Game Summary - January 1, 2003
Wolverines, Perry make Florida pay for mistakes
Michigan 38, Florida 30
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- For all the problems Michigan tailback Chris Perry gave Florida on the field, nothing matched what Gators coach Ron Zook did to his own team.
Perry set a Wolverines bowl record with four touchdowns, and Zook made a number of questionable calls that helped Michigan (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today; No. 12 Associated Press) to a 38-30 victory over Florida (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today; No. 22 Associated Press) in the Outback Bowl on Wednesday.
Bulling through the middle and taking advantage of screen and swing passes galore, Perry accounted for 193 yards -- 85 rushing and 108 receiving.
"I wouldn't say it was my best game, but it was one of them," he said.
His last two touchdowns lifted the Wolverines (10-3) from a two-point deficit to a 35-23 lead in the third quarter, and from there, Michigan held on -- with plenty of help from Zook.
Playing in possibly his last game for the Gators (8-5), junior Rex Grossman threw for 323 yards and two scores.
But with the game on the line, the Heisman Trophy runner-up last season didn't have the ball in his hands. Instead, he was running a pass pattern.
With the Gators trailing 38-30 and moving downfield nicely with a minute left, Zook called for a trick play from the Michigan 27.
Freshman cornerback-turned-receiver Vernell Brown took the ball on a reverse and, under heavy pressure, lobbed a terrible pass downfield that was intercepted by Victor Hobson to seal the victory.
Grossman was the intended receiver, and Zook explained he would have been open because the Wolverines were in man coverage.
"I OK'd the play. I was on the headset," Zook said of the call that came from offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher.
"We brought it up early in the series," Zook said. ''I asked, 'Are you sure we want to do this?' We had worked on it. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it doesn't.'"
Grossman, who still hasn't decided whether he'll return for his senior season, said the play worked in practice all the time.
"It's a risky call," he said. "But you can get some good rewards, too. It can go both ways."
Hobson said he was shocked to see Brown, a high school quarterback who hadn't thrown a pass all season, making the key throw of the game. Meanwhile, Michigan quarterback John Navarre stood on the sideline in shock.
"I can't comment on coaching decisions because I'm not a coach," Navarre said. "You just never know how hose kind of plays are going to work out."
Of course, that play might have only masked another series of questionable calls by Zook.
After Earnest Graham's touchdown gave the Gators a 13-7 lead in the second quarter, Zook inexplicably called for a two-point conversion try out of an unbalanced set. It failed. Later, when the Gators scored a touchdown to go ahead 22-21, Zook went for one, not two because, he said, "it was too early."
Thus, the Gators found themselves behind by eight points late, instead of seven.
Grossman finished 21-for-41 and wasn't necessarily the best quarterback on the field. Navarre went 21-for-36 for 319 yards.
Nursing a 35-30 lead with five minutes left, Navarre hit Perry on a screen for a 30-yard gain to set up a field goal.
The Gators hit the five-loss mark for the first time since 1989, the year before Steve Spurrier took over the program and brought it to national prominence.
"This is not up to the standard that's been set around here," Zook said. "And it's not up to the standard we're going to have around here."
Perry, who has been swapped in and out with B.J. Askew as Michigan's feature back throughout his career, broke the Michigan bowl record of three touchdowns held by six players, most recently David Terrell in the 2000 Orange Bowl.
Perry finished with 1,110 yards this season. His career has been spotty -- filled with good games, signs of huge potential and the criticism that has come when he hasn't fulfilled it.
"When you're at Michigan, if you're the tailback or the quarterback, for some people, it's just never good enough," coach Lloyd Carr said. "But he's good enough for me."
Perry was hardly the only player to cause Florida problems.
Receiver Braylon Edwards caught four passes for 110 yards. Tight end Bennie Joppru had six catches for 80 yards. Askew, the team's most valuable player this season, played the entire game even though he broke his hand in the first quarter.
"He said, "Coach, I can't catch the ball, I can't run, but I can block,"" Carr said. "There's a story behind every player."