INSIDE MICHIGAN

Perry leads the way for UM


Michigan running back Chris Perry looks for a hole in the Gator defense Wednesday. Perry and the Wolverines rained down big play after big play on John Thompson's defense.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 2:54 a.m.
TAMPA - There was a point early Wednesday when Michigan coach Lloyd Carr was ready to let his gameplan bake in the warm January sun at Raymond James Stadium. Maybe he would just let it dissolve.
His starting fullback, B.J. Askew, had broken his hand in the first quarter. Meanwhile, tailback Chris Perry wasn't gaining much on the ground.
"I was ready to abandon ship on the running game," Carr said.
But he didn't. Instead he put the ball in Perry's hands, and it turned into a memorable afternoon for the junior from Advance, N.C.
Perry earned the game's MVP honor as he sparked Michigan's most explosive offensive showing of the season with an Outback Bowl-record four rushing touchdowns.
But never, Perry said, was he afraid his team would stop running the ball.
"I think he was being facetious when he said he was going to abandoned the run," Perry said of his coach.
There was no exaggeration about Perry's MVP performance Wednesday. He rushed for 85 yards on 28 carries and caught six passes for 108 yards, reeling off chunks of yardage on screen passes. His most significant came with five minutes left in the game when he caught a screen and rambled 30 yards to set up Michigan's final field goal with 2:20 left.
"We worked hard on that all week and it showed," quarterback John Navarre said. "That was something we put an emphasis on."
What impressed Navarre even more, though, was how Perry was able to finish off several of his touchdown runs. Perry's touchdown runs were from 4, 1, 7, and 12 yards. His 1-yard plunge in the second quarter came on a second effort. His 12-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter came after he busted through several would-be Florida tacklers.
"He finished some runs," Navarre said. "There wasn't always holes, but he found the end zone."
Despite breaking his hand, Askew remained in the game and even carried twice for nine yards. Still, the burden to carry the Wolverines rested solely on Perry.
"When I knew he had a broken hand," Perry said, "I knew I had to step up my play."
Perry came into Wednesday's game as the Wolverines' leading rusher with 1,063 yards while Askew, a senior, had gained 567 yards.
After Wednesday's performance, Perry has set himself up for a much anticipated senior campaign.
"Sometimes at Michigan, you're never good enough, but Chris Perry is good enough for me," Carr said. "He's had a great year. He's gained over 1,000 yards and if you can do that against the schedule we play, you're a damn good back."
You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or by e-mail at zimmerb@gvillesun.com

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