Gators drop Outback Bowl 38-30
Published: Wednesday, January 1, 2003 at 2:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 1, 2003 at 3:00 p.m.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Chris Perry set a Michigan bowl record with four touchdowns, and Florida coach Ron Zook made a series of questionable calls Wednesday that helped the Wolverines defeat the Gators 38-30 in the Outback Bowl.
Perry became the first player in No. 12 Michigan's storied history to score four times in a bowl game. The junior tailback also accounted for 193 yards _ 85 rushing and 108 receiving.
His last two touchdowns lifted the Wolverines (10-3) from a two-point deficit to a 35-23 lead in the third quarter, then Michigan held on _ with plenty of help from Zook.
Playing in possibly his last game for No. 22 Florida (8-5), junior Rex Grossman threw for 323 yards and two scores. But the quarterback didn't get a chance to decide this game.
With the Gators trailing 38-30 but 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.
Of course, it may have only masked another questionable call by Zook. After Earnest Graham's touchdown gave the Gators a 13-7 lead in the second quarter, Zook inexplicably called for a 2-point conversion try out of an unbalanced set. It failed, and was the reason the late deficit was eight points, instead of seven.
Harassed by Michigan's constant rush, Grossman finished 21-for-41 and wasn't necessarily the best quarterback on the field. John Navarre of Michigan went 21-for-36 for 319 yards.
Nursing a 35-30 lead with five minutes left, Navarre hit Perry 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.
Athletic director Jeremy Foley surprisingly hired Zook when Spurrier left after last season for the Washington Redskins.
After Perry scored to put the Wolverines ahead 28-23, Zook called for a fake reverse on the kickoff return, fooling nobody. Keiwan Ratliff was tackled at the 7-yard line, and after Michigan's defense held, the Wolverines only needed to drive 31 yards for the insurance touchdown _ Perry's fourth score of the day.
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.
He 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.
Owners of the seventh-ranked offense in the Big Ten this season, the Wolverines gained 424 yards on Florida _ all in front of newly hired defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who paced the sidelines alongside outgoing John Thompson and saw firsthand the holes that need to be filled before next year.
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