ORLANDO, Fla. The 2001 Michigan football team (6-2 Big Ten, 8-4 overall) was built around its defense. When the defense struggled, the team struggled.
So when the defense played its worst game of the season, it came as little surprise that No. 20 Michigan was overpowered by No. 4 Tennessee.
Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen was 26-for-34 and threw for 393 yards and led the Volunteers to 45 points. Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa tied for the next highest total on the Wolverines” defense with 26 points. The Spartans and Buckeyes beat Michigan and against Iowa, the Wolverines needed a late-game rally to win.
“The thing that surprises me the most looking at that game is defensively I felt we would do a much better job containing the Tennessee offense,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “We just gave up too many big plays.
“We gave up too many big plays and every time you give up big plays, you”re going to give up a lot of points. We had 10 points on the board and I thought in the second half we would have a chance to get back into the game. We couldn”t do that, basically because Tennessee is too good for us.”
Said defensive tackle Dan Rumishek: “They were the better team today, and we just couldn”t stop them. They were just hitting on all eight cylinders today, and when we did get pressure on them, they”d just seem to find the open man and make some great catches.”
Late start: Carr benched junior running back B.J. Askew and sophomore defensive end Shantee Orr for the start of the game because they missed the team bus to practice for a pre-Christmas workout. Askew said the two didn”t receive their wake-up call and were “10 or 15 minutes” late for practice.
Carr responded by making a statement to the rest of the team that such a lax approach to practice and details will not be tolerated. “Coach threw us out of practice for three days,” Askew said. “That was our punishment I didn”t agree with it at all. A lot of guys didn”t agree with it.”
Little ten: The Big Ten received criticism all year for its lack of national title contenders. In defending the conference, coaches claimed parity created a lack of contenders.
The Big Ten was 2-4 this bowl season, and looked especially bad in Michigan”s loss and Big Ten champion Illinois” 13-point loss to SEC champion Louisiana State.
Iowa and Michigan State recorded the Big Ten”s only two wins in the Alamo Bowl and Silicon Valley Classic, respectively. The conference finished worse in the bowl season than any other major conference.
The SEC recorded the most wins of any conference with five, and the ACC posted the best record of any major conference, going 4-2.
Somethin” to hide?: When Michigan didn”t win the national title in 1997″s final coaches” poll, it was rumored to be as a result of Phil Fulmer voting Michigan No. 4. Fulmer campaigned all year for his quarterback Peyton Manning to win the Heisman trophy. Manning ultimately finished second to Michigan”s Charles Woodson.
After the Citrus Bowl, Fulmer was asked who he voted No. 2 in this year”s poll before the Rose Bowl. There was controversy over who should play in the game: Oregon, Nebraska or Colorado.
A flustered Fulmer was confused by the question, originally thinking the question was in reference to his “97 vote, before he finally said: “Aww hell, I don”t have to tell you that.”