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From sideline, Woodson sees "pretty good' team

The question Michigan has faced all season: Did the departure of Heisman Trophy winning cornerback and wideout Charles Woodson, now an Oakland Raider, take the fire out of the defending national champion?

Woodson, watching his former team from the sideline Friday afternoon, said he didn't believe it.

"They're still a good team," Woodson said. "They play hard. They just had a rough start is all. But they played pretty good today."

Even before Michigan had wrapped up the game, Woodson was the star attraction on the sideline. He submitted to the obligatory ABC interview, and tried to ignore fans who constantly called his name as he watched Michigan drive for the go-ahead score.

After the game, he was swarmed for autographs and by fans who wanted to pose for a picture with him. His best moment came as he climbed the conductor's ladder in front of the Michigan marching band and led it and a few thousand maize-and-blue-clad fans in a rendition of the famous Michigan fight song, The Victors.

SENIORS RULE: When Arkansas coach Houston Nutt took the job, he met with the team's 16 seniors, who told him in no uncertain terms that they weren't ready to endure a "rebuilding" process in their last season.

Without them, Nutt said, the surprisingly successful 9-3 season after two frustrating 4-7 seasons would never have happened.

"Our seniors have done so much for our football team," Nutt said. "They have done a great job of leading. I tell you all week long, they led the way, they showed us how to practice, they showed us how to lead, they showed us character, and that's why we were playing a team like Michigan."

GLAD TO BE HERE: After failed stints at quarterback and defensive back, DiAllo Johnson was about to give up on being a Wolverine and transfer.

But coach Lloyd Carr asked Johnson to give wide receiver a shot. The junior caught nine passes for 155 yards, 17.2 yards a catch.

It wasn't until Friday, though, that the move paid off, when he caught the winning 21-yard pass from Tom Brady.

"It's one of the things that makes coaching so much fun and rewarding," Carr said. "It was great to see a kid like that make a big play in a big game."

Said Johnson: "It felt great."

SIGN OF THE TIMES: From a sign held up in the stands by a Michigan fan: Impeach Arkansas.

_ JAMAL THALJI

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