SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The University of Michigan football team was unable to cap its season with an Alamo Bowl victory Wednesday evening (Dec. 28), losing 32-28 against Nebraska at the Alamodome. The Wolverines (7-5) were unable to gain the winning points as their final two possessions ended with an incomplete pass at the goal line and a last-ditch effort on a series of laterals that fell short at the Cornhuskers' 13-yard line.
Sophomore quarterback Chad Henne (Wyomissing, Pa./Wilson HS) completed 21-of-43 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns and scored a rushing touchdown on a seven-yard keeper. Senior wide receiver and co-captain Jason Avant (Chicago, Ill./Carver HS) led the receiving effort with eight catches for 71 yards and cracked the 1,000-yard receiving barrier for the season for the first time in his career (1,007). Sophomore tailback Mike Hart (Syracuse, N.Y./Onondaga Central HS) carried the ball 19 times for 74 yards.
Senior wide receiver/kick returner Steve Breaston (North Braddock, Pa./Woodland Hills HS) gained more than 200 all-purpose yards for the second straight bowl game. The game's Sportsmanship Award recipient, Breaston had 224 all-purpose yards on 13 touches. He set an Alamo Bowl record with 146 kickoff return yards on four attempts and added seven punt returns for 72 yards. He also collected an eight-yard reception.
Junior cornerback Leon Hall (Vista, Calif./Vista HS) was named the Alamo Bowl Defensive MVP after collecting two interceptions and four tackles. Senior free safety Willis Barringer (Toledo, Ohio/Scott HS) registered a career-best nine stops, with sophomore defensive tackle Alan Branch (Rio Rancho, N.M./Cibola HS) and senior inside linebacker David Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Ottawa Hills HS) adding eight tackles apiece. Branch set a Michigan bowl record with five tackles for loss as the Wolverines tallied 14 TFLs in the contest.
After trading series in the first quarter, Nebraska grabbed a 7-0 lead as wideout Terrance Nunn took a quick slant pass from quarterback Zac Taylor and went 52 yards for the score. The Cornhuskers' scoring drive covered 73 yards in four plays. Taylor completed all three passes for 65 yards and tailback Cory Ross gained eight yards on the initial play from scrimmage.
Michigan responded on the ensuing possession as Henne completed a 13-yard pass across the field to senior tight end Tyler Ecker (El Dorado Hills, Calif./Oak Ridge HS) for a touchdown. Breaston returned the kickoff an Alamo Bowl record 69 yards to provide the Wolverines with possession at Nebraska's 30-yard line. Henne kept the drive alive with a 14-yard keeper on third-and-12, and Hart added a five-yard carry prior to the second-down scoring play.
The Wolverines had an opportunity to take a lead, but junior kicker Garrett Rivas (Tampa, Fla./Jesuit HS) pushed his 25-yard field goal attempt left and it bounced off the left upright. Hall gave Michigan possession inside Nebraska territory at the 39-yard line after intercepting Taylor's third-and-eight pass.
Hall collected his second pick Nebraska's next possession, intercepting Taylor on the first play of the series. The Wolverines converted this time as Henne completed a 16-yard pass across the middle to sophomore tight end Mike Massey (Brecksville, Ohio/St. Ignatius HS) for the touchdown, giving U-M a 14-7 lead at 11:43 of the second quarter. The three-play scoring drive covered 28 yards, with Hart gaining 10 and two yards on the first two plays.
Nebraska tied the score, 14-14, at 2:37 of the second quarter as Taylor hit wide receiver Nate Swift on a crossing route for the 14-yard touchdown. The seven-play, 70-yard scoring consumed 2:40 and was aided by two personal foul penalties against the Wolverines. The key plays on the drive were a 25-yard pass from Taylor to Nunn on third down and a 19-yard run by Ross that gave the Cornhuskers possession at Michigan's nine-yard line following a late hit penalty tacked on at the end of the run.
Nebraska scored an apparent touchdown at 8:58 of the third quarter as Taylor completed a three-yard scoring pass that Nunn caught along the ground on a third-and-goal play. The play was originally called a TD on the field, but following a booth review the pass was ruled incomplete. The Cornhuskers settled for a 20-yard field goal by Jordan Congdon at 8:54 to regain the lead, 17-14. Nebraska moved 62 yards in 12 plays, with 52 of those yards coming on the ground, and the drive consumed 4:34.
Michigan answered Nebraska's score and took the lead, 21-17, as Henne threw his Alamo Bowl record-tying third touchdown of the game. Henne floated a 21-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Mario Manningham (Warren, Ohio/Warren G. Harding HS) in the back right corner of the end zone. Henne completed three-of-five passes for 51 yards on the scoring drive, while Hart added an 18-yard reception and a 10-yard run.
The Wolverines had another scoring chance late in the third quarter, but Henne's pass into the back of the end zone was intercepted by cornerback Zachary Bowman. The play was originally ruled incomplete but following a booth review was overturned, giving Nebraska a touchback. U-M had moved 32 yards in nine plays to Nebraska's 27-yard line prior to the interception.
Henne used his feet to increase the Wolverines lead to 28-17 with 11:40 remaining in the contest. Henne was unable to find an open receiver and took off up the middle for a seven-yard keeper and his first rushing touchdown of the season. Michigan started the drive at its 47-yard line after a 15-yard kick catch interference penalty was assessed against Nebraska. Henne completed a key 26-yard pass to Avant on third-and-four that gave U-M possession at 21-yard line. Henne converted a third-and-eight play from the 19-yard line on a 12-yard run that provided the Wolverines with first-and-goal at the seven.
Nebraska closed the gap to 28-25 as Ross scored on a 31-yard run around the left side of the formation and Taylor completed the two-point conversion pass to Todd Peterson. The two-play scoring drive covered 38 yards in 42 seconds as Ross gained seven yards prior to the scoring play. The Cornhuskers gained possession following a 28-yard punt return by Cortney Grixby.
Michigan gave Nebraska possession at its 48-yard line as Avant was stripped of the ball following a 17-yard completion on the first play following Nebraska's score. The Wolverine defense stiffened and did not allowing a first down.
U-M turned over the ball for the second straight series and Nebraska gained possession at the 17-yard line with 5:56 left in regulation. On a third-down pass play Henne had the ball knocked out of his hand by free safety Bruce Tiedtke, and defensive tackle Ola Dagunduro recovered for Nebraska and returned it 13 yards. The Cornhuskers grabbed their third lead of the game, 32-28 at 4:29, on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Taylor to Nunn down the middle of the defense.
Michigan was unable to gain the go-ahead points on its final two possessions.
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