Squeezing out a victory
Michigan outslugs Arkansas to take Citrus Bowl
Posted: Saturday January 09, 1999 05:13 PM
ORLANDO, Fla. (CNN/SI) -- Neither Michigan nor Arkansas was expected to be here for the Citrus Bowl.
The Wolverines were the defending national champions and stumbled out of the gate with an 0-2 record with plenty of uncertainty.
The Razorbacks were an unknown quantity with a relatively unknown coach but started the year winning nine straight games.
In the end, however, the Wolverines' bowl experience was just enough to beat the upstart underdogs. In particular, it was a story of a quarterback named Brady that did in Arkansas.
Tom Brady had two passes intercepted to set up Arkansas Touchdowns earlier in the game, but he later engineered two scoring drives in the final six minutes as Michigan came back to beat the Razorbacks 45-31.
"I don't exactly know why it loosens you up," said Brady, whose 21-yard pass to DiAllo Johnson gave the Wolverines the lead for good with 2:25 left. "Sometimes you're out there and you're playing and you don't want to make a mistake. But once you make a mistake, you go, `Golly, I'm not too successful thinking that way.'"
There were plenty of mistakes by Michigan (10-3), which blew a 24-10 halftime lead and trailed 31-24 in the fourth quarter.
Still, the victory gave the 15th-ranked Wolverines a 10th victory, something that seemed impossible after Michigan opened the season 0-2.
"We wanted to finish the season strong after the disappointing start we had," coach Lloyd Carr said. "This team had a disadvantage in that they were always going to be compared to the  national championship team."
No. 11 Arkansas (9-3), on the other hand, exceeded expectations throughout the season and almost did it again Friday.
"We were two or three steps away from getting a win," said Zac Painter, who had an interception and forced a fumble. "They were a lot faster than we thought. They ran up the middle and made some great plays."
In the end, the passing Brady to Tai Streets and the rushing of Anthony Thomas, was too much for the Razorbacks.
Brady drove Michigan 80 yards for the tying score, which came on Thomas' third TD run, a 1-yarder with 5:45 to play. Brady kept the drive alive with a 15-yard completion to Streets on third-and-11 and the 8-yarder to Streets on fourth-and-2 to the Arkansas 38. Thomas carried on the next four plays.
Arkansas' Clint Stoerner was sacked on the ensuing possession, forcing a punt that Johnson returned 14 yards to the Arkansas 35 to set up the go-ahead scoring drive.
James Whitley put the game out of reach with 1:47 remaining, when he picked off Stoerner's pass and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.
"When you're at Michigan, you never give up," said linebacker Sam Sword, who had 11 tackles, including nine unassisted. "As long as there's time on the clock, you've got to believe in us."
Michigan squandered a 14-point halftime advantage.
Thomas fumbled at the end of a 15-yard gain when hit by Painter and David Barrett recovered at the Razorbacks 29. Arkansas moved 71 yards to the end zone, Stoerner's 36-yard pass to Rossi Morreale setting up Chrys Chukwuma's 2-yard run.
Brady, back to pass, had his arm hit by Quenton Caver and the ball sailed into the arms of Jeremy Flowers, who returned it 24 yards. Chukwuma's 1-yard touchdown run tied it 24-24 with 5:40 remaining in the third period.
Painter intercepted Brady's pass at the Michigan 35 and returned it to the 11, setting the stage for Stoerner's 9-yard scoring pass to Joe Davenport three minutes into the fourth quarter.
Thomas ran for 139 yards and Brady was 14-of-27 for 209 yards.
Stoerner was 17-of-42 for 232 yards with two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns. He also threw for two TDs.
"This loss is tough to swallow," Stoerner said. " We came out and they got us into a couple of situations that were tough to get out of. You could tell we hadn't played in a month. They deserve to win."
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