ORLANDO, Fla. – Whether Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham will play in the NFL next year remains undetermined after Michigan’s 41-35 win over Florida.
But if either does decide to go pro, there definitely won’t be any question to whether he is pleased with how he played in his final games.
Teaming with game MVP Chad Henne, the duo led a Wolverine attack that recorded more yards in a bowl game (524) than any other Michigan team since the Point-a-Minute squad in the 1902 Rose Bowl. Together, Manningham and Arrington accounted for more than half of those yards.
“We have a Mario Manningham and an Adrian Arrington opposite each other, anything can happen,” said wide receivers coach Erik Campbell, who said he planned to talk to both players about their decision concerning the NFL.
Arrington said after the game he was still 50-50 on entering the NFL Draft. Manningham would not comment on the question.
But whether it’s for this year or next, both added some footage to their highlight reels Tuesday.
Late in the fourth quarter, Arrington (nine catches, 153 yards) made perhaps the greatest catch of his career. Covered tightly, Arrington reached past Florida cornerback Markihe Anderson, hauling in a 37-yard pass with one hand outstretched over the defender. He caught his second touchdown, the eventual game-winner, two plays later while getting into the end zone for an 18-yard score.
Manningham moved further up Michigan’s all-time receiving lists with his touchdown and 78 yards, but it was one of his seven runs that might have been most impressive. Motioning left before receiving a lateral from Henne in stride, Manningham reversed field all the way back right late in the third quarter for a 23-yard first down.
Although both might have played their final games, it was the final game of someone else that mattered to both of them more. Coach Lloyd Carr challenged both at various points earlier this year. Above all, they said, they wanted to win for him.
“It meant a lot to me because me and coach Carr, we got this little bond going on, and it’s like father-son,” said Manningham, who served a one-game suspension against Eastern Michigan. “I respect him a lot. I’d do anything for him, so we had to go out here and send him out with a bang.”
Caging the Gators: The Michigan offense received a lot of attention for opening the playbook, ranging from its four-wide receiver diamond formation to its unsuccessful pass to tackle Jake Long.
But not to be outdone, the Wolverine defense also added some new schemes.
Looking to contain Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, Michigan implemented a number of new blitz packages on Tuesday. With Florida opting for a number of empty-backfield sets throughout the game, the extra pressure helped limit the dual-threat quarterback to just 209 total yards.
“We felt like going into the game, ‘Hey, they hadn’t really seen enough pressure,’ ” linebackers coach Steve Szabo said. “They want to empty, well, we’re going to come after them.”
The extra pressure forced Tebow into a number of poor throws, especially late in the game. His final six passes fell incomplete.
Safety Jamar Adams (nine tackles, one sack) was integral to the new scheme, helping lead a Michigan defense that recorded nine hurries.
“It felt great hitting a Heisman,” defensive lineman Tim Jamison said. “He was talking a little trash … we don’t talk trash back. We just talk with our pads. And we did it today.”
One final honor: A day before his team sent him out with a final bowl win, Carr learned he would also retire with another award.
Honoring his on- and off-the-field contributions to football, the Bobby Dodd Foundation named him national coach of the year.
“When I got the call I was just speechless,” Carr told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Of all of the awards out there, you have to know there is none more meaningful to a coach. And this is one I really didn’t expect to receive.”