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Published: Monday, 1/3/2005

Another thorny ending for UM

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Michigan's Marlin Jackson (3), Tyler Ecker (89) and Jeremy Read (55) walk off the field after a Rose Bowl defeat. Michigan's Marlin Jackson (3), Tyler Ecker (89) and Jeremy Read (55) walk off the field after a Rose Bowl defeat.
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PASADENA, Calif. - Michigan's last two seasons have not had a rosy ending.

The Wolverines lost to Southern California in the Rose Bowl by two touchdowns a year ago, then took another kick to the gut Saturday night.

They squandered a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead and suffered a heartbreaking 38-37 defeat to Texas as former walk-on Dusty Mangum booted a 37-yard field goal as time expired.

"I'm just a little tired of coming out here and losing," Michigan receiver/returner Steve Breaston said.

The only way Michigan will get a third consecutive crack at the Rose Bowl next season is if it reaches the national championship game.

Hold the snickers. Anything is possible in this crazy era of the Bowl Championship Series.

The Wolverines will have 18 starters back next season - maybe 17 if junior All-American strong safety Ernest Shazor decides to enter the NFL draft - from a team that earned a share of the Big Ten championship, but finished a disappointing 9-3 after losing to Ohio State and Texas to end this season.

Although nine starters return on offense, including quarterback Chad Henne, tailback Mike Hart and receivers Jason Avant (who missed the Rose Bowl with an injury) and Breaston, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr will have to find replacements for All-Americans Braylon Edwards and center David Baas.

Edwards captured the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver. And Baas was co-winner of the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation's best center, despite moving over from left guard in the fourth game.

Edwards had a Rose Bowl-record three touchdown catches against the Longhorns and ended his career as Michigan's leader in receptions (252), receiving yards (3,542), touchdowns (39) and 100-yard receiving games (16).

"I don't think anyone can ask any more of Braylon Edwards than what he delivered," Carr said.

Edwards, a likely top-10 pick in April's NFL draft, was disappointed he didn't finish his brilliant career off with a win.

"I wanted to go out with a victory for my team," he said. "I wanted to give the young guys an experience that they can cherish. It didn't happen that way. I can't think about those records right now.

"We let the [Rose Bowl] loss last year propel us this season. We got back to the game; we got a second chance. But we didn't get it done again, and that's disappointing. Hopefully the guys can come back again next year and play in the national championship game in the Rose Bowl."

The Wolverines will have plenty of playmakers back on offense.

Henne, just the second rookie starter in a BCS game, completed 18 of 34 passes for 227 yards and a school and Rose Bowl record-tying four touchdowns against Texas. His 25 touchdown passes tied Elvis Grbac's single-season school record set in 1991.

"We played good, but it's still disappointing because we lost, so it's tough," Henne said. "We'll just move on and try to improve."

Hart also had a record-setting freshman year. He rushed 21 times for 83 yards in his first Rose Bowl and ended up with 1,455 yards and a 5.2 average.

Breaston, who suffered through an injury-plagued season, rolled up 315 all-purpose yards in the Rose Bowl, including 221 on kickoff returns, to rewrite O.J. Simpson's 1969 Rose Bowl record of 276 total yards. Breaston also caught a 50-yard touchdown pass.

"I'd rather take away everything I did [Saturday] and all season long and trade it for a win," Breaston said. "All I care about is winning. And to lose the way we did - I'd rather throw it all away if we could just get the win."

Defensively, the Wolverines have plenty of work to do between now and next season, after surrendering more than 400 yards of offense to each of their final four opponents.

Defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann has to figure out a way to get his team to tackle better. And he must devise a scheme to contain mobile quarterbacks, after Texas' Vince Young shredded Michigan's defense for 192 rushing yards, four touchdowns and 9.1 yards per carry.

"It's something we have to address in the off-season," Carr said.

Michigan has nine starters returning on defense as of now, losing only All-American cornerback Marlin Jackson and outside linebacker Roy Manning. However, most expect Shazor - the team's top tackler - to leave early for the NFL, which would further thin the secondary.

The good news is that linebacker/end LaMarr Woodley, the defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl, does return.

"I think he has a wonderful future," Carr said. "He knows what to do and he has a real passion to play the game. There's nothing but great things ahead for him."

Contact Ron Musselman at: mussel@theblade.com or 419-724-6474.



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