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 cap their comeback season 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 debut season as coach. Florida (10-3) closed the season with four straight wins. Michigan (10-3) closed a promising season with two straight lopsided losses.
Feleipe Franks ran and passed for touchdowns to lead Florida’s offense. He had a 20-yard scoring run in the second quarter and finished with 74 yards rushing on 14 carries. Franks passed for 173 yards.
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 only 13-10, set the tone for the Gators.
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.
After giving up 567 yards in a crushing 62-39 loss to Ohio State to close the regular season, Michigan’s defense again couldn’t play up to its No. 1 ranking.
Florida compiled 427 total yards, including 257 on the ground. Perine led the Gators with 76 yards rushing. Jordan Scarlett ran for 59 yards, including a 1-yard scoring run.
Michigan led 7-3 after Shea Patterson’s 9-yard scoring pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones in the first quarter — the Wolverines’ only touchdown. Patterson threw two second-half interceptions and completed 22 of 36 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown.
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.
Michigan had two apparent touchdowns negated following video reviews by officials.
On the Wolverines’ first possession, Christian Turner’s 46-yard touchdown run was turned into a modest 8-yard 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 fourth-and-1.
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.
Florida: From the start, with players bouncing up and down on the sideline, the Gators seemed intent on capping this 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: After giving up an average of only 262.5 yards per game, the Wolverines allowed 228 yards in just the first half, thanks largely to Franks’ running. Tru Wilson made the start as the replacement for Karan Higdon at running back. But Chris Evans had the most carries, as expected. The committee approach couldn’t make up for Higdon’s departure. Michigan was held to 66 yards rushing, including 32 by Turner.
Florida: Franks will return for his junior season as Florida will attempt to maintain its momentum. 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.
Source: The Associated Press