Friday, December 13, 2002
Michigan 31, Auburn 28
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Anthony Thomas became Michigan's leading career rusher, then he kept going.
Thomas ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns and Drew Henson passed for two TDs as the Wolverines (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) held on for a 31-28 victory over No. 20 Auburn on Monday in the Citrus Bowl.
Michigan quarterback Drew Henson is sacked by Auburn's Rob Pate early in the Wolverines 31-28 win.
Henson was 15-of-20 for 294 yards for Michigan (9-3), which has won bowls in four straight years for the first time. The Wolverines were seven points away from an undefeated season and played their last game with the Big Three of Thomas, Henson and All-America receiver David Terrell.
The anticipated duel between Thomas and Auburn's Rudi Johnson instead became a showdown with Tigers quarterback Ben Leard.
Down 31-21, Auburn (9-4) stayed alive when Leard hit a leaping Deandre Green with a 21-yard touchdown pass with 2:26 left. Leard was 5-of-5 for 77 yards on the drive, which covered 89 yards in six plays and 87 seconds.
Michigan's Ronald Bellamy then recovered the onside kick and the Wolverines ran out the clock.
Thomas, who carried 32 times, was named Citrus Bowl MVP for the second time.
Leard was 28-of-37 for a season-high 394 yards and three TDs, both Auburn bowl records. He also threw two interceptions.
Johnson, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, was limited to 85 yards on 25 carries with a 12-yard TD.
Terrell, who is considering skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft, had four catches for 136 yards and a TD.
Michigan's offense racked up 456 yards against the SEC's top defense, but the defense and special teams came up big in the fourth quarter.
First, Shantee Orr got a hand on Damon Duval's 40-yard field goal try early in the fourth quarter.
Auburn marched to the Michigan 18 on its next series before committing its third turnover.
Jeremy LeSeur burst unblocked into the Auburn backfield on a corner blitz, jarring the ball loose from Leard.
Shawn Lazarus recovered, but the Wolverines went three-and-out.
Orr blocked a 40-yard field goal attempt early in fourth quarter, ending Duval's string of 11 straight.
Thomas's 11-yard TD late in the second quarter gave the Wolverines a 21-14 halftime lead and took care of Michigan's career record. He passed Jamie Morris as Michigan's top runner and set modern era scoring marks for touchdowns and points, breaking a tie with Tyrone Wheatley.
Thomas, who came in 106 yards shy of Morris's mark of 4,393 yards, outrushed Johnson 111-25 in the first half.
Terrell caught a 31-yard TD pass from Henson in the back of the end zone on a flea flicker in the first quarter.
Then, Leard hit Ronney Daniels on a 19-yarder and Clifton Robinson on a 20-yarder. Robinson had a 19-yard punt return and a 32-yard catch on the drive.
A 23-yard pass to fullback B.J. Askew and two reverses later, Henson hit Askew on a 4-yarder, tying the game at 14. That started a 21-0 run for the Wolverines.
|Anthony Thomas, the Citrus Bowl MVP, is now Michigan's all-time leading rusher and scorer.|