November 22, 1997: Michigan vs. Ohio State at home.
The second-biggest win of Carr’s head coaching career put Michigan in the National Championship game. Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson had three big plays. A 37-yard reception set up the game’s first touchdown, a 78-yard punt return touchdown put Michigan ahead by 13 and an interception in the Ohio State end zone in the third quarter helped seal both the game and a perfect Big Ten season.
Michigan fans ran victory laps around the Big House and lit cigars on the 50-yard line. Carr called his team’s run “truly a dream season,” and he was viewed almost as perfectly by the media: “Gone are the critics who said Lloyd Carr could not coach,” Daily columnist John Leroi wrote after the game.
January 1, 1998: Michigan vs. Washington State at Rose Bowl.
Carr’s coaching record and reputation only got better. The Wolverines’ dream season ended with a 5-point win over Washington State that cemented a national title. Senior co-captain Eric Mayes called 1997 “the single greatest season ever – in college football history.” Carr was recognized as Coach of the Year for leading an undefeated team and a Heisman Trophy winner.
“I’m really proud of this team,” Carr said after the game. “They answered every question asked of them, and they embraced the pressure of being number one. This team has tremendous heart and character, and that’s what got us here.”
But the voters’ decision that Michigan would split the National Championship title with Nebraska after its 42-17 bowl game win didn’t sit well with Carr. He called it “disappointing,” and the split was the only asterisk on Carr’s best season as the Wolverines’ head coach.
January 1, 2000: Michigan vs. Alabama at Orange Bowl.
Won 35-34, OT.
Early in Carr’s career, the Wolverines were known for winning bowl games – and the 2000 Orange Bowl was one of Carr’s best starts to the New Year. Quarterback Tom Brady was 33-of-45 for 344 yards in his last game as a Wolverine, leading Michigan to a 28-28 tie at the end of regulation. Alabama missed its extra point after Michigan scored on its first drive of overtime, and the win marked a high point in the Wolverines’ then-dominance – three straight 10-win seasons and three straight bowl wins.
“We wanted to earn some respect around the country,” Carr said. “I think this game was important in doing that.”
Carr was initially criticized for the way he handled the running game, first overusing it and then abandoning it after the first half. As was typical during his 13-year tenure, he diffused the situation after the game with humor.
“I’m sure you people said I was an idiot for trying to run the ball – that there was no way that Michigan could run against Alabama,” Carr said. “Much slower than the rest of you, I came to the same conclusion.”
October 30, 2004: Michigan vs. Michigan State at home.
Won 45-37, 3 OT.
Michigan was trailing 27-10 with eight and a half minutes remaining, but, largely thanks to Braylon Edwards’s two quick touchdowns, the Wolverines tied the game at 27 with three minutes left. The Wolverines pulled out the win with yet another Edwards touchdown and a Tim Massaquoi two-point conversion catch.
The epic triple-overtime thriller was the biggest comeback in Carr’s tenure.
“Anybody who saw this game, either in this stadium or across the country on television, saw one of the greatest football games, in my opinion, ever played,” Carr said.
October 15, 2005: Michigan vs. Penn State at home.
Carr’s clockwork gives Michigan a chance to win.
With a magnificent touchdown catch from Mario Manningham as time expired, the victory saved the Wolverines from falling to 3-4 on the season. But the last-second win wouldn’t have been possible without Carr arguing for two seconds to be added to the game clock in the final minute.
The win marked the high point of a disappointing season for Carr and the Wolverines, who concluded with a loss to Ohio State and a defeat in the Alamo Bowl against Nebraska. Still, a rough season would have been much worse had Carr’s antics not prevented Penn State from being in the National Championship hunt.