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College Football | OUTBACK BOWL

Zook's Risks Reward Michigan

January 02, 2003|From Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — For all the problems Michigan tailback Chris Perry gave Florida on the field, nothing matched what Gator Coach Ron Zook did to his own team.

Perry set a Wolverine bowl record with four touchdowns, and Zook made a number of questionable calls that helped lift No. 12 Michigan to a 38-30 victory over No. 22 Florida on Wednesday in the Outback Bowl.

Bulling through the middle and taking advantage of screen and swing passes galore, Perry accounted for 193 yards -- 85 rushing and 108 receiving.

"I wouldn't say it was my best game, but it was one of them," he said.

His last two touchdowns lifted the Wolverines (10-3) from a two-point deficit to a 35-23 lead in the third quarter, and from there, Michigan held on -- with plenty of help from Zook.

Playing in possibly his last game for the Gators (8-5), junior Rex Grossman threw for 323 yards and two scores.

But with the game on the line, last year's Heisman Trophy runner-up didn't have the ball in his hands. Instead, he was running a pass pattern. With the Gators trailing, 38-30, and moving downfield nicely with a minute left, Zook called for a trick play from the Michigan 27-yard line.

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 end Florida's last threat.

Grossman was the intended receiver, and Zook explained the quarterback was expected to be open because the Wolverines were in man-to-man coverage.

"I OKd the play. I was on the headset," Zook said of the call that came from offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher.

"We brought it up early in the series," Zook said. "I asked, 'Are you sure we want to do this?' We had worked on it. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it doesn't."

Grossman, who still hasn't decided whether he'll return for his senior season, said the play has regularly worked in practice. "It's a risky call," he said. "But you can get some good rewards too. It can go both ways."

Hobson said he was shocked to see Brown, a high school quarterback who hadn't thrown a pass all season, making the key throw of the game. Michigan quarterback John Navarre stood on the sideline in shock.

"I can't comment on coaching decisions because I'm not a coach," Navarre said. "You just never know how those kind of plays are going to work out."

That play may have merely masked another series of questionable calls by Zook.

After Earnest Graham's touchdown gave the Gators a 13-7 lead in the second quarter, Zook called for a two-point conversion try out of an unbalanced set. It failed. Later, when the Gators scored a touchdown to go ahead, 22-21, Zook went for one-point conversion, not two, because, he said, "It was too early."

Thus, the Gators found themselves behind by eight points rather than seven. Grossman completed 21 of 41 passes. Navarre completed 21 of 36 for 319 yards.

Perry broke the Michigan bowl record of three touchdowns held by six players, most recently David Terrell in the 2000 Orange Bowl.

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