A Big Ten Title. A Rose Bowl berth. A shot at redemption. The most storybook of endings imaginable, considering how the season began.

They were there for the taking.

Michigan could’ve had it all – and salvaged a once-unsalvageable season in front of the second-largest crowd in college football history.

But instead of a happy ending, Saturday’s loss further blemished the senior class and Michigan coach Lloyd Carr’s already damaged legacies.

Many students had planned to chant Carr’s name to show their appreciation for the 13-year coach in his final game at Michigan Stadium.

But the only Carr-directed cheers that reverberated through the Big House came from the scarlet-and-grey-clad fans intent on mocking the coach as the seconds ticked down to Ohio State’s third straight Big Ten Title.

“Keep Lloyd Carr.”

“One more year.”

It was the most unfitting ending for everyone involved.

For Carr, the man who gave 13 years to the most stressful post at the University. Who, despite rampant criticism from all kinds of fans, gave Wolverine Nation its first National Championship in 49 years.

For Chad Henne, Jake Long and Mike Hart, who have been the faces of the program for almost their entire time in Ann Arbor. The trio that turned its back on millions of dollars and the NFL for a chance to finish their Michigan careers the right way.

And for the supporting cast, the unsung members of the team. The group that did all the little things to help make the stars on Michigan into what they are today.

But on Saturday, those stars dug their own graves.

Carr fell to Jim Tressel for the sixth time in seven tries. He played the John Cooper role to Tressel’s Lloyd Carr.

Hart was held under 100 yards for the first time this season. He didn’t even make it halfway, gaining just 44 yards on 18 carries.

Henne completed fewer than 33 percent of his passes. After courageously playing through the pain against Illinois and Michigan State, Henne’s ability to walk on water disappeared.

Even Long was beaten by Ohio State’s Vernon Gholston. The Lombardi Award finalist allowed a sack for the first time all season.

Digging a grave is more than a three-person job, though.

Henne and Hart were nowhere near 100 percent, but they weren’t dropping the balls Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington were.

Even with a missed assignment or two, Long was by far the most stable force on an offensive line that was physically dominated all afternoon.

The whole team failed to do its part to give the leaders a proper sendoff.

Michigan gained more yards in one play last week than it did in its biggest game of the season. Ohio State running back Beanie Wells gained more than twice the number of yards the whole Michigan team did Saturday.

And the Michigan offense had 11 three-and-outs. That’s more than enough inefficiency to guarantee the senior class a four-and-out – a quartet of games against Ohio State with nothing but losses to show for it.

Nothing to show for it – that’s a fitting distinction for this group of seniors.

Long could be the best lineman to ever don the maize and blue. Hart and Henne are both their respective position’s all-time leader.

But amid all of the individual accolades, there are very few pieces of hardware this group brought in over the past four years.

And even though Carr won five Big Ten Championships during his time at Michigan, the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately nature of fans will remember his 1-6 record against Tressel much more than him hoisting up the National Championship trophy 10 long years ago.

Is it fair?

It depends who you’re asking. But the debate could have been prevented.

All Michigan had to do was write its own happy ending Saturday.

– Bell can be reached at scotteb@umich.edu.

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