Photo credit: Bill Pearce/Florida State athletics
Michigan will look to advance to the national title game by beating Georgia in the Orange Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines were unable to win in their last trip to the Orange Bowl, but they did put on a show.
That came on this day five years ago. The Wolverines rallied to take a late lead, but in the end, Florida State’s Deondre Francois found Nyqwan Murray for the winning touchdown in the game’s final minute as the Seminoles prevailed, 33-32.
Setting the Stage
Florida State and Michigan had vastly different endings to the regular season as they met at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 30, 2016. FSU had won its final four games of the regular season and came in with a 9-3 record and a No. 11 national ranking.
After a 9-0 start and ascending to No. 2, Michigan dropped two of its final three games to close the regular season. At 10-2, the Wolverines were coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss at rival Ohio State.
FSU Finds a Way
For most of the night, Florida State seemed in control. The Seminoles led 17-3 in the first half and by 12 in the fourth quarter, but Michigan stormed back.
Trailing 27-15 with less than six minutes to go, Michigan’s Wilton Speight hit Khalid Hill for an 8-yard touchdown to cut the lead to five. On the next Michigan possession, Chris Evans raced 30 yards to give the Wolverines their first lead.
A successful 2-point conversion pushed the Michigan lead to 30-27. FSU appeared to be in trouble.
On the ensuing kickoff, Keith Gavin hesitated after fielding the ball in the end zone. It seemed disastrous, but it caused the Michigan special teams to freeze. As for Gavin, he went 66 yards to set FSU up inside the Michigan 35-yard-line.
On the first play of the final FSU drive, Francois hit running back Dalvin Cook for a gain of 21. The next two plays however, went for just one yard. FSU needed a field goal to tie, but on 3rd-and-9, head coach Jimbo Fisher was thinking win.
With 36 seconds remaining, Francois found Murray, who made a leaping catch over Michigan All-American Jourdan Lewis for the 12-yard touchdown. FSU led 33-30, but the ensuing extra point was blocked and returned for two.
Michigan needed only a field goal to win.
With the Wolverines starting at their own 25-yard-line, that never came to fruition. After three incomplete passes, Carlos Becker Jr. intercepted Speight to seal the FSU win with just 16 seconds remaining.
FSU raced to a 17-3 lead behind a short touchdown run by Cook and an Orange Bowl record 92-yard touchdown pass from Francois to Murray. The teams traded field goals in the second quarter and the Seminoles led 20-6 at the break.
After Kenny Allen’s third field goal cut the deficit to 11 midway through the third quarter, Michigan’s first touchdown came on defense. In the final minute of the third period, Mike McCray returned a Francois interception 14 yards for a score.
Francois rushed for a touchdown early in the fourth to give FSU a 27-15 lead. That was set up by a 71-yard run from Cook. Cook, a Miami native, finished with 207 yards of total offense in his final game at FSU and was named Orange Bowl MVP.
Francois finished just 9-for-27 passing, but accounted for three total touchdowns. Murray caught just two passes, but both went for touchdowns during a 104-yard night. FSU dominated statistically with 371 yards to 252 for Michigan.
Michigan was without two All-Americans for much of the night. Jabrill Peppers was unable to play. Tight end Jake Butt was lost during the game to a knee injury.
With the win, FSU finished No. 8 in the final polls. Michigan finished 10th.
The Orange Bowl victory remains the last New Year’s Six bowl appearance for FSU. It gave the Seminoles their seventh bowl win in nine years. It came on this day five years ago.