Capital One Bowl: Michigan Seniors Go Out on Top

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IJanuary 2, 2008

Ross loves Rachel, Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl, and the Michigan Class of '08 won a bowl game.

All is finally right in the world.

With Michigan's 41-34 victory over the Florida Gators, the senior class of 2008 avoided becoming a bad part of history.

No doubt about it, this is one of the most talented senior classes to ever come through Michigan.

Yet they have never won a marquee game.

Sure a few wins over Notre Dame, demoralizing Michigan State year after year, and shocking Penn State more than once are all well and good. But they were expected to do that.

This group never beat their rivals down south. They also struggled to win a bowl game.

Two cracks at a Rose Bowl and a trip to the Alamo Bowl is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. But when you come up 0-3 in those games, people start to wonder.

With the Capital One Bowl Victory over the defending National Champions, though, all is right in Ann Arbor.

Not only is it a statement win to end an era at Michigan, it's a statement win against a conference that is said to have the Big Ten’s number.

I don't want to go as far as to say any Buckeye might have been rooting for “That Team up North”—but they certainly weren't frowning when Florida was walking off the field as the clock hit triple zeros.

I've griped about the speed in the past, and I will admit I was partially wrong about it. No doubt Percy Harvin is on another level, and certainly had his way with the Michigan defense. But good speed has an equalizer.

How exactly did Michigan pull this game off, despite committing numerous turnovers?

It’s one simple word that could sum up the Michigan defense under defensive coordinator Ron English: pressure.

While English didn't always turn up the pressure, he certainly had players suited to do so.

I think Ron English and the entire coaching staff coached the games of their lives. They really put it all out there.

Play after play, Tim Tebow found himself on the ground. He might not have been sacked, but they certainly got their shots in on him, forcing him to throw before he wanted to.

The blitzing and the pressure did something that more defenses should think about doing against Florida:

It forced Tim Tebow to throw the ball.

If you give Tebow time to sit there in the pocket then he might take off the first chance he gets.

If guys are flying in there he has to throw the ball fairly quickly or he is going to get sacked. As long as you wrap up, he won't burn you with his feet.

The game plan was clear, and the players executed it very well. Percy Harvin played well, but obviously that was a risk Michigan was willing to take.

Offensively it was quite the same aggressive approach.

Four and five wide receiver sets overmatched the Gators defense. While not all the receivers got in on the action, it created enough confusion.

The forgotten man both in the receiving core and in the class of 2008, Adrian Arrington benefited the most.

I haven't seen many people talk about this kid as an NFL prospect, but with those hands of gold he better be flying up draft boards. With his full complement of speed and excellent route running, he is probably more of a completed receiver than Mario Manningham at this point.

Manningham could bolt to the NFL, but he would benefit staying one more year and refining his skills.

Arrington burned the Florida secondary on several occasions, most notably when he took advantage of both the safety and corner on a fake post route. Arrington acted left and then darted right, giving Chad Henne just enough time to fit the ball in the window.

Henne also played the game of his life. Lloyd Carr put it perfectly when he said this team was finally playing healthy. They were healthy, and it showed- especially in the case of Henne.

This was the NFL prospect we were expecting to see all year- his strong arm and good decision making. Fitting the ball in the tight spots only when he was supposed to. He threw on target and hit all the right spots.

The poster boy of the 2008 Senior class, Mike Hart, had himself a good game, but he also did something he has done only one other time in his Michigan career.

Lose a fumble.

Not once, but twice Hart fumbled the football inches away from the goal line. Once on a carry near it, and another time stretching out on a longer run in which the ball was knocked out of his hands at the last minute.

Three lost fumbles in four years is still impressive, but what could have been for a kid to go his entire career losing one fumble is just an "if" question now.

The win was great for the Wolverine nation and the Michigan program. It was great for the seniors. It was great for the rest of the players that supported their teammates in their ultimate moment. Sure they never beat Ohio State, or reached that goal of a National Championship.

But they are going out winners.

Much like their fearless leader is.

The man put it all out on the line in his final hurrah. Realizing this was the end of the road, Lloyd Carr threw out all his game plans and preconceived notions, and he just coached a football team.

I wondered how much I could buy into this team playing for Carr in his final game. Being burned in the past by that logic, I decided I'd take a passive approach.

Thankfully though, this team played, and they won it for themselves. They won it for those seniors. But most importantly they won it for Carr.

You can tell as he was being carried off the field that those kids love him, and they wanted the best for the guy. Often the term “Win it for such in such” is pretty much just cliché.

But for once, you can genuinely say that this team did just that.

You also have to credit Carr and his coaching staff once again. Typically he runs a tight ship, and that is a good thing for the most part. Game plan wise, however, it started to take its toll.

He let the guys go all out on this one. His willingness to let his coordinators be as aggressive as they wanted paid off and got him a victory.

Carr was much maligned in the past few years, but this win certainly takes away all of those bad memories, and puts a nice maize and blue bow on his Michigan coaching career. 


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