PASADENA, Calif. — When its regular season ended, Michigan’s Achilles heel was clear. Mobile quarterbacks such as Michigan State’s Drew Stanton and Ohio State’s Troy Smith had given the Wolverines fits with their ability to scramble and throw.
Texas quarterback Vince Young is of the same mold, and since it was announced on Dec. 5 that Michigan and Texas would square off in the Rose Bowl, the Wolverines knew that to win they would have to contain him.
But four weeks of preparation ultimately made no difference.
Young ran for 192 yards and four touchdowns to go along with 180 yards passing and a touchdown, and Dusty Mangum kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give Texas a 38-37 win on Saturday. Safety Ernest Shazor managed to deflect the kick with his elbow, but the football eked over the crossbar.
“Defensively, we missed too many tackles,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “You score 37 points — it should be enough. But it wasn’t.”
The defensive struggles overshadowed a strong showing by Michigan’s offense. The Wolverines were led by senior Braylon Edwards, who caught 10 passes for 109 yards and three touchdowns and set the all-time record for career touchdown receptions with 39.
“All I can think about is this loss,” Edwards said. “I wanted to go out with a victory for my team, but it just didn’t happen that way.
“I can’t think about those records right now.”
Sophomore Steve Breaston, who took on an increased role because Jason Avant was out with an injured knee, caught a 50-yard touchdown pass and consistently gave Michigan a boost in field position, returning six kickoffs for 221 yards.
Michigan held a 31-21 lead entering the fourth quarter, but Young saved his best for the final 15 minutes, throwing and running for a combined 150 yards. The Wolverines limited Texas running back Cedric Benson — this year’s Doak Walker Award winner — to just 70 yards on 23 carries, but Young did just enough to give Texas the win.
“If you saw the game, it’s obvious that he’s difficult to tackle,” Carr said. “Although I think there were too many times where I think we had him and should have gotten him to the ground, and weren’t able to do so. There’s two ways to look at that. You can choose either.”
The final quarter’s first score came on third-and-goal from the 10-yard line, Young spun away from a seemingly sure sack by defensive end Pat Massey and ran down the right sideline to put the Longhorns within three.
After a Michigan field goal extended the lead to six, Texas struck back again to take the lead in under a minute. After completing two passes 46 yards, Young escaped to the left sideline and sprinted untouched past six Wolverines to give the Longhorns a 35-34 lead.
With just five minutes left, Breaston returned the ensuing kick 52 yards to the Texas 43-yard line. From there, Michigan registered one first down and then kicker Garret Rivas booted a 42-yard field goal to give Michigan a 37-35 lead with 3:04 left.
On the deciding drive, Texas relied on Young and its running game, passing the ball just once. A 14-yard run by Young gave the Longhorns the ball at the Michigan 30-yard line, and Texas ran the ball five more times to set the stage for Mangum.
Michigan had two timeouts remaining for the entire drive, but elected not to use them until the very end to ice Mangum.