Sept 13, 2003
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Football Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Even Notre Dame couldn’t provide a tough test for Chris Perry and Michigan.
Perry ran for three touchdowns and caught another as the fifth-ranked Wolverines dominated both lines and posted the most lopsided win in their storied rivalry with Notre Dame, 38-0 Saturday.
After blowout wins to open the season against Central Michigan and Houston, the 15th-ranked Irish (1-1) were supposed to challenge Michigan.
But with Tony Pape and the offensive line clearing huge holes for Perry, and Larry Stevens, Gabe Watson and Pierre Woods wrecking havoc in Notre Dame’s backfield, this turned into a blowout of historic proportions.
In a rivalry known for its nailbiters – nine of the last 11 meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer – Michigan posted the first shutout in the series since its 23-0 win in 1902.
The biggest margin of victory in the previous 30 meetings between the two winningest teams in college football history was 23.
After a fumble on its opening drive, Michigan controlled every aspect of the game. The Wolverines, who are 3-0 for the first time since 1999, have outscored their opponents 133-10 this season.
Perry has been a major reason for the success. He hurdled defenders, broke tackles and made a one-handed grab on his way to gaining 177 total yards.
He caught four passes for 44 yards from John Navarre and ran 31 times for 133 more, giving him 549 yards rushing through three games.
Perry wasn’t the only star for Michigan, which gained 440 yards. Steve Breaston set up the Wolverines with electrifying punt returns, Navarre went 14-for-21 for 199 yards and the offensive line received a standing ovation when it was replaced en masse with just over five minutes left.
Tyrone Willingham’s West Coast offense sputtered once again against an aggressive Wolverines defense, generating only 140 yards and not making it inside Michigan’s 35 all game.
Other than a 20-point fourth quarter against Washington State last week, Notre Dame’s offense hasn’t scored a touchdown in its past four games dating to last season.
Carlye Holiday went 5-for-14 for 55 yards with one interception, missing receivers by huge amounts before being replaced by freshman Brady Quinn.
Many fans in the NCAA-record crowd of 111,726 started chanting, “Houston’s better! Houston’s better!” in the fourth quarter.
It was Notre Dame’s worst loss since a 58-7 beating by Miami in 1985 and the worst shutout since a 40-0 game against Oklahoma in 1956.
Michigan’s dominance was at its clearest during a 19-play, 80-yard drive that consumed a school-record 10:25, capped by Perry’s 1-yard run – his eighth touchdown of the season – early in the fourth quarter.
After Navarre’s fumble on the third play from scrimmage, Notre Dame gained only 1 yard from Michigan’s 38 before punting.
After Notre Dame’s next three-and-out, Breaston fielded Nicholas Setta’s 50-yard boot and burst up the middle and cut toward the sideline for a 55-yard return to the Irish 2. Perry scored on the next play to make it 7-0.
A 25-yard return by Breaston and Navarre’s 21-yard pass to Carl Tabb set up Adam Finley’s 24-yard field goal on the next drive to make it 10-0.
Holiday then threw an interception to Markus Curry and the Wolverines drove 81 yards for another touchdown.
Navarre completed consecutive 31-yard passes to Braylon Edwards, who caught his own tip, and Jason Avant, before finding Perry for a 5-yard score that made it 17-0 early in the second quarter.
Navarre became Michigan’s career leader in yards passing with 6,503, breaking the mark of 6,460 set by Elvis Grbac.