Hail To The Victors: MICHIGAN FOOTBALL '99-'00
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WOLVERINES BEAT OSU, EARN ORANGE BOWL BCS BID
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Nov. 20) - Michigan forced three second-half turnovers and Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes as the No. 10 Wolverines rallied to beat Ohio State 24-17 Saturday, leaving the Buckeyes out of postseason play for the first time in 11 years. The victory gave Michigan (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) an excellent chance of landing a berth in a Bowl Championship Series game, perhaps the Orange or Fiesta.
Ohio State (6-6, 3-5) won't qualify for a bowl for the first time since 1988, John Cooper's first year as coach. It's also the Buckeyes' first six-loss season since going 4-6 in 1988. Cooper fell to 2-9-1 against the Wolverines, including 0-6 in Michigan Stadium. Brady, who led the Wolverines' comeback win last week at Penn State, completed 17 of 27 passes for 150 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown to Shawn Thompson and a 10-yarder to Marquise Walker.
Anthony Thomas rushed 31 times for 111 yards, including a 1-yard TD run for Michigan. It was the fifth straight 100-yard game for Thomas and his seventh of the season. Steve Bellisari completed 8 of 20 passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns for Ohio State, but also tossed two costly interceptions. A fumble recovery by Cato June in the fourth quarter set up a 77-yard, 10-play drive that gave Michigan its first lead of the game, 24-17, with 5:01 remaining. Brady, who was 5-of-6 for 51 yards in the drive, finished it off with the touchdown pass to Walker. It was the third Ohio State turnover that the Wolverines converted into points in the second half.
The Wolverines tied it 17-17 in the third quarter on the strength of their defense, turning two interceptions into a field goal and a touchdown, plus forcing Ohio State into a missed field goal attempt. DeWayne Patmon's 32-yard return following an interception on the fourth snap of the third quarter gave Michigan the ball at the Buckeyes' 23. But three snaps resulted in minus-2 yards and the Wolverines settled for Hayden Epstein's 42-yard field goal. Ken-Yon Rambo returned the ensuing kickoff 53 yards and later caught a 21-yard, fourth-down pass from Michael Wiley to set up a 27-yard field goal by Dan Stultz, giving Ohio State a 17-10 lead.
Jonathan Wells, who appeared to step out of bounds near the Ohio State 40, was credited with a 76-yard run to the Michigan 6. But the Wolverines' defense held and Ohio State was left with a one-TD lead after Stoltz missed a 30-yard field goal with 3:34 left in the third quarter. The Wolverines, on the first snap following Ian Gold's 17-yard interception return, tied it 17-17 on Brady's touchdown pass to Thompson with 37 seconds left in the third quarter. The Wolverines came out flat in the first half and the Buckeyes, unranked for the first time since 1994 - made them pay.
Wiley, who rushed 22 times for 92 yards, broke loose for a 26-yard gain to the Michigan 6 as the Buckeyes went 51 yards in seven plays on their second possession of the game. Bellisari, who escaped potential sacks for gains of 9 and 3 yards during the drive, flipped a short pass to Kevin Houser for the touchdown. Houser broke free from June's tackle at the 2 and dove over the goal line for a 7-0 lead. Brady completed 5-of-5 for 56 yards early in the second quarter as Michigan put together a 70-yard, 11-play drive. Thomas' touchdown run tied it 7-7.
But the Buckeyes responded with an impressive 80-yard, 11-play drive to regain the lead, 14-7, with 3:44 left in the second quarter. Fullback Jamar Martin had runs of 21 and 14 yards in the drive and finished it off by catching a 1-yard scoring flip from Bellisari. -Harry Atkins, AP
UM TO PLAY BAMA IN ORANGE BOWL
MIAMI (Dec. 6) - Alabama and Michigan hope this will just be a warmup for next year's national championship game. The teams play Jan. 1 in the Orange Bowl, the site of next year's national championship game. It will be the third meeting between the two storied programs.
No. 5 Alabama (10-2), the Southeastern Conference champion, beat Florida 34-7 Saturday to earn an invitation to the New Year's Day bowl, where it will face perennial Big Ten powerhouse Michigan, 9-2 and ranked eighth. The Crimson Tide beat Michigan 17-14 in the 1997 Outback Bowl in Tampa. The Wolverines won the only other meeting, in the 1988 Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa. In 1997, Alabama needed a long interception return from Dwayne Rudd to get a victory for Gene Stallings, who was coaching his final game. Alabama coach Mike DuBose was the defensive coordinator. ``I thought it was one of the great defensive teams we played against,'' Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said Sunday.
Though the Wolverines lost, they went on to win a national title the following season in the Rose Bowl. ``There was no question that they were a very talented football team and I knew that there were just bigger and better things ahead for them, just like I think there's bigger and better things ahead for both of our football teams this year,'' DuBose said. Alabama tailback Shaun Alexander, a Heisman Trophy candidate, broke a long run to seal the Outback Bowl win.
``We know Shaun Alexander very well,'' Carr said. ``We recruited him at Michigan, and I've had a number of people tell me that he is the best back in the country.'' This Orange Bowl had hoped Florida would make a return trip to South Florida for New Year's Day. The Gators beat Syracuse in the Orange Bowl last season and would have guaranteed a sellout. Nonetheless, Orange Bowl executive director Keith Tribble is optimistic the Alabama-Michigan matchup will sell tickets. ``We couldn't have had two better teams from two better conferences representing our bowl,'' Tribble said.
-Mark Long, AP
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