ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Chris Perry hurdled defenders, broke
tackles and even made a one-handed catch.
This wasn't Central Michigan or Houston. It was Notre Dame, and
it wasn't supposed to be this easy.
But everything came remarkably simply for No. 5 Michigan in a
38-0 win Saturday, the most lopsided in the Wolverines' storied
rivalry with the Irish.
Perry ran for three touchdowns and caught a scoring pass,
running through the spacious holes cleared by Tony Pape and the
offensive line. John Navarre provided steady quarterback play, and
Larry Stevens and Pierre Woods caused havoc in Notre Dame's
backfield, turning it into a blowout of historic proportions.
"In a way I'm shocked, in another way it's expected," Perry
said. "We're on a mission."
In a rivalry known for its nailbiters -- nine of the previous 11
meetings were 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
"They came at us in every imaginable way," Notre Dame coach
Tyrone Willingham said. "There's nothing positive about how we
played. We were outplayed, outcoached, everything."
After a fumble on their opening drive, the Wolverines controlled
every aspect of the game in perhaps their best performance since
winning the national title in 1997.
Michigan, which is 3-0 for the first time since 1999, has
outscored its opponents 133-10 this season.
"This is one of the most complete games I've been a part of,"
Navarre said. "Every game is a defining game but this is one of
the bigger defining ones."
Perry has been a major reason for the success, gaining 177 total
yards in a performance that should make him one of the early
contenders for the Heisman Trophy.
He caught four passes for 44 yards and ran 31 times for 133
more, giving him 549 yards rushing and eight total touchdowns
through three games.
"It was a little surprising because they have a great
defense," Perry said. "But we have a great offense."
Perry wasn't the only star for Michigan, which gained 439 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 5 minutes left.
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.
"Football games are won up front and we clearly won the game in
the trenches on offense and defense," Stevens said. "I was
surprised because I heard they were expecting a fight."
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.
"I am disgusted at myself," Holiday said. "It's always
embarrassing to lose in any way, but especially like this."
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
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 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 became Michigan's career leader in yards passing with
6,503, breaking the mark of 6,460 set by Elvis Grbac.