Seminoles are Orange Bowl champions
Dalvin Cook referred to Hard Rock Stadium as “Doak South” last week.
With the majority of the 67,432 spectators at Hard Rock Stadium providing Florida State with its customary home-game tomahawk chop and war chant, FSU felt at home during a wild 33-32 victory over Michigan in the Capital One Orange Bowl late Friday night.
“That’s what I’m telling you about this team right here,” Cook said. “Whatever we face, we battle back.”
Leading for most of the game, Florida State watched as Michigan erased its 14-point, second-half lead, putting the Seminoles on the brink of defeat with 1:57 left after Chris Evans’ 30-yard touchdown run. The Wolverines then took a 30-27 lead when Amara Darboh caught a two-point pass from Wilton Speight.
But following a 66-yard return on the ensuing kickoff by Keith Gavin, FSU took the lead for good with 36 seconds to go when quarterback Deondre Francois found Nyqwan Murray for a 12-yard touchdown pass — Murray’s second TD catch of the game — that gave the Seminoles (10-3) a 33-30 lead.
Gavin fielded the kickoff 1 yard deep in the end zone and, after some initial indecision, chose to bring the ball out, found an opening and sped into Michigan territory to set up the go-ahead score.
The Wolverines (10-3) blocked the ensuing extra point, and Pembroke Pines Flanagan alum Josh Metellus returned it for a safety, giving Michigan a potential chance to win the game with a field goal.
But the Wolverines never got close enough.
FSU’s defense made one final stand, sealing the victory on an interception by Carlos Becker III with 16 seconds left.
Cook, who became a star at Miami Central High before his three prolific seasons at FSU, starred in his hometown in what turned out to be his final collegiate game.
As expected, Cook declared himself eligible for the upcoming NFL Draft only one day after the Seminoles’ victory.
As Francois took the first of two kneel-downs to run out the clock late Friday night, Cook ran to the far end zone to celebrate with a few of his teammates.
He had just delivered quite a swan song with 145 yards rushing and a touchdown on 20 carries to earn the MVP award. Cook finished with 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns for the season and leaves FSU as the school’s career leading rusher with 4,464 yards and 46 rushing touchdowns on 687 carries.
“We won, and it was the best day of my life,” Cook said. “This game took so many turns, but we just kept fighting. It’s the greatest feeling in the world, man. To do it in this stadium with my family and with the greatest coach in the world, it’s the greatest feeling.”
Cook broke loose for a 28-yard run on his second carry of the game to set up a 2-yard touchdown that sparked a 17-point Seminoles first quarter.
Michigan, which entered the game ranked second in the nation in total defense, suffered a severe blow before kickoff when All-American linebacker Jabrill Peppers was scratched from the lineup with what was later reported as a hamstring injury.
According to reports, Peppers sustained the injury in practice earlier in the week. He tested it during pregame warmups but was held out.
Michigan also lost star tight end Jake Butt early in the second quarter when he sustained a knee injury.
Without Peppers, the Wolverines struggled to slow down the Seminoles’ potent offense in the first quarter.
And Michigan failed to fully take advantage of a big mistake on special teams after the Wolverines’ first drive ended with a punt.
Murray muffed the punt, and Michigan recovered at the FSU 1-yard line.
But the Seminoles defense held its ground and limited the Wolverines to a field goal.
Murray redeemed himself later in the quarter though, as he caught a 92-yard touchdown pass from Francois that gave FSU a 17-3 lead.
The score was the longest pass in Orange Bowl history and the longest for FSU in a bowl game.
Florida State outgained Michigan 201-22 in the first quarter and totaled 255 yards in the first half against a defense that was allowing only 252.7 yards per game.
“It was probably one of the worst games of my career,” Michigan defensive back Jourdan Lewis said. “They had a good game. We just didn’t perform well.”
But the Wolverines’ defense did make the play that swung the momentum in the third quarter when Mike McCray intercepted Francois and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown to cut FSU’s lead to 20-15.
Cook then delivered another huge play when he burst down the sideline for a 71-yard run that set up Francois’ 3-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that put FSU back up 27-15.
Michigan gave itself a chance with 5:22 to go in the fourth on Speight’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Khalid Hill that cut the Seminoles’ lead to 27-22. The Wolverines opened that drive at the FSU 37 after Trey Marshall was penalized for targeting after a helmet-to-helmet hit on Lewis.
“Their front is really good, but our kids kept their poise,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “But kids just kept fighting. Situational football, and we were able to pull it out.”