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Florida State wins Orange Bowl in thrilling fashion over Michigan

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Florida State held on in a nail biter to defeat the Michigan Wolverines and become 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl Champions.

In a game for all of the Oranges, it was the Florida State coming out victorious over Michigan by a final score of 33-32. FSU is now 5-5 in its 10 all-time appearances in the bowl game.

After scoring a total of nine first quarter points in its first seven games against Power-5 teams, Florida State finished the season scoring 35 in its final three. The ‘Noles left right off despite the long break, and scored on its first possession of the game after a Dalvin Cook two-yard touchdown run. It only got worse for the Michigan defense.

QB Deondre Francois, who missed one play in the quarter after going down with an injury, threw a 92-yard touchdown pass to Nyqwan Murray, the longest pass play in Orange Bowl history. With the addition of a 42-yard Ricky Aguayo field goal, the ‘Noles put up 17 points in the first quarter — The most in any first half, no less quarter, of a bowl game with Jimbo Fisher under the helm.

FSU didn’t escape the opening frame unscathed however. Punt returner Nyqwan Murray inexplicably muffed a punt with no one around him, and Michigan was able to recover at the FSU two-yard line. After a big tackle for loss by Matthew Thomas and two pass attempts, UM was held to a field goal.

Michigan had zero rushing yards and only 22 passing yards after one full quarter, good for 1.2 yards per play. It total, UM punter Kenny Allen made four appearances during that opening frame.

Florida State slowed down in the second quarter, trading field goals with Michigan. After 30-minutes, the ‘Noles had more yards on the Deondre Francois to Nyqwan Murray touchdown pass (92) than UM had the entire half (83).

Coming into today, the No. 2 ranked Michigan defense in terms of total yards allowed was giving up 4.06 yards per play. With a strong effort led by Deondre Francois’ 177 first half passing yards, FSU nearly doubled that number with 7.5 YPP in the opening 30 min.

As much credit to the offensive unit in the first half, the defense for Florida State deserves just as much. Michigan was held to just 2-9 on third down conversions and only had one drive longer than six plays and 17 yards.

To open up the third quarter, Michigan ran down the field on 14 plays and 46 yards, leading to a field goal that still put UM behind two scores, 20-9. The ‘Noles, after its hot start to begin the game, suddenly became ice cold.

With less than a minute left in the third and FSU backed up deep in its own territory, Deondre Francois made a very poor decision on a throw that would be picked-off and returned for a touchdown. After the failed two-point conversion, the ‘Noles still held a slim 20-15 lead with just 15 minutes left.

After having just 15 total team yards in the third quarter, Dalvin Cook quadrupled that, and more with his 71-yard run that brought FSU into the redzone. Deondre Francois would cap that 75-yard drive with a rushing touchdown, making it a 27-15 ball game.

Florida State would then punt the ball right back, and a Trey Marshall targeting penalty would set up the Michigan offense in great field position at the FSU 37 yard line. The team from up north would rumble down the field in seven plays and find the endzone. With 5:22 left, UM made it a 27-22 game.

After once again, punting the ball to its opponent, Florida State had to stop the Wolverines with 4:14 left on the game clock. Michigan would get a huge play from Chris Evans, who took it to the house from 30-yards out. After the two-point conversion, which was successful, UM jumped back up to a 30-27 lead, its first lead of the game.

The defense was imploding and looked confused after such a great performance in the first half. Up to the Michigan touchdown, FSU allowed 163 yards, more than double what UM had in the first half. With the defense now exposed, Michigan got on the board, and did it ever. After heading into the half with six, UM scored more in both quarters and had 24 total in the second half. Florida State went from scoring 20, to just seven.

With Florida State needing a score, Keith Gavin returned a kick 65-yards in what seemed like a mirage of Kermit Whitfield against Auburn. Dalvin Cook than caught a screen pass for 21-yards to set up the ‘Noles inside the UM 12-yard line.

On third down, Francois threw a dime to Nyqwan Murray with 36 seconds remaining on the game. The offense had picked up the slack, and put Florida State back in front 33-30.

In an ever so important extra point that would put FSU up four, it was instead blocked and returned by Michigan, making it a 33-32 game with, as stated before, 36 seconds.

Michigan, in a last ditch effort, had its pass intercepted by Carlos Becker, preserving the FSU lead, and preserving the victory.

Leading receivers was Nyqwan Murray who had two catches, both for touchdowns, and 104 yards. On the ground, Dalvin Cook finished with 145 yards on 20 carries in what is presumed to be his final career game at Florida State. The effort would earn the junior the Orange Bowl MVP award. Deondre Francois finished the day 9-27 for 222 yards and three total touchdowns.

Michigan, allowing opposing offenses an average of 7.5 yards per play and 252.7 total yards seemed like a different unit when trying to defend FSU. The ‘Noles had 378 total yards of offense on 6.4 yards per play (before the final set of kneel-downs), and scored 33 points. No other team had scored more than 30 against Michigan all season.

Defensively, Michigan was held to 252 yards of offense, and only 89 rushing yards after coming into the Orange Bowl averaging over 223 yards on the ground. Matthew Thomas led the FSU with 15 tackles and Josh Sweat added 1.5 of the 4 total team sacks.

Florida State is now just a short 245 days away from kicking off its 2017-2018 season against Alabama in Atlanta for the Chic-fil-A kickoff game.