.

Three plays later, Taylor zipped a 13-yard pass to Terrence Nunn for the winning touchdown. Or losing touchdown, if you're a Michigan fan.

The game ended on a crazy play that personified UM's up-and-down season.

The play began at the UM 36 and ended at Nebraska's 13-yard line. In between one forward pass and several rugby-like laterals, the ball was handled by numerous Wolverines, ending with tight end Tyler Ecker's 62-yard run. Ecker was tackled well short of the goal line, the same way the Wolverines came up noticeably short in 2005.

John Harris is a Blade sports columnist.
» Read more John Harris columns at www.toledoblade.com/harris

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