Once again, Tyrone Wheatley placed the team before himself.
If the junior running back played his last game for Michigan on Saturday, he went out in style with two touchdowns and 124 yards in a 42-7 rout of North Carolina State in the Hall of Fame Bowl.In helping the 23rd-ranked Wolverines (8-4) close strong with their fourth straight win, Wheatley scored on runs of 26 and 18 yards. He has until Jan. 10 to decide if he'll skip his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft.
Earlier in the week, the 226-pound tailback said he hadn't made up his mind. On Saturday, he didn't answer questions about his future, preferring to focus on Michigan's strong finish after a 4-4 start.
"The seniors and the captains gathered everybody up and said, `Hey, we have to play."'
Wheatley was far from a one-man show against N.C. State as the Wolverines defense forced the Wolfpack (7-5) into six turnovers before a crowd of 52,649 at Tampa Stadium.
Clarence Thompson ran back one of Michigan's four interceptions 43 yards for a third-quarter touchdown, while Derrick Alexander returned a punt 79 yards for a second-quarter score and Todd Collins hit Amani Toomer with a 31-yard TD pass.
Michigan outscored its last four opponents 153-24, including a 28-0 win over Ohio State. North Carolina State was looking to rebound from a 62-3 loss to Florida State in its last game.
"We'll try to remember all the good things that happened this season," said N.C. State coach Mike O'Cain, "but the back-to-back losses will stay with me for a long time."
Michigan took control after a scoreless first quarter in which N.C. State had the ball for more than 11 minutes in a light rain.
The Wolfpack got a break on their first possession when a holding penalty wiped out a blocked punt that Michigan's Ron Buff recovered at the N.C. State 5-yard line.
The mistake cost the Wolverines a scoring chance, but their superior size and strength began to take its toll on the smaller Wolfpack in the second quarter.
Wheatley carried six times for 66 yards on the nine-play, 80-yard drive he finished with his 26-yard run around right end for a 7-0 lead four minutes into the second quarter.
For his contribution, Wheatley was named the game's most valuable player. He carried 18 times before leaving after his 18-yard TD run midway through the third period.