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 made 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 in the end, four weeks of preparation made no difference.
Young put together a performance for the ages — running 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.
The ball deflected off safety Ernest Shazor’s elbow and just missed linebacker Prescott Burgess outstretched arms, but Mangum was able to eke the ball over the crossbar.
“We knew this game would come down to defense,” Burgess said. “Defense wins championships, and we just weren’t able to get the job done.”
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 Michigan’s all-time record for career touchdowns receptions with 39.
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.
“I had a month off instead of a week,” Breaston said, who missed time with multiple injuries. “I had time to heal, and it really paid off.”
Quarterback Chad Henne, who finished the day 18-for-34 for 227 yards and four touchdowns said: “We had a great game plan and great preparation coming in here. And that’s what had the offense clicking today.”
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.
“We put in hours and hours and hours of preparation for Young, and to lose the game because of it really hurts,” Watson said. “He’s a great player. Great players make great plays. He made great plays, and we just didn’t.”
The final quarter’s first score came on third-and-goal from the 10-yard line, when 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.
It was one of many third-down conversions for Texas. For the game, the Longhorns converted 12-of-17, while Michigan converted just 6-of-14.
After a Michigan field goal extended the lead to six, Texas struck again in under a minute to take the lead. After completing two passes for 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 before 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 to use them back to back in the final seconds to ice Mangum.
The Rose Bowl marked Texas’s first appearance in a BCS bowl game. After being excluded in the top four bowl games for years, the Longhorns vowed to show the country that their presence was long overdue.
The Wolverines (9-3), on the other hand, are dealing with their second consecutive Rose Bowl loss. Last year they lost to co-national champion Southern Cal 28-14, but this year’s game may have hurt more because they felt that if they had had just one more chance on offense, they would have won.
“I know we would have won this game,” Edwards said. “We were getting first downs and pretty much scoring at will. If we had gotten the ball one more time, we would have won it.”