Florida State Wins the 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl
By Craig Barnes
MIAMI GARDENS – Florida State’s Dalvin Cook came to the Capital One Orange Bowl as a great player and did nothing but enhance his standing, but more importantly, teammate Keith Gavin arrived as an unknown and put himself in the Seminole history books forever.
Gavin, a freshman wide receiver who had zero all-purpose yards in the regular season, returned a kickoff 66 yards after Michigan took the lead 30-27 with 1:57 remaining, and it set up a 12-yard, game-winning pass from quarterback Deondre Francois to Nyqwan Murray with 36 seconds left.
The drama wasn’t over as Michigan’s Josh Metellus returned Ricky Aquayo’s the extra point, blocked by Chris Wormley, 94 yards leaving the Seminoles with a 33-32 lead and the conclusion to a final two minutes where 15 points were scored.
The victory gave the No. 11 Seminoles (10-3) their fifth straight victory to end the season proving Coach Jimbo Fisher’s theory that non-playoff bowl games are indeed anything but meaningless.
“People kept asking me what we had to play for,” Fisher said. “This is what we got. You are keeping score and playing. That’s what Florida State does.”
Michigan was the last team to win a one-point Orange Bowl, beating Alabama 35-34 in overtime in 2000.
For the No. 6 Wolverines (10-3), Jabrill Peppers, their All-American defender injured a hamstring the day before, didn’t play, and tight end Jake Butt who left in the second quarter with a knee injury and didn’t return.
Even though Florida State led 20-6 at halftime, Michigan roared back behind quarterback Wilton Speight and running back Chris Evans who gave the Wolverines the lead on a 30-yard run with 1:57 to play.
Speight, who threw for 163 yards on 21-of-38, then threw to Amara Darboh for the two-point conversion and the 30-27 lead. It was the first time the Wolverines led.
Michigan’s Kenny Allen, who had six straight touchbacks on kickoffs, kicked to Garvin who seemed to pause before cutting through the Wolverine coverage team.
“I didn’t know if Kermit [Whitfield] was telling me to come out or stay in,” Garvin said. “I saw a hole and hit it. I bounced off one guy, and all I saw then was green grass.”
He was finally tackled as at the Michigan 34, and after one first down, Francois, on third and 9 from the 12-yard line, hit Murray who beat Jourdan Lewis, sending the Florida State fans into a frenzy with a 33 -30 lead.
The roar quickly grew quiet when Wormley blocked the extra point of Aquayo, ending a NCAA record of 302 straight by the Seminoles, and Metellus returned it closing the score to where it ended and leaving the 67,432 fans at Hard Rock Stadium gasping for air.
What Garvin, the unknown ended, Cook, the well known, kept alive with a performance that was his final one as a collegian. He rushed for 145 yards on 20 carries, the 11th best in Orange Bowl history, and he caught three passes for 62 yards, and effort good enough to make him the game’s Most Outstanding Player.
“Cook making big plays when needed,” Wormley said, “is what we saw on film. It is what he did tonight. If we could have stopped two or three of those plays, it would have been a little bit different.”
His biggest run came in the third quarter after Michigan had closed to 20-15. With the Seminoles facing a third and 22 from their 13, he broke off the left side and went 71 yards setting up a 3-yard Francois touchdown run for a 27-15 lead.
“This team kept fighting, and it showed in the game,” Cook said. “We got down, but we kept fighting. We were never out of fight. A young man, who you never would have thought of, stepped up and made a play. I’m so proud of the way we battled back.”
In Fisher’s mind, there was no doubt Cook’s run changed the game and put the Seminoles in a position to win.
“There is no doubt,” Fisher said. “It was the play that got our offensive momentum going again. Some might ask why run on third and 22, but if we get it to him and create a gap like we did, he is as good as anybody.”
Francois threw for two touchdowns and a ran for a third, but his performance hit a low point in the third quarter with a 15-yard interception return by Michigan linebacker Mike McCray closing the score to 20-15 and setting the stage for Cook.
After the touchdown set up by Cook, Speight threw 8 yards to Khalid Hill pulling the Wolverines to 27-22 with 5:22 to play, setting the stage for the dramatic final two minutes.
The game needed a strong finish because both teams struggled through periods of the first three-and-a-half quarters. Michigan only managed field goals 19, 28 and 37 yards after getting to the Seminoles 1, 6 and 10 yard lines, respectively.
In the second half, the Seminoles had four three-and-outs, and McCray’s interception. Until the closing minutes, it was Florida State’s big plays winning over Michigan’s failure to score touchdowns in the red zone, giving the Wolverines 34:17 to 25:43 in possession time.
Florida State’s first-half offensive total of 255 yards (371 yards for the game) surpassed what Michigan’s defense, ranked second nationally with 252.7 yards per game, had allowed for entire game.
The Seminole defense, held the Wolverine offense, ranked 15th nationally, to two field goals in the red zone for 20-6 halftime lead.
Florida State took the opening kickoff and went 75 yards in 6 plays, using only to 2:13, for a 7-0 lead as Cook scored on a 2-yard run with only 2:13 had elapsed. Cook had 44 yards in four carries on the drive.
“I think that Cook is a great player as advertised,” Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He got some plays, and we got some stops, especially in the second half. It was a heck of an effort on his part and our part.”
The Wolverines had a chance to tie the game when Murray fumbled Allen’s punt at the 1-yard line, and Dymonte Thomas recovered.
However, linebacker Matthew Thomas stopped running back De’Veon Smith for a 3-yard loss on first down, and the Wolverines settled for a 19-yard Allen field goal closing the deficit to 7-3 with 9:11 left.
Thomas finished the game with 15 tackles including 3.5 for loss. The Seminoles had 15 tackles for loss, only one less than Michigan’s 16 first downs.
The Seminoles answered when Cook beat linebacker McCray on a 45-yard reception from Francois setting up a 42-yard field goal by Aguayo making it 10-3 with 7:31 to go.
Francois widened the lead to 17-3 two possessions later when he hit Murray on a 92-yard touchdown pass as he beat Lewis and Thomas with 2:49 left in the first quarter.
The scoring pass was an Orange Bowl record. The former record was 79 yards by Oklahoma’s Brewster Hobby to Ross Coyle in the 1959 game against Syracuse won by the Sooners 21-6.
In the second quarter, the teams exchanged field goals, one of 28 yards by Allen for Michigan who with a first down at the FSU 6 but couldn’t covert, and one by 38 yards by Aguayo with 4:49 left in the half.
Michigan began thee second half by reaching the FSU 10-yard line but could get no deeper. On third and 10 from the 12, Speight was sacked by Josh Sweat for a 7-yard loss. FSU had four sacks in the game.
It liked looked more of what had happened in the first half, but it was anything but as the Wolverines rallied to take the lead, only to the lose it and the game on another big play in the final minute.
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