ORLANDO, Fla. -- The No. 17-ranked University of Michigan football team won its fourth straight bowl game with a 31-28 victory over No. 20 Auburn in the 2001 Capital One Florida Citrus Bowl played on New Year's Day. The Big Ten Conference co-champion Wolverines finished the year with a 9-3 record and completed a stretch of bowl wins in four consecutive seasons, a first in school history.
Junior quarterback Drew Henson (Brighton, Mich./Brighton HS) helped pace the offense, completing 15-of-20 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns. Junior receivers David Terrell (Richmond, Va./Huguenot HS) and Marquise Walker (Syracuse, N.Y./Henniger HS) both gained 100 receiving yards. Terrell caught four passes for 136 yards and one touchdown, while Walker made four receptions for 100 yards.
Junior inside linebacker Eric Brackins (Pigeon Forge, Tenn./Gatlinburg-Pittman HS) made a team-high 13 tackles, with senior free safety DeWayne Patmon (San Diego, Calif./Patrick Henry HS) and junior inside linebacker Larry Foote (Detroit, Mich./Pershing HS) adding eight stops each. Senior co-captain and defensive lineman Eric Wilson (Monroe, Mich./Monroe HS) was named the Michigan Defensive MVP by the attending media after making four tackles, four TFLs and one sack.
Both teams were unable to score on their opening series, but the Wolverines opened the scoring with 6:27 remaining in the first quarter. Terrell caught a 31-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone on a flea-flicker after Thomas tossed the ball back to Henson. Michigan's five-play scoring drive that covered 76 yards in 70 seconds was aided by 25-yard screen pass and a 20-yard run by Thomas.
Auburn evened the score early in the second quarter on a 19-yard pass from quarterback Ben Leard to wide receiver Ronney Daniels. Leard completed 7-of-8 passes for 63 yards on the drive, including the final three plays to Daniels (34 yards on three pass plays). Tailback Rudi Johnson added 24 rushing yards on five carries during the Tigers' 80-yard scoring drive took that consumed 7:10 in 16 plays.
Auburn scored on its second straight series, a five-play and 52-yard drive, as Leard hooked up with receiver Clifton Robinson for a 20-yard scoring pass after starting the drive with a 32-yard pass play. The Tigers received excellent field position at their 48-yard line after a 19-yard punt return by Robinson.
Michigan responded with a nine-play scoring drive that was capped by a 4-yard pass from Henson to fullback B.J. Askew (Cincinnati, Ohio/Colerain HS). The Wolverines started the drive with a 23-yard screen pass from Henson to Askew. Thomas gained 37 rushing yards on five carries and sophomore wide receiver Ronald Bellamy (New Orleans, La./Archbishop Shaw HS) gained 16 yards on a pair of 8-yard reverses.
The Wolverines defense held on the ensuing series and forced a Tigers punt. Bellamy was unable to handle the punt and Auburn recovered the ball at Michigan's 32-yard line. Two plays into the drive junior/sophomore strong safety Julius Curry (Detroit, Mich./Bishop Gallagher HS) stepped in front of a Leard pass and returned the interception 39 yards to the Auburn 46-yard line.
The Wolverines grabbed a 21-14 lead with 54 seconds left in the first half as Thomas took a sweep 11 yards into the end zone. On the scoring run, Thomas became Michigan's all-time leading rusher and broke the modern era records for rushing touchdowns (55) and overall scoring (330). Thomas ran four times for 26 yards on the six-play drive, and Henson completed a 21-yard pass on third-and-10 to Terrell.
After holding Michigan on the opening possession of the third quarter, Auburn moved into Wolverine territory but was stopped at the 32-yard line. The Tigers went for it on fourth-and-two at the 32, but Curry deflected Leard's pass attempt and Patmon made a diving interception.
Taking over its 33-yard line, Michigan moved down the field in five plays to take a 28-14 lead. Thomas scored his second rushing touchdown of the game on a 25-yard run up the middle. After a two-yard loss on a pass play and a six-yard run by Thomas, Henson completed a critical 32-yard pass to Terrell on third-and-six from the U-M 37-yard line that kept the drive going. Thomas rushed for six yards prior to scoring play.
Auburn trimmed the Michigan lead to 28-21 as Johnson scored on a 12-yard run. The five-play, 65-yard scoring drive was keyed by a 47-yard pass from Leard to Daniels and an 11-yard run by Johnson.
The Wolverines built a 31-21 advantage with 1:35 remaining in the third quarter as junior placekicker/punter Hayden Epstein (Cardiff, Calif./Torrey Pines HS) connected on a 41-yard field goal. Thomas gained six yards (three twice) and Henson completed a 52-yard pass to Terrell down to the Auburn 14-yard line. The drive stalled after a 10-yard penalty and Michigan was forced to attempt the field goal.
Auburn moved inside scoring territory on two consecutive series but came away empty on both drives. The first drive ended as redshirt freshman rush linebacker Shantee Orr (Detroit, Mich./Denby HS) partially tipped a 40-yard field goal attempt by placekicker Damon Duval. Redshirt freshman cornerback Jeremy LeSueur (Holly Springs, Miss./Holly Springs HS) came untouched on a blitz and stripped quarterback Leard, with junior/sophomore Shawn Lazarus (Canal Fulton, Ohio/Northwest HS) falling on the ball at the 27-yard line.
The Tigers trimmed the deficit to 31-28 with 2:26 remaining as Leard tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to receiver Deandre Green. The six-play scoring drive covered 89 yards in 1:27.
Michigan's Bellamy recovered the onside kick with 2:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. Henson gained a first down on a 9-yard quarterback draw after Thomas gained one yard on first down. The Wolverines then ran the ball with Thomas on the final plays of the game to secure their fourth consecutive bowl victory.
Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423