Florida State Holds Off Michigan in Orange Bowl

The No. 11 Florida State Seminoles (10-3) handled the No. 6 Michigan Wolverines (10-3) by a score of 33-32 in the Orange Bowl on Friday night in Miami.

Wilton Speight went 21 for 38 for 163 yards, throwing a touchdown and an interception.

Chris Evans led all rushers with 49 yards on 8 carries.  As a team, Michigan ran for just 89 yards, their lowest total on the season.

Junior tight end Ian Bunting led all receivers with 40 yards on three receptions.  Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson followed with 36 and 31 yards, respectively.

One of the biggest hits against the Wolverines came before the game even started when, just before kickoff, it was announced that Heisman-finalist Jabrill Peppers would not play in the Orange Bowl because of a hamstring injury.  The team also lost senior tight end Jake Butt after a tackle in the second quarter.

Things got worse for the Wolverines in the first half when they let up 255 total yards on defense while their offense picked up just 83 yards in the first half.  Both were season lows for the maize and blue.

Dalvin Cook got things started for the Seminoles with a two-yard touchdown run on their first possession, giving FSU a 7-0 lead.  That lead got a lot bigger when Deondre Francois found sophomore wide receiver Nyqwan Murray for a 92-yard touchdown, putting the Seminoles up 17-3.  The play was the longest passing touchdown in Orange Bowl history.

Going into halftime, the maize and blue were down 20-6, the furthest they’ve trailed all season.

After nearly three quarters of abysmal offensive play highlighted by Kenny Allen’s three field goals (not to mention his booming punts), the Wolverines finally got on the board with a pick six by Mike McCray to make it 20-15 heading into the fourth quarter.

However, the Seminoles quickly rebounded on the next possession when they marched 25 yards for a touchdown to extend their lead to 27-15.

With just five minutes left in the game, the Wolverines went on a surge that started on a Khalid Hill receiving touchdown with 5:22 left in the game.  Then after a 50-second three and out by the Seminoles, Michigan drove 61 yards on five plays, capped off by a 30-yard touchdown run by Chris Evans, to take the lead for the first time all night.

Yet again, the Seminoles found a way.  On the ensuing kickoff, Keith Gavin ran it back 66 yards to spark a touchdown drive that would put FSU ahead for good.  This came despite a blocked PAT that was returned by the Wolverines  to cut the deficit to one.

With that, the 2016 season has come to a close for the Michigan Wolverines.  Despite the falters in some of the final games, the Wolverines put up some incredible numbers in their second season under head coach Jim Harbaugh. The team was three points away from defeating Ohio State in a game where the winner would likely earn a berth in the College Football Playoff. Ohio State won the second seed in the CFP and will be playing Clemson tonight in hopes of making it to the championship game.

Their defense finished in the top five in yards allowed, points allowed and efficiency.  The offense averaged over 40 points a game while finishing in the top five in rushing touchdowns.  Both units were led by a strong group of upper class men, MANY of whom will be leaving for the NFL Draft, including 18 senior starters.

It should also be noted that Michigan lost it’s games by a total of five points.  Two of the plays that ended those games came on the last play of regulation and in overtime.

Despite the success, many questions lie ahead for the maize and blue; Can Jim Harbaugh finally take the team to the next level and get them to a Big Ten Championship, or even the College Football Playoff?  Can Michigan prove they can win in big games away from home?  Will Michigan be able to replace all of the departing team members while staying consistent?

Many of these questions, and more, will surely surround the team for several months.  However we’ll start to see an answer when the Wolverines hit the gridiron again on Sept. 2, 2017 when they open up the season in Arlington, TX against the Florida Gators.

Florida State takes a 10-3 record into the offseason. There is no doubt that the Seminoles are thinking Playoff come next season. They open next season against the Alabama Crimson Tide, a test to see if Florida State is CFP-worthy.

 

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