The 6th ranked Wolverines laid aside the disappointments that a bittersweet regular season afforded, and attempted to build on the many pluses the season revealed for their battle with the Florida State Seminoles, only to be handed another heartbreaking last seconds loss, replete with a controversial no call on a Seminoles off sides on M’s last possession. An irritating missed call, but this time the game did not swing on it.
The pregame ended with the stunning announcement that Jabrill Peppers would not play because of a hamstring tweaked Thursday. This hurt the Wolverine cause on several levels. It was too late to plan around his absence. He was very much missed on special teams, as well as offense and defense.
FSU hyper talented star running back Delvin Cook prospered in his absence as he broke a couple of long runs. He rushed 20 times for 145-yards and a TD. He produced 207 total yards, and was definitely the player of the game.
Kenny Allen provided the only field position advantage on special teams. He was simply outstanding. He hit three FGs. And his punting was outstanding. One long punt was dropped by the FSU receiver near the goal line, but M had to settle for three.
Peppers was missed in the pass rush, offensively and on special teams, and as an on field leader, and he was also missed in trying to corral the hyper fast ‘Nole RB Cook. Cook often cooked M’s defensive intentions. He rendered Michigan’s defense mostly ineffective at times in the first and second quarters putting up 20 points to the Wolverines 9 in the first half. The Wolverines played a terrible 1st half offensively, and defensively, scoring no TDs and yielding big plays.. They were inside the ten on three occasions and came away with three field goals, while FSU piled up 20 points in the half. M could not stop the spectacular running of Cook, or the pass rush of Florida States Defensive line, until adjustments were made at the half. They then utilized quick short passes over the middle. I very much doubted that a blow-out was not in progress as it became was 20 to 6 at the half.
They lost to a very good Florida State Football team in the prestigious Capital One Orange Bowl played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Lakes, Florida Friday.
THE LAST GAME OF THE SEASON DID NOT GET ANY EASIER FOR THE WOLVERINES. Ranked 10th in the country, and coached by the colorful and successful Jimbo Fisher, it seemed the Seminoles presented just the ticket to take the Wolverine’s mind off their two critical regular season losses that had prevented them from achieving their goals of a shot at the Big Ten Championship, and a spot in the final four. Instead the occasion added a third loss.
They were as disappointed, if not more so, than the fans, by those earlier losses, and this latest one too. Many players thought post TOSU that they (Michigan) were among the best four teams in the country. While they had not proved it in late season’s action, the thought endured, and still seemed to be somewhat reasonable then, but is lessened by their stumble against the Seminoles.
THE SEASON’S LAST HALF OF PLAY: The Wolverines struggled mightily in the first half offensively and defensively, managing only 6 points, while the Seminoles held 20. The ‘Noles dominated, and FSU forged ahead with big plays. But the Wolverines received the second half KO, having deferred. When the drive stalled Kenny Allen supplied his third FG. It was now 9 to 20.
The Wolverines offense was somewhat revitalized as they loaded their tight ends Bunting, Asiasi, and Wheatley, and gathered a few first downs. Jake Butt had been injured earlier, and was out for the game, but fortunately he chugged off under his own power.
TE Bunting caught a couple for 30-yards. With little time left in the quarter, the Wolverines made themselves a break. The defense brought pressure and FSU finally cracked as Mike McCray nabbed a Seminole pass and returned it 14-yards for the TD, diving on a very athletic play into the end zone, and the chase was on as 9 to 20 became 15 to 20. A two point conversion was missed. The defense was now alive and well. After yielding 201-yards of offense in the first quarter, FSU managed only 69-yards from scrimmage in the second half.
The big play bugaboo bird kept pecking as Dalvin Cook faced a 3rd and 22, and conquered it by slipping a tackle and speeding 71-yards to the M 13. FSU QB Francois ran a keeper into the end zone and it was 15-27. Now it seemed to be over for the Wolverines-again.
With under eight minutes in the fourth, the Seminoles gave a gift to the Wolverines, hitting a crouching Jordan Lewis with a very dangerous blow to the head. After the targeting penalty, Speight hit Khalid Hill with a laser, and Hill broke the plane for the Wolverine’s first TD. With 5:22 left, it was 22-27.
After a three an out, the Wolverines possessed the ball at their 39. Speight saw open field and took off, running 17-yards to the FSU . Chris Evans than made the best Wolverines run of the day. His 30-yarder went for 6, and the first Wolverine lead. A Darboh slant for two made it 30-27 with just 1.57 to play.
Next another bite from the big play bugaboo wounded the Wolverine’s chances as FSU’s Gavin returned the ensuing KO 66-yards to the M 34 with 1:29 left. Kenny Allen had been putting KO’s deep enough to prevent returns, but not this time. A completed screen took it to the 13. A fade into the end zone was completed for six. The Wolverines were again down, this time 30-33. There were just 36 seconds left to tick on the clock. M’s Josh Metellus collared the bouncing ball after the blocked extra point try , and hauled it into the Seminoles end zone at the opposite end of the field for two. The final outcome was set at M-32, FSU-33.
THE TWO PRIOR SEASON LOSSES WERE HURTFUL, TOO: To be sure in Columbus, in their last regular season game, there was a foul odor of Ohio State home cooking by the officials during that OSU loss. An odor of Horseshoe horse crap officiating was emitted, but there remained the bugaboos that were the Wolverine’s own critical errors during that game. A fumble inside the ten, and two interceptions are enough to cause trouble against an ordinary team, and OSU is not an ordinary team, even in a rebuilding year. While the offense made up for the fumble by scoring on the next series, the interceptions were deadly, especially in combination with the refs artificial dissemination of fouls and spots. It is expected that, at the Horseshoe, a winning Michigan team will have to overcome a certain amount of hogwash officiating. Championship teams must overcome this sort of thing in order to become champions.
In the land of superior pork chops, against the Iowa’s Hawkeyes, the Wolverine’s season ending woes aggravated by losing to the Hawkeyes against Iowa’s Hawkeyes. The Hawks were not an extraordinary football team this year, but on that Saturday proved an obstacle the Wolverines were unable to overcome. The result was vicious to the Wolverine’s hopes. Not holding on against the Hawkeyes was a killer of season expectations that was even more inexplicable than the loss to the Buckeyes. One still wonders why. Including the loss to FSU Friday, the Wolverines three losses were by a margin of of 5 points total.
A QUICK LOOK AT PAST AND FUTURE CHALLENGES: You can rest assured that the same now stifled visions of football sugar plums will dance again in Wolverine heads next year, and every year thereafter under Harbaugh. But first the job was to vanquish the Seminoles, with their colorful spear planting lone horseman, exuberant home crowd, and their prolific running game, and great passing QB. Fortunately, they had displayed a distinct propensity to allow their QB to be sacked, and Hurst and Charlton took advantage. The Seminoles made few errors during the first three quarters, about the biggest happened when the legendary horse and rider went down in a heap pregame, with the horse falling on his butt as the rider scrambled out of the way.
It is proper to mention anticipation of future football accomplishments now. This game was a watershed. Saturday, as immediately after Friday’s Orange Bowl, next season was at hand. M’s newcomers are in some cases bigger, stronger, more talented, and athletic than the crew leaving. Peppers, Glasgow, Wormley, and Lewis, among others, are exceptions.
Of course, the Wolverine Football players on tap are less experienced. The schedule for next season provides critical games at home (MSU and TOSU) instead of away.
The prospective serious depletion of the offensive and defensive lines a serious problem, but curable with player development. It seems probable to me now that the defense may not be as great next year immediately, probably being good at the start of the year, and perhaps great at the end.
The Wolverines will lose many good players, but it is time for the offense to explode. Lots of discussion on that subject will come later.
The offense won many Big Ten awards, and they had a good season, as did the offensive line, but the team needed a great year from the OL for a great season.
That did not happen and they instead fashioned a good season. It was not because they did not give it the old college try. They did. The offensive line was inconsistent when they needed to protect leads. The required first downs did not happen at critical times. There was this err and then that from the OL, and not necessarily from the same player. They were consistently inconsistent.
This Bowl game afforded the Wolverines fifteen extra practices. Practices that no bowl teams like MSU are not getting this year. Harbaugh calls some of those practices the Christmas Camp. Its nose to the grind-stone, and affords a chance for snaps for younger players who will be critical next season. I hear some of them have excelled in recent practices but that is getting ahead of the story. Red shirt RB Kareem Walker has been one of them. There have been kind mentions in re: Josh Metellus (he replaced Peppers Friday), Jordan Glasgow, Khaleke Hudson, Devin Bush, Michael Ownenu, and red shirt 5 star RB Kareem Walker to name some. Walker will run in the fall.
A LARGE GROUP OF DEPARTED WOLVERINES ENDURED TWO VERY DIFFERENT AND FAILED COACHING REGIMES, BUT DESPITE THE CHAOS STAYED, AND BOUGHT IN. THEY HAVE PROSPERED UNDER THEIR THIRD FAIRLY RECENT COACHING CHANGE, WHICH BROUGHT HARBAUGH HOME.
This game provided a chance to see what a healed Wilton Spieght could accomplish, and a chance for fourth year and fifth year Seniors like Butt, Charlton, Smith, Godin, Gedeon, Glasgow, Wormley, Thomas, Stribling, Magnuson, Braden, Lewis, Allen, and possibly Peppers, to go out riding 1o wins. (Fortunately Hurst, Mason Cole, and Kahlid Hill will return, and perhaps the much needed DB Jeremy Clark will return from the injured list. Maybe RB Drake Johnson will also be back at full speed if granted a 6th year).
The Wolverines were up to the challenge notwithstanding the one point deficit. What a great group they have been. They all have earned the right to be to be called Michigan Wolverines and Michigan Men.
WAS THIS JABRILL’S LAST GAME AS A WOLVERINE? It is appalling that he could not play due to a hamstring injury. This probably was his last opportunity as a Wolverine, his final chance to cavort notably on a major college football stage.
Like most fans, I had hoped that offensive or special teams play against Ohio State would provide a spectacular catapult to the Heisman for him.
No innovative offensive packages appeared to be there for him against Ohio State, and there were no game changing scoring plays on offense or special teams for Peppers, but with the long preparation time for this Bowl, we could see some effective offensive wrinkles designed for him.
If he never wins any more college football kudos, he has amassed plenty without the Heisman, and he has done it with poise, talent, and production, while mastering multiple positions.
Even so, there have been a mass of detractors from familiar schools who loudly and constantly deride his talent and production. Sometimes some fans get Green with envy, and White with fear.
Michigan fans do not share any derisive opinions regarding Jabrill, nor do the pros. He likely will enter the league as a first round draft pick, and this provides the primary impetus for him going pro after this season. He was this season’s Wolverine MVP, a consensus All American, and winner of the National 2016 Lott Impact Trophy, and the National 2016 Hornung Award.
He manned 15 different positions, and handled and participated in an astounding 933 snaps during the regular season, making 726 plays on defense, 53 on offense, and 154 plays on offense. He won Big Ten Player Defensive of the Year, and Linebacker of the Year. He also manned an attitude team work and team success. What an extraordinary career he has had in Ann Arbor. Thanks Jabrill, for some magic moments, and good luck! You have earned it.
PEPPERS WAS NOT THE LONE RANGER AS REGARDS AWARD WINNING AND TEAM CONRIBUTIONS: This list names a few: Jourdan Lewis was named an All-American, and was honored by Big Ten awards. He was a defensive game changer that could return a kick off. is a lockdown corner, and he will be missed next year.
Jake Butt was the Big Ten’s top tight end, and won national kudos as the winner of the John Mackey Award for tight ends, but was injured Friday. All the notables leaving can’t be listed or described here, and there are others. Nose Tackle Ryan Glasgow, and DE Taco Charlton are others who have had sterling careers. Chris Wormley, too.
A NOTEWORTHY COMEBACK: This was a Michigan team that had trouble playing its best football for a full game and this one was no exception.
The recovery of the defense and offense in the second half were a tribute both to the player’s grit, and to the ingenuity of the half time coaching adjustments.
Despite their struggles, they didn’t quit, but fought back. And fought back again.
The offensive cold spells, and offensive line inability to protect a passer or provide a consistent running game, and the inexplicable characteristic of an otherwise hard hitting and effective defense to give up big plays to the best competition at critical times was also part and parcel of this team.
Now this team and season are a part of Michigan Football History. We will all move on. Even if some things kept them from progressing as a team from good to as great as they wished to, it was an exciting season of which fans and players can be proud. There was far more good than bad.
The brass ring will come around again, and probably sooner than later. They will continue to be a rising team and program.
Happy New Year to you, and yours, on every level!