Pfeeling for Pflugner
Michigan sympathizes with Alabama kicker, too
Posted: Sunday January 02, 2000 06:27 PM
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr congratulates quarterback Tom Brady after the Wolverines' Orange Bowl victory. AP
MIAMI (AP) -- Even the winning coach, whose team dominated the second half of the Orange Bowl, left the field with mixed emotions.
Michigan's Lloyd Carr was happy his team won, yet empathized with the way Alabama felt losing 35-34 on Ryan Pflugner's missed extra point in overtime.
"Everybody wants to see a winner, but somebody lost, too," Carr said Sunday. "I thought we deserved to win. We dominated statistically in the fourth quarter. But I would have much rather won another way."
Carr has never been a proponent of overtime. He's even less of one after winning Saturday night when Pflugner's kick sailed wide right, setting off a wild celebration among Michigan players and fans at Pro Player Stadium.
The Alabama kicker dropped to one knee, his head bowed while teammates streamed onto the field to help him stand and walk to the sideline. The Crimson Tide blocked a 36-yard field goal by Michigan's Hayden Epstein on the last play of regulation, and Carr said it would have been fitting if the game ended then.
"You talk about tradition in college football ... Yes, I thought we deserved to win -- in regulation," the coach said, noting the Wolverines also lost a fourth-quarter fumble on first-and-goal from the Alabama 1. "To have a game decided on a missed extra point, I feel bad for that kid."
For Pflugner, who made 21 of 25 extra points despite being slowed this season by a pulled groin muscle that kept him out of three games, it was an ugly end to his career with the Crimson Tide.
"Everyone is going to blame me," the senior said. "I missed the last kick. It came down to an extra point I should have made. But it's a team game. Everyone probably could have done something to make it better."
Alabama (10-3) beat Florida during the regular season under similar circumstances, when the Gators missed an extra point on the final play of overtime.
Michigan (10-2), meanwhile, was in the Orange Bowl in part because of its success in close games. The Wolverines won six games by a touchdown or less, so it didn't faze them when they fell behind by 14 twice against Alabama.
"I can't even put it into words," Michigan safety Cato June said. "All year came down to the end and tonight it came down to overtime ... How many times do you miss an extra point in overtime with the game on the line."
Shaun Alexander, the Southeastern Conference player of the year, ran for 161 yards and three touchdowns in his last game for Alabama. He was among the players who consoled Pflugner coming off the field.
"I just wanted to let him know I love him and I felt for him a lot," Alexander said. "That would be like me fumbling on the last play of the game."
Tom Brady's fourth touchdown pass, a 25-yarder to Shawn Thompson on the first play of overtime, snapped a 28-28 tie. Andrew Zow threw 21 yards to Antonio Carter to keep Alabama in the game before Pflugner pushed the extra point barely to the right of the right upright.
"I knew I hit it good, but I didn't know [it missed] until I looked up ... If it falls on my shoulders, so be it," the kicker said. "It was just a game."
Brady finished 34-of-46 for 369 yards, including 10 completions for 150 yards to David Terrell, who scored three touchdowns after Carr decided Michigan would not be able to run the ball on a defense the coach described as the fastest in the nation.
"If there's a faster team, I don't want to play them," Carr said.
"I don't ever remember getting out of a game plan that early," he added of the decision to unleash Brady after Alexander scored twice to put Alabama up 14-0 in the second quarter.
"There was nothing I saw out there that gave me any confidence that we were going to be able to run the ball the way we thought we could."
The disappointing finish didn't dampen Alabama's enthusiasm for what the Crimson Tide accomplished during a season that began with coach Mike DuBose embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal and ended with talk of a promising future.
Next year's national title game will be played at Pro Player Stadium, and the SEC champions figure to start the 2000 season with lofty expectations.
"I think we showed the nation that Alabama is back," Zow said. "We'll be back here next year."
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