Jan. 7, 2002
ORLANDO, Fla. – In recent years, the Florida Citrus Bowl has been friendly to Michigan – so friendly, in fact, that Michigan kept on going back.
But on New Year’s Day 2002, the Wolverines saw what happens when you overstay your welcome. Saw it to the tune of a 45-17 thrashing at the hand of Tennessee.
Quarterback Casey Clausen found Tennessee receivers for 26 completions and 393 yards to lead his team to victory in the first ever meeting between the two schools. Clausen was named the game’s MVP, throwing for three touchdowns and running for two more.
“Tennessee is a great football team,” said Michigan coach Lloyd Carr. “We all saw that today. My hat’s off to them.”
The loss marked the end to a disappointing season for the Wolverines, a year that saw them fall to both Michigan State and Ohio State en route to an 8-4 record.
The Volunteers controlled the pace early and never let up. With speed the likes of which Michigan hasn’t seen in a long time, Tennessee ran over and above the Wolverines. On one play, Tennessee tight end Jason Witten out-ran the entire Michigan secondary for a 64-yard touchdown – all 265 pounds of him.
But despite looking shell-shocked and flat, Michigan was able to keep the game close, going into halftime down just 24-10 after Tennessee jumped to a 17-0 lead.
On one play, Michigan even fumbled twice, as quarterback John Navarre was hit and dropped the ball. Tailback B.J. Askew picked it up and ran 10 yards before dropping it himself, giving Tennessee the ball. All-America defensive tackle John Henderson forced the first drop and recovered Askew’s fumble. Up 3-0 at the time, the Volunteers scored a quick touchdown on a 3-yard pass by Clausen to Kelley Washington.
Meanwhile, Michigan started out conservatively, attempting to run up the middle right at Henderson. Chris Perry, starting in place of Askew who had been late for practice earlier in the week, was stuffed by Henderson three times before the Wolverines had gained two total yards.