When a team comes back from a deficit as huge as 17 points in
the final seven minutes of a game, there are sure to be plenty of
heroes.

Chris Burke
Lloyd Carr (far right) has led Michigan to a 6-0 start in the Big Ten this season, good to place the Wolverines in a first-place tie with Wisconsin. (TONY DING/Daily)
Chris Burke

Such is the case for Michigan.

Braylon Edwards has re-emerged as a Heisman candidate after
making catch after catch late in Saturday’s 45-37 triple
overtime victory over Michigan State.

Running back Mike Hart’s been given his well-deserved
kudos for eclipsing the 200-yard mark on the ground —
becoming the first Michigan running back to accomplish that feat in
three straight games.

There’s been talk of Chad Henne’s composure, Jason
Avant’s sprawling touchdown grab in overtime, Roy
Manning’s tackle-for-loss with the Spartans threatening to
end it in the first overtime and Garrett Rivas’s perfect
kicking day that included a critical onside kick.

But one person’s name has been left, for the most part,
out of the discussion.

And not just when reminiscing about Saturday’s game. One
person has been most responsible for Michigan’s 8-1 record
and first-place standing in the Big Ten, and he’s flown under
the radar all year.

That’s not an easy thing to do when you’re the head
coach.

Lloyd Carr has had some good years here at Michigan. Make that
some great years — a national title in 1997, an Orange Bowl
win in 2000 and a Rose Bowl trip last season.

Still, this season has been — bear with me —
Carr’s best yet at Michigan.

Just think about. In 2003, the Wolverines finished the regular
season 10-2 and went to the Rose Bowl. Then John Navarre and Chris
Perry graduated from the backfield, Navarre’s expected
replacement — Matt Gutierrez — went down with an injury
just days before the 2004 season opener, the offensive line was
bombarded with injuries, and there are true freshmen starting at
quarterback and running back.

Still, Michigan is two wins away from having a better record
than last year.

That says something.

Don’t agree? Then just take a gaze at what safety Ernest
Shazor attributes Saturday’s miraculous win to.

“Coach Carr kept telling us that it wasn’t over and
that we (could) do it,” Shazor said. “We believe in
coach Carr and what he tells us and we went out and did
it.”

Look, Carr will be the first to tell you that Michigan
State’s John L. Smith probably had his team more ready for
Saturday’s game — attribute it to Michigan’s
emotional win the week before, the Spartans coming off a bye week
or whatever you want.

The fact is, that when it came right down to it, Michigan got it
done.

And, in college football, when a team shows the type of
resiliency Michigan has shown this season, it is heavily reflective
of its coach’s actions.

What Carr is doing, specifically, is finding any way possible
for this team to win. Whether it be throwing the traditional
Michigan values out the window and starting Henne and Hart as true
freshman, or having a spectacular defensive gameplan heading to
Purdue, Carr has laid the foundation for what Michigan is
accomplishing right now.

It’s that sturdy base that keeps this Michigan program at
the top of the nation year after year — and it’s the
attitude that comes out in a game like Saturday’s, when the
situation is as dire as it can get.

“As a coach of any sport, one of the things I think is
most important about your responsibility is to continue the
fight,” Carr said. “Play the next down as hard as you
can, regardless of the circumstances. If you can get a team to play
as hard as they can, every down, until the last second is off the
clock — and I know that is something some people would not
believe in. But as long as you’re fighting, as long as
you’re giving your best, then you have a chance.”

Let’s not forget, either, two of the main reasons Michigan
was able to rally against the Spartans — Henne and Hart. Who
do you think is responsible for getting them to come to Michigan?
Carr — with some help from quarterbacks coach Scot Loefler
— ripped Henne from right under Joe Paterno’s nose at
Penn State, then turned around and did the same thing by stealing
Hart from Syracuse.

Of course, Carr had no idea at the time that this 2004 team
would rely so heavily on the two.

There, again, is why what Carr has accomplished this season
stands above his prior years. Michigan entered the year with a high
preseason rank, but there were question marks all over the
field.

Would the defensive line improve? How would the team adjust to
the 3-4 defense? Could two true freshmen handle running the
backfield? What would the offensive line look like?

The questions kept coming — and, so far, so have the
answers.

Saturday’s game was a slimmed-down version of the whole
year for Michigan. There was adversity, doubt and plenty of reasons
to just roll over.

But not this year — not under Carr’s watch.

“It was one of those games, it was one of those teams,
that found a way to win when the odds were against them,”
Carr said.

And, as the praise continues to get passed around for this
team’s ability to overcome, it’s time to start
realizing that the person most responsible for that success never
plays a down.

Chris Burke can be reached at
“mailto:chrisbur@umich.edu”>chrisbur@umich.edu.

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