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Friday, August 01, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 1/3/2004

Big shoes to fill next season at Michigan

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

PASADENA, Calif. - Quarterback John Navarre has thrown his final pass for Michigan and tailback Chris Perry has logged his final carry.

Offensive tackle Tony Pape won t be throwing any more blocks and cornerback Jeremy LeSueur won t be making any more tackles.

On top of that, junior receiver Braylon Edwards is considering skipping his senior year to enter the NFL draft, and junior safety Marlin Jackson also may explore that option.

Stay tuned. It could be an interesting off-season in Ann Arbor, where coach Lloyd Carr will have plenty of big shoes to fill on both side of the ball.

No. 4 Michigan wrapped its season Thursday with a 28-14 loss to No. 1 Southern California in the Rose Bowl.

“It s hard to believe my career is over already,” said Navarre, a fifth-year senior. “It seems like I just got to Michigan yesterday.”

Navarre departs with a 1-2 record in bowl starts and most of the school s career passing records.

He ended his record-setting career on his back, getting sacked on his final two snaps, by a USC team that is 12-1 and likely to earn a share of its ninth national championship when the final Associated Press media poll is released late tomorrow night after the Sugar Bowl.

He passed for 271 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but was sacked nine times and lost three fumbles as the Wolverines had their six-game winning streak halted by USC, which has won 20 of its last 21 games.

“Navarre really took some shots, but he continued to fight,” Carr said. “My biggest fear coming in was that USC was extremely quick with their front four. The guys up front really did a number on us.”

Perry finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting, won the Doak Walker Award as the nation s top running back and was just the second Michigan player to surpass 2,000 all-purpose yards in a season this season.

He carried the ball 23 times for 85 yards against the Trojans - nearly 50 yards below his average - and scored on a two-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

“I am a little disappointed we weren t able to run the ball better, knowing this is my last game,” Perry said. “On the other hand, I am happy we won the Big Ten championship and that we got here and the seniors were able to play in the Rose Bowl.”

“I am not going to let this one game damper my whole career and what it took us to get here.”

Michigan s heralded offensive line, which includes first-team All-Big Ten selections Pape and guard Davis Baas, and senior center Dave Pearson, had allowed just 15 sacks all season. But the Wolverines couldn t prevent USC s defense from harassing Navarre from nearly every conceivable angle.

“They kept us on our heels the whole game and they kept us second-guessing,” Pape said. “They changed it up a lot on a lot of plays. They had great speed around the edge.”

USC All-America defensive end Kenechi Udeze sacked Navarre three times and cornerback Will Poole knocked him down twice on corner blitzes.

“We overwhelmed them with our speed,” USC defensive tackle Shaun Cody said. “Coach [Pete] Carroll threw everything out of the bag. He was not going to hold back in the last game of the year for a national championship.”

Michigan s two touchdown drives took a total of 27 plays and consumed 10:52 on the clock. But the Wolverines defense was no match for the Trojans quick-strike offense, led by sophomore quarterback Matt Leinart, who was named player of the game after passing for 327 yards and accounting for all four touchdowns, including three passing and one receiving.

The Trojans four scoring drives required 37 seconds, 52 seconds, 1:15 and 2:05 for a total of 4:49.

“I want to first of all congratulate Southern Cal,” Carr said. “They played a great football game. They did everything they wanted to do. I m sure coach Carroll and that football team will get a share of the national championship, and they deserve it.

“We knew coming in we had to play our best game, and we didn t do that.”

Michigan, which ranked seventh nationally in total defense and sixth in pass defense, loses three of its four starting defensive linemen - tackles Grant Bowman and Norman Heuer and end Larry Stevens, plus LeSueur and linebacker Carl Diggs.

“It s disappointing we lost our last game,” Bowman said. “This is not the ending us seniors had in mind.”



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