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Michigan bucks Ohio S
back in R<
Carr rises above critics' questions
to take Michigan back to the top
By Nicholas J. Cotsonika
Daily Sports Editor
In front and in charge, Lloyd Carr
clenched his jaw so tightly as the team
buses rolled up to Beaver Stadium three
weeks ago, his temples began to throb.
His cold eyes stared nowhere but for-
ward in football coach fashion, perhaps
looking farther ahead than a critic's eyes
Two hours from then, Carr's
Wolverines, ranked fourth at the time,
would give their most inspired perfor-
mance of his three-year tenure. They
would push and shove and dominate a
second-ranked Nittany Lions team for a
34-8 victory, one that would restore the
punch in Michigan's prestige. "What we
want to do is win a championship," Carr
would say afterward;
The victory would give the
Wolverines their first No. I ranking
since 1990, and afterward, victories over
Wisconsin and Ohio State would give
them their first victories as the nation's
top team since 1977. Beating Ohio State
would put them in their first Rose Bowl
since the 1992 season - with their first
11-0 record since 1971 - and would
erase many memories of Michigan's
four straight four-loss seasons.
None of that was known to the mass-
es, though, when Carr took his team into
State College. The Wolverines, who
most had expected to finish fourth or
fifth in the Big Ten, were a hopeful 8-0,
but Carr still endured the questions that
have cursed him since he took the job in
May 1995. So many doubters calling
themselves loyalists. So many critics. So
many people Carr stared straight
through, looking right past them,
undaunted, to a goal only he could see.
And perhaps that is why Carr, whose
only other head coaching experience
came at Westland John Glenn High
School in the mid-1970s, is now men-
tioned in the same sentence with
Alabama legend Bear Bryant. Vision
has made him a finalist for the Bryant
Coach of the Year Award. And with a
chance to win Michigan's first national
championship since 1948 coming up in
the Rose Bowl, the only question that
remains is how far Carr's vision can
When Carr isn't coaching, he likes to
do two things: play golf and read. He
loves to read, devouring almost any-
thing. His favorite subjects, however,
may be triumph and motivation, from
which he has learned enough lessons to
create his own fairy tale.
On Page C22 of the Michigan foot-
ball playbook, among several other
moving quotes by famous achievers,
Carr inserted one by Theodore
Roosevelt that is titled "The Critic"
Roosevelt says "it is not the critic who
counts, not the man who points out
where the strong man stumbled." And
Carr couldn't seem to agree more.
He got his job when the critics point-
ed out where the strong man, his best
friend Gary Moeller, stumbled. Moeller
had gotten drunk at a restaurant, and
after causing a disturbance, he was
arrested. Tapes of his comments were
plastered all over by all types of media,
leading to Moeller's firing soon after-
At the press conference that named
him interim head coach, Carr fought
back emotion and said he was "excited
and confident" about the upcoming sea-
son. But then came the questions. Carr
had never been a head coach before at
the college level, everyone knew, and
few gave him a chance to win the per-
"Whatever the decision is," Carr said
then, "I will back it 100 percent. I want
what is best for Michigan."
Carr won his first five games but
wasn't named head coach until before
his 8-2 Wolverines prepared to take on
Penn State, the team against which he
would establish his program three years
later. But then, he suffered a 27-17
home loss to the Lions on the way to a
The stumble drew fire from the media
and fans, who called for his head often.
And when his team blew a 16-0 fourth-
quarter lead to lose at Northwestern and
later lost at lowly Purdue, the fury only
intensified. He was left with the comfort
of Roosevelt's words, which told him
"the credit belongs to the man actually
in the arena, whose face is marred by
dust, sweat and blood."
Carr's face was marred by the media
as he stumbled to another four-loss sea-
son, and he was left to defend himself
and his players. When a reporter com-
mented that his anger with a certain
question revealed a "sore spot," Carr
fired back, "THAT'S YOUR OPIN-
When this season began, Carr was
called paranoid for his zest with the
press. He read everything, and everyone
knew it. He even entered The Michigan
Daily's offices on two separate occa-
sions to discuss stories run in the paper.
"He just cares," said quarterback
Brian Griese, whose erratic play in 1995
and breaking of a bar window in 1996
earned him media attention and vigor-
ous defense from Carr. "Sometimes
people don't understand how much, he
It is not the critic who counts, not
the man who points out where the
strong man stumbled or how the -
doer of deeds could have done
them better. The credit belongs to
the man who is actually in the
arena, whose face is marred by
dust, sweat and blood; who strives
valiantly, who errs and comes
short again and again; who knows
the great enthusiasms, the great
devotions, and spends himself in a
worthy cause; who at best, in the
end, knows the triumph of high
achievement and who at worst, If
he fails, at least fails while daring
greatly, so that his place shall
never be with those cold and timid
souls who know neither victory
- Theodore Roosevelt.
quoted on Page C22 of Michigan
In between newspaper articles during
last summer's soul-searching, however,
Carr read the novel "Into Thin Air." He
was so moved by the mountain-climb-
ing story, he even invited one of the
book's subjects to speak to his team and
gave each player a climber's ice pick -
all of which hang from the ceiling in the
team meeting room -to help with their
own mental climb.
One dangerous step at a time, that's
how Carr decided to approach this sea-
son of cracks and crevices, which were
named Notre Dame and Penn State and
And now the summit is in sight.
"It goes back to the past," Carr said.
"One year ago, we learned a terrible les-
son (in letdown losses) that may turn out
to be not-so-terrible for the guys that
learn from it. Weare a very mature foot-
With a very mature coach.
Perhaps the firestorm of criticism was
a baptism of sorts for Carr, who now is
accepted as worthy successor to
Fielding H. Yost and Bo Schembechler.
"It is the way the profession goes;' Carr
said after the Penn State victory, which
established him and his program the
way Schembechler's storied 1969 victo-
ry in his first season over Ohio State and
his mentor, Woody Hayes, established
his. Perhaps it showed he could scale the
cliffs with the big boys.
"Success is never final, and this is
part of the climb," Carr said afterward.
"I try to maintain focus on what I'm
Cover photo: WARREN ZINN/Daily MARGARET MYERS/Daily
Michigan's Charles Woodson breaks a tackle on his 78-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter of today's game.
As the hated Buckeyesg-o down,
suspbia'ons and anxieties di~app ear
An avid reader, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr learned lessons from Theodore Roosevelt
and the novel "Into Thin Air," which helped him restore Michigan's pride.
football season that can only be described as
magical ended today in triumph. Down went the
hated Buckeyes, along with the doubts, the suspi-
cions and the anxiety.
Gone are the critics who said Lloyd Carr could not
coach. Those who doubted Brian Griese's ability have
mysteriously disappeared, faded into the background,
left with no choice but to proclaim that Michigan is,
indeed, the best team in the land.
There have been undefeated sea-
sons and Rose Bowl berths before,
but none have been won with suchf
parity in college football, none
since Penn State joined the Big Ten,
none since the Battle for the Roses
was between Michigan and Ohio
State ... and nobody else.t
And never before has a Michigan JOHN
team been this good, this talented, LEROI
this determined and this well- Out of
coached. The Wolverines have suit- Bounds
ed up for 119 years - and this is
the best football team the school
has ever fielded.
Trips to Pasadena used to be commonplace for
Michigan. The Wolverines used to be one of the most
feared teams in the nation, year in and year out. But
domination was quickly erased, replaced by mediocrity.
Four-loss seasons became the norm, not because of a
lack of talent or lack of intensity but just because.
There is no explanation. Not even the players them-
"There's just something special about this team,"
junior safety Marcus Ray said after the Wolverines' 23-
7 win over Michigan State. "I don't know what it is, to
be honest. Ask me in a few weeks."
I have a feeling a lot of people will. But Ray probably
won't have any better answer than he gave in East
Lansing. Something's special, something just is. A com-
bination of coaching, talent and execution got the
Wolverines this far, but something else put them over
Some combination of camaraderie, determination and
love kept this team together. They just will themselves
They just know that Charles Woodson will return a
punt 78 yards for a touchdown, even though he hasn't
broken one all year, and then pick off a Stanley Jackson
pass in the end zone just when Ohio State is making a
game of it. They just know Josh Williams will force a
fumble even though Michigan's front four has been
underrated all season.
Yet, they don't count on those plays to happen, they
make them happen.
That's why this season is magical. That's why you
will remember it after you graduate, when you are 40
and when you are 60. That's why Michigan has its best
shot at the national championship since 1971.
This season is about memories. It's about dreams. It's
about Rose Bowl wins and national championships and
Heisman trophies. It's about watching your team take
the field I1 times and win them all.
For the first time since the 1992 season, Michigan
will make an appearance in the Rose Bowl. But don't
count on the Wolverines to just make an appearance. If
they prepare for the Rose Bowl like they have for every
game this season, if they play with the same heart and
intensity they have for 1 1 games, expect nothing less
than success. I don't know who Michigan will play in
Pasadena and I have know idea what the spread is -
but I'll take the Wolverines to win.
They've already proven they can.
- John Leroi can he reached via e-mail at
Daily Sports Editor
Four consecutive four-loss seasons and a
five-year absence from the Rose Bowl had
many convinced that Michigan was a pro-
gram stumbling into a pit of mediocrity.
"Michigan is back,' was what many
players had been saying for the past few
weeks as the overachieving Wolverines
ascended the national polls to No. I.
Today, they finally proved what they had
Michigan is going back to the Rose
Bowl after capping its first undefeated reg-
ular season since 1971 with a 20-14 victo-
ry over Ohio State in front of a record
Michigan Stadium crowd of 106,982. The
Rose Bowl appearance will be Michigan's
%jMichigan 20 " O n e
Ohi~oState 14 thing that
put this much effort and this much heart
in it, you've got something you'll savor
for the rest of your life," said Michigan
football coach Lloyd Carr.
The Wolverines' opponent in the Rose
Bowl is still yet to be determined. It will
be either UCLA, Washington State or
Arizona State. None of these teams con-
trols its own destiny.
"We smell the sweetest roses, baby,"
said senior safety Marcus Ray. "Nobody
gave us a chance all season, but we came
out and earned our respect. I can't even
describe this feeling."
Both teams started sluggishly on
offense, hesistant to do anything drastic,
fearing the opponent would steal the
momentum and ride it to victory.
Twelve and half minutes into the game,
Eric Wilson hit Ohio State quarterback
Stanley Jackson on a handoff, causing him
to fumble. Glen Steele recovered, giving
Michigan the game's first big break.
But Michigan could not capitalize and
punted seven plays later. Excluding the
fumble, nine of the game's first 10 pos-
sessions ended in punts.
Midway through the second quarter,
the Wolverines finally seemed to gain
confidence in their offense. After starting
at its own 38, Michigan's first substantial
drive of the game seemed to be stalling
nine yards downfield. An incomplete
first-down pass and a loss of two on a sec-
ond-down Anthony Thomas carry set up
the game's first big play.
Brian Griese dropped back, took a cou-
ple of steps to his left, checked off his first
receiver and hit Charles Woodson down-
field as he cut across the middle in full
stride. Ohio State's Antoine Winfield
saved a Michigan touchdown when he
dragged Woodson.down from behind at
the Buckeyes' 16-yard line.
But Winfield's tackle only delayed the
inevitable. On the next play, Chris Floyd
took a handoff and barged up the middle,
rolling over a number of defenders before
doing and do it to the best of my abili-
ty. If you can prevent yourself from
being distracted, then you have a much
better chance of being successful.
Winning is a big part of coaching at
any level, not that that is right, but that
is how it is."
Perhaps that was what Carr was
thinking about as his bus climbed
though the Nittany Mountains not long
ago, up and up and up, with the critics
far behind, on his way to an uncertain
fate in what is now a certain place:
Pasadena. Then again, it might have
been Roosevelt, there on Page C22, and
the words that helped Carr when he
wasn't on top:
The credit goes to the man "who at
best, in the end, knows the triumph of
high achievement; and who at worst, if
he fails, at least fails while daring great-
ly, so that his place shall never be with
those cold and timid souls who know
neither victory nor defeat."