Ga­tors rout Michi­gan to cap ban­ner sea­son

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY CHARLES ODUM

Florida capped its big come­back sea­son – and left Michi­gan reel­ing again.

Lam­i­cal Per­ine had a 5-yard scor­ing catch and 53-yard touch­down run to lead No. 10 Florida’s strong rush­ing at­tack Sat­ur­day, help­ing the Ga­tors af­firm their re­turn to rel­e­vance with a 41-15 rout of No. 8 Michi­gan in the Peach Bowl.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing 4-7 in 2017, Florida en­joyed a dra­matic turn­around in Dan Mullen’s first sea­son as coach.

The vic­tory put Florida (10-3) in po­si­tion to en­ter next sea­son as a Top 10 team.

“In year one, to come here and to know where we were this time a year ago to where we are to­day, it’s spe­cial to me,” Mullen said. “… To fin­ish as a 10-win sea­son, one of the Top 10 teams in the coun­try, that’s pretty spe­cial.”

Florida (10-3) closed the sea­son with four straight wins.

“I don’t know many teams that’d be lin­ing up to play us right now,” Mullen said.

Michi­gan (10-3) closed a promis­ing sea­son with two straight lop­sided losses.

Feleipe Franks ran and passed for touch­downs to lead Florida’s of­fense.

Chauncey Gard­ner-John­son led Florida’s de­fense with two in­ter­cep­tions, in­clud­ing one re­turned 30 yards for a touch­down with less than five min­utes re­main­ing. Gard­ner-John­son’s first in­ter­cep­tion early in the sec­ond half, when Florida led

TO FIN­ISH AS A 10-WIN SEA­SON, ONE OF THE TOP 10 TEAMS IN THE COUN­TRY, THAT’S PRETTY SPE­CIAL. UF coach Dan Mullen

only 13-10, set the tone for the Ga­tors.

“We showed a lot of heart and a lot of fight and treated it like a reg­u­lar week,” Gard­ner-John­son said. “I don’t know how they pre­pared. But I don’t think they pre­pared too well.”

The Wolver­ines faced the un­en­vi­able task of hav­ing four top starters, in­clud­ing top rusher Karan Hig­don and lead­ing tack­ler Devin Bush, skip the game to fo­cus on the NFL draft.

Coach Jim Har­baugh said he thought his Michi­gan play­ers re­cov­ered from al­low­ing 567 yards in a 62-39 loss to Ohio State to close the reg­u­lar sea­son, end­ing the Wolver­ines’ hopes for a spot in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off.

“I thought they were ready. … I thought they were emo­tion­ally ready, yeah,” Har­baugh said, ad­ding he still con­sid­ered the sea­son to have been “very good.”

“It would have been a great sea­son had we won this game,” he said.

“Didn’t get that done.”

Har­baugh said he does not plan staff changes.

Florida com­piled 427 to­tal yards, in­clud­ing 257 on the ground.

Franks had a 20-yard scor­ing run in the sec­ond quar­ter and fin­ished with 74 yards rush­ing on 14 car­ries while pass­ing for

173 yards. Per­ine had 76 yards rush­ing. Jor­dan Scar­lett ran for 59 yards, in­clud­ing a 1-yard scor­ing run.

Trail­ing 13-10, Michi­gan’s first pos­ses­sion of the sec­ond half be­gan at its 48. The ex­cel­lent scor­ing op­por­tu­nity was only a pre­lude for dis­ap­point­ment.

The Wolver­ines gained one first down be­fore Pat­ter­son’s deep pass over the mid­dle was in­ter­cepted at the 3 by Gard­ner-John­son, whose 47-yard re­turn to the Michi­gan 44 set up the Ga­tors.

Speedy Kadar­ius Toney gained 30 yards on a fourth-down, end-around run to the Michi­gan 5. Franks’ 5-yard touch­down pass to Per­ine pushed the Florida lead to 20-10.

THE TAKE­AWAY

Florida: From the start, with play­ers bounc­ing up and down on the side­line, the Ga­tors seemed in­tent on end­ing their feel-good sea­son with a win. Florida made a state­ment it will be a team to watch in the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence’s Eastern Divi­sion in 2019 af­ter it piled up big yards on the na­tion’s top-ranked de­fense.

Michi­gan: The Wolver­ines’ loss of tal­ent was ev­i­dent on both sides of the ball, es­pe­cially at run­ning back. Tru Wil­son made the start as the re­place­ment for Hig­don at run­ning back but had only three car­ries for nine yards. Chris­tian Turner and Chris Evans each had seven car­ries. The com­mit­tee ap­proach couldn’t make up for Hig­don’s de­par­ture. Michi­gan was held to 66 yards rush­ing, in­clud­ing 32 by Turner.

RE­PLAY SAD­NESS

Michi­gan had two ap­par­ent touch­downs negated fol­low­ing video re­views by of­fi­cials.

On the Wolver­ines’ first pos­ses­sion, Turner’s 46yard touch­down run was turned into a mod­est 8yard gain when the re­view showed he stepped out of bounds at the Florida 38.

Michi­gan came away with no points when full­back Ben Ma­son was stopped for no gain on back-to-back runs.

“That hurt,” Har­baugh said.

Pat­ter­son’s ap­par­ent 8-yard scor­ing pass to

Tarik Black was taken away in the fourth quar­ter when the re­view showed Black lost con­trol of the ball when fall­ing back.

RE­PEAT ROOKIE

Turner, who played in only two reg­u­lar-sea­son games, will re­tain his fresh­man eli­gi­bil­ity in 2019 un­der col­lege foot­ball’s new red­shirt rule.

PAT­TER­SON'S DAY

Shea Pat­ter­son’s 9-yard scor­ing pass to Dono­van Peo­ples-Jones in the first quar­ter was the Wolver­ines’ only touch­down. Pat­ter­son threw two sec­ond-half in­ter­cep­tions and com­pleted 22 of 36 passes for 236 yards and a touch­down.

UP NEXT

Florida: Franks will re­turn for his ju­nior sea­son as Florida will at­tempt to build off the 10-win sea­son. It opens the 2019 sea­son against Mi­ami on Aug. 31 in Or­lando. Michi­gan: The Wolver­ines ex­pect to have four re­turn­ing starters on their of­fen­sive line, in­clud­ing left guard Ben Bre­deson, when they open the 2019 sea­son Aug. 31 against Mid­dle Ten­nessee State. Pat­ter­son re­turns for his se­nior sea­son at quar­ter­back, with Michi­gan again try­ing to build an of­fense to keep pace with its re­cent string of top-five de­fenses.

MIKE STE­WART AP

Florida play­ers pour a sports drink on head coach Dan Mullen dur­ing the last sec­onds of the Peach Bowl on Sat­ur­day.

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