03 September, 2017
When coach Jim McElwain pulled Franks after losing a third quarter fumble, the Gators didn't fare any better when Malik Zaire quarterbacked the Gators for the last six series, which included a sack-fumble that MI recovered for a touchdown with 1:37 remaining.
The Gators' offense, as it has many times in recent history for Florida, came from the defense.
Facing a third-and-9 from his own 24 with 12:35 remaining in the first half, Wilton Speight's pass was tipped and Duke Dawson intercepted it for a 48-yard touchdown return for the Gators. Speight air-mailed his next throw over Grant Perry and into the arms of cornerback CJ Henderson, who raced 41 yards for the go-ahead score. If the Wolverines can display the solid defense and variety on offense that led them to the New Years Six and the Capital One Orange Bowl last year, then they can make a signifcant statement to the rest of the country with a win over Florida tomorrow.
After the interceptions, backup quarterback John O'Korn took the field for the Wolverines' next drive as Speight watched from the sidelines.
Senior Chase Winovich provided an exclamation point in the final two minutes with Michigan's fifth sack of the day.
Florida's only point on offense came courtesy of a 42-yard field goal from Eddy Pineiro on the first drive of the game.
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It is a bit interesting that Harbaugh went with O'Korn and not freshman Brandon Peters, who impressed during spring football, and some thought would win the job outright. The Wolverines proceeded to control the game after taking the second-half kickoff and marching 75 yards on 10 plays, culminated by Karan Higdon's 3-yard TD run.
Michigan's youth showed itself at times, but the concerns that it could hold Jim Harbaugh & Co. back from competing with the top tier of the Big Ten this season should be all but quelled.
This game should be physical, as I expect both defenses to still be very good.
In the game, MI outdistanced Florida by 241 total yards. When Speight was asked about his interceptions after the game he said, "The first pick, just we couldn't connect with Kekoa and I". The Gators had 46 total yards to Michigan's 133. "Disappointed in the lack of being able to run the football". We've got to have that. That, said McElwain, was a major turning point.
Perhaps the most overlooked part, though, is that MI has a much better group of skill position players.
The good thing for the Gators is the next four games - NCU and Tennessee at home, Kentucky on the road, and home against Vanderbilt - might be the easiest part of the schedule to get their issues fixed. Suspensions cost them 10 players for Saturday's game, including top playmakers Antonio Callaway and Jordan Scarlett.