USC sacks Navarre nine times in Wolverine QB's finale
Posted: Friday January 2, 2004 12:38AM; Updated: Friday January 2, 2004 12:39AM
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- Grass stains soiled John Navarre's knees, thighs, hips and backside, and blood was on his passing hand.
Navarre ended his record-setting career at Michigan on his back.
The senior was sacked nine times, including on his last two snaps, in Southern California's 28-14 win over the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl on Thursday.
"I think it swung on our inability to protect the quarterback," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
"It was my greatest fear coming into the game."
Michigan's heralded offensive line, with three seniors and two juniors, gave up just 15 sacks during the regular season. But the Wolverines failed to protect Navarre at the most important time.
"It's tough because it's something we take a lot of pride in," offensive tackle Tony Pape said. "It's a tremendously bad feeling to know what happened."
The top-ranked Trojans set a season high for sacks, coming off the corner with speed and collapsing the pocket with a powerful inside push. USC noticed Navarre had not been roughed up much this season, so it wanted to change that.
"We wanted to give him a little pressure, hit him a couple of times, and see how he reacted," USC safety Jason Leach said.
All the sacks -- and the countless times Navarre was hurried -- stunted No. 4 Michigan's high-powered offense.
And Chris Perry said it was the reason the Wolverines lost.
"Factor? That was the whole game," the star running back said.
The Wolverines were averaging 31.2 points per game, ninth in the country, and 457.3 yards, the 12th-best total in the nation.
Michigan gained 320 yards and had 25 first downs to USC's 19, but it couldn't protect Navarre enough to score more than two touchdowns.
The Wolverines had scored at least 27 points in every game this season.
Navarre was 27-of-46 passing for 271 yards with one TD and one interception. He fumbled three times after being sacked, but the Wolverines recovered each one.
USC came from all angles to harass Navarre, Michigan's most prolific passer.
All-America defensive end Kenechi Udeze sacked him three times, blitzing cornerback Will Poole knocked him down twice and USC got a consistent push up the middle.
When Navarre did have a few seconds to throw, USC's secondary often blanketed the Wolverines downfield and forced the quarterback to hold the ball longer than he wanted.
"They did have some coverage sacks," Navarre said. "And they did a good job of mixing up their blitzes."
The Trojans also slowed down Perry, who finished fourth in voting for the Heisman Trophy and won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best back.
Perry ran 23 times for 85 yards -- nearly 50 below his average -- and scored the final points early in the fourth quarter.
Perry, usually a reliable pass protector, was the last one to touch the Trojans before they leveled Navarre at least a couple of times.
"I'm the last line of defense," Perry said. "I'll take the blame. It's my fault."
Michigan has not won out West since winning the national championship with a victory over Washington State in the 1998 Rose Bowl.
The Wolverines lost to Oregon this season, and to Washington and UCLA during the 2000 and 2001 regular seasons.