Outback Bowl: Michigan 38, Florida 30

TAMPA, Fla., Jan. 1 (UPI) -- Chris Perry rushed for an Outback Bowl record four touchdowns Wednesday and John Navarre passed for a career-high 319 yards and a score as No. 11 Michigan defeated 20th-ranked Florida, 38-30.

"We gave everybody a preview of what to expect for next year," said Perry, who, like Navarre, will be a senior next season.


Perry's third touchdown gave Michigan the lead for good at 28-23 with 7:48 left in the third quarter. After the Wolverines stopped the Gators three-and-out inside the five on the ensuing possession, Perry gave Michigan a 12-point advantage with a 13-yard run up the middle with 6:07 remaining in the period.

"Chris Perry has had an outstanding season," said Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr, whose running back and quarterback came in for criticism during the season by Wolverine fans. "I don't care where you're at at Michigan, if you're a tailback or quarterback, for some people you're just never good enough.

"But Chris Perry is good enough for me. He's good enough for our team. When you gain over 1,000 yards in (the Big Ten Conference), and against the schedule we play, you're a darn good back."


Florida quarterback Rex Grossman, a junior who perhaps was playing in his final collegiate game, rallied his team in the fourth quarter. Grossman brought Florida within 35-30 on a three-yard pass to Aaron Walker with 8:21 left.

After Adam Finley gave the Wolverines an eight-point lead on a 33-yard field goal with 2:20 remaining, Grossman had a final shot to tie the game.

Wolverines linebacker Victor Hobson, who had a career-best 12 tackles and one sack, was penalized for a late hit on Grossman out of bounds with 1:15 to play, giving the Gators the ball at the Michigan 37.

"Even had things gone badly for us after Victor's penalty, that penalty was not a dumb penalty," Carr said. "It was an aggressive penalty."

But two plays later, receiver Vernell Brown, a quarterback in high school, threw an ill-advised floater while avoiding a sack on a reverse and Hobson redeemed his blunder by intercepting the ball. The Wolverines ran out the clock.

"We had been getting nearly all man coverage that whole series and Rex was going to be open," Gators Coach Ron Zook said. "When you're in man coverage you don't account for the quarterback and at that point in time I felt like it was a good opportunity to do it."


"I was kind of upset with myself after that hit," Hobson said. "When I made the hit I saw a lot of white, which I knew (meant) he was out of bounds. I just wanted to come back and do whatever I could to help the team win. I came up with the interception and I can't really explain how I felt after that."

Perry, who was named the game's Most Valuable Player, rushed 28 times for 85 yards and caught a career-high six passes for 108 for Michigan (10-3), which won 10 games in a season for the fourth time under Carr. The Wolverines improved to 4-1 against Southeastern Conference bowl opponents under Carr, all in the last five years.

Braylon Edwards caught four passes for 110 yards -- his fourth game this season with at least 100 -- and Bennie Joppru had six receptions for 80 yards. Navarre spread the wealth, completing passes to 14 different receivers.

Grossman was 21 of 41 for 323 yards.

Florida (8-5) capped a disappointing first season under Zook. The Gators failed to become the only team in the nation to win at least nine games every season since 1990. Nebraska had won nine games 33 straight seasons until going 7-7 this campaign.


"I really haven't made up my mind yet," Grossman said about whether he will return for his senior season. "I'm going to talk to my parents but I really have no idea what I'm going to do."

"He's one of the best, a great quarterback," Michigan safety Cato June said. "He does it all well -- runs, throws, thinks. (But) he had some trouble running from our defensive line today and our line did a great job containing him."

Zook made several questionable decisions, including electing to go for a two-point conversion early in the second quarter after Florida took its first lead, 13-7, on a one-yard run by Earnest Graham, who finished with 120 yards and two touchdowns.

The direct snap on the conversion attempt went to Ran Carthon was stuffed by the Wolverines. Michigan then took a 14-13 lead on Perry's second score, a one-yard dive on fourth down with 3:54 left in the quarter.

"If everything goes as it should, you've got two points," Zook said. "It was there in the beginning and we took too long to get the ball off."

After Florida regained the lead on a 29-yard field goal by Matt Leach with 1:37 to go, the Wolverines went back ahead, 21-16, on an eight-yard pass from Navarre to Ronald Bellamy with 27 seconds remaining in the half.


The Gators took their last lead, 23-21, on a 33-yard pass from Grossman to Keiwan Ratliff 4:29 into the third quarter.

Michigan improved to 18-16 all time in bowl games while Florida fell to 14-16.

Florida dominated Michigan on the ground, 183 yards to 104, but fell to 98-4 since 1990 when outrushing its opponent.

The teams combined for an Outback Bowl-record 929 yards with Florida gaining 506 and Michigan 423.

"I told our seniors that I felt bad for them," Zook said. "It's a tough way to go out. To the younger guys, I hope it hurts them as much as it does me. But we played a good football team, there's no question. This is as good a football team as there is in the country. They easily could have beaten Ohio State and Notre Dame. They could have easily been 11-1."

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