Perry scored on runs of four, one, seven and 12 yards.
Defensively, fifth-year senior co-captain Victor Hobson (Mt. Laurel, N.J./St. Joseph's Prep, Pa.) sealed the win for the Wolverines with his interception on Florida's final drive of the contest after the Gators had moved into Wolverine territory. Hobson tallied a career-best 12 tackles and two tackles for loss.
Florida's offense crossed midfield on its first three possessions of the game but the Wolverine defense kept the Gators outside of the red zone and forced punting situations. Starting at its 29-yard line, Michigan moved across midfield on runs by Chris Perry but the series stalled at Florida 48-yard line. Senior/junior Andy Mignery (Hamilton, Ohio/Hamilton HS) punted for the first time in his career, knocking a 46-yard punt that was downed at three-yard line by redshirt freshman safety Ernest Shazor (Detroit, Mich./M.L. King HS).
Michigan took advantage of the game's first turnover as Perry scored on a four-yard touchdown run. U-M gained possession at the Florida three-yard line as an errant shotgun snap intended for quarterback Rex Grossman was run down by junior defensive end Alain Kashama (Montreal, Quebec/Vieux Montreal HS) for his first career fumble recovery. The Gators gained two first downs following Mignery's punt, the first downed inside the five-yard line for the Wolverines all season.
Florida tied the score at seven apiece at the 14:32 mark of the second quarter on a two-yard TD run by tailback Ernest Graham. The big play on the Gators' three-play scoring drive was a 51-yard pass from Grossman to tailback Ran Carthon that ended shy of the end zone at Michigan's two-yard line.
The Gators scored on their second straight possession as Graham took the ball over from a yard out. The four-play drive following a partially blocked punt started inside Michigan territory at the 45-yard line. Graham started the series with a 33-yard run, Carthon added a five-yard carry and Grossman added a six-yard quarterback draw to set up a first-and-goal situation at the one-yard line. The Gators tried to catch the Wolverines off guard by attempting a two-point conversion but senior/junior defensive tackle Norman Heuer (Peoria, Ariz./Cactus HS) stopped the try short of the goal line to keep the score 13-7.
The Wolverines' offense gave their defense some much-needed rest and took a 14-13 lead as Perry leaped over the goal line on a fourth-down play from the one-yard line. The 12-play scoring drive covered 83 yards in 5:41 and was balanced with seven rushing plays and five passing plays. Perry started the drive with 16 yards on a screen pass and capped it with his second touchdown of the game. Navarre completed four-of-five passes for 64 yards. Bellamy gave Michigan a first-and-goal situation at UF's five-yard line with a 14-yard run on a trick play from a muddle huddle.
The Gators regained the lead, 16-14, with 1:37 left in the first half as placekicker Matt Leach connected on a 29-yard field goal. Florida moved 43 yards in eight plays and took 1:37. Grossman completed three passes to wide receiver Taylor Jacobs for 38 yards on the drive and Graham added two carries for five yards.
Michigan responded to take a 21-16 halftime advantage as Navarre completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to Bellamy with 27 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The Wolverines received two big plays on the drive, a 31-yard screen pass from Navarre to Perry and a 43-yard pass to Joppru to the Gators' eight-yard line. The six-play scoring drive covered 80 yards in 70 seconds.
Florida scored on its opening possession of the third quarter to gain a 23-21 lead. Grossman completed a 33-yard touchdown pass on a slant to Keiwan Ratliff, capping the Gators' six-play scoring drive that covered 80 yards in 1:37. Grossman kept the drive alive with a 22-yard pass to Jacobs on third down.
The Wolverines answered the Gators' touchdown and regained the lead, 28-23, on a seven-yard touchdown run by Perry. U-M's six-play scoring drive covered 80 yards in 2:43, with Perry carrying twice for 16 yards and catching a five-yard screen pass from Navarre. The key play that provided the Wolverines with possession inside UF territory was a 49-yard pass from Navarre to Braylon Edwards.
Michigan extended its lead to 35-23 as Perry set a Michigan bowl record with his fourth touchdown of the game, a 12-yard run through the middle of the defense. Perry carried twice for 14 yards on the three-play scoring drive, with Navarre and Edwards hooking up on a 17-yard pass play.
Florida trimmed the deficit to 35-30 with 8:21 remaining as Grossman fired a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Aaron Walker. Starting at their 12-yard line, the Gators put together an 11-play scoring drive that spanned 2:39 behind the passing of Grossman. The junior completed four passes for 67 yards on the drive and added a nine-yard first-down rush to account for 76 of the 88 yards on the drive.
The Gators got the ball at its 42-yard line but were unable to gain a first down as Hobson sacked Grossman on third down to force a punting situation.
Michigan got the ball back its 34-yard line and proceeded to put the game away. Navarre completed a 33-yard screen pass to Perry to move inside Florida territory. The drive stalled at the Gators' 16-yard line and junior/sophomore kicker Adam Finley (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove HS) connected on a 33-yard field goal to extend the lead to 38-30 with 2:20 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Gators then attempted to mount one final drive to potentially tie the game. After gaining one first down on a Graham run, Grossman then scrambled out of bounds on second down for a gain of six yards, and U-M was penalized 15 yards for a late hit that pushed the ball to the Wolverine 37-yard line. Florida then tried a little trickery on a wide receiver reverse pass, but he was pressured heavily and threw up a desperation pass to avoid being sacked for a huge loss. That pass was intercepted by Hobson and returned 42 yards to put an end to any Gator hopes of a comeback.
The Wolverines, who completed the 2002 season with their 18th bowl victory, will kick off their 124th year of football against Central Michigan on Aug. 30, 2003, at Michigan Stadium.
Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423