Cook, Seminoles hold off Michigan in Orange Bowl
Florida State improves to 6-0 at Hard Rock Stadium under Jimbo Fisher
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Dalvin Cook had a homecoming to remember Friday night in the Orange Bowl, rushing for 145 yards and a touchdown as No. 10 Florida State edged No. 6 Michigan en route to a 33-32 victory in what was possibly the Miami product's final game for the Seminoles.
Florida State (10-3) appeared to have control of the game early in the fourth quarter when the Wolverines came storming back, scoring their first offensive touchdown of the night with 5:22 left to play.
Michigan (10-3) was still trailing 27-22 when freshman running back Chris Evans raced 30 yards into the end zone with less than two minutes remaining, giving the Wolverines a 28-27 lead -- their first of the game. Junior quarterback Wilton Speight then found receiver Amara Darboh, putting Michigan ahead 30-27 with 1:57 left on the clock.
Florida State freshman Keith Gavin seemed to hesitate on the kickoff return before running it out and dashing 66 yards through a horde of Michigan players to the Wolverines' 34-yard line. Four plays later, freshman quarterback Deondre Francois connected with sophomore receive Nyqwan Murray on a 12-yard touchdown pass to once again take the lead, 33-30, with 36 seconds to go, but Michigan defensive lineman Chris Wormley blocked the point-after attempt, and freshman safety Josh Metellus ran it back for two points.
"Our offense had to get the ball back, so at the end of the day, we knew we had to score again to win the game, so our focus was getting the ball back to the offense in a good position to win," Wormley said.
Michigan got the ball back but was racing against the clock, and Speight was intercepted by FSU freshman Carlos Becker III to seal the victory for the Seminoles.
It was a fitting end for a team that has battled adversity all season. After the Seminoles fell to 3-2 in early October, many fans wrote the team off.
"People kept asking us, 'What do we have to play for?' This is what you've got to play for," Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said after the game. "To be able to make it to an Orange Bowl, even though you didn't make it to a national championship, to play a game like this, to play in an environment like this, to play in an atmosphere like this."
Florida State avoided a third straight bowl loss for the first time in school history and finished with 10 or more wins for the fifth consecutive season and sixth time in seven years under Fisher. The Seminoles also improved to 6-0 at Hard Rock Stadium in the Fisher era.
Cook got off to an impressive start, scoring a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Seminoles a 7-0 lead on the first drive of the game.
After Florida State stopped Michigan on its first drive, Murray bobbled the punt return and Michigan recovered, giving the Wolverines the football at the Florida State 1-yard line.
Florida State's defense rose to the occasion, holding the Wolverines to a field goal. First, junior linebacker and Miami native Matthew Thomas stuffed Michigan running back De'Veon Smith for a 3-yard loss. The next two pass attempts from Speight were incomplete to Jehu Chesson, who was wide open on second down in the left corner of the end zone, and the Wolverines settled for a 19-yard field goal by fifth-year senior Kenny Allen.
Francois found Cook on a 45-yard strike on the first play of the next series, putting the Seminoles in scoring position. Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton knocked Francois out of the game for a play, and freshman kicker Ricky Aguayo booted a 43-yard field goal that gave the Seminoles a 10-3 lead.
The Seminoles were backed up deep in their own territory late in the first quarter when Murray made amends for his special teams blunder. Murray caught a deep pass from Francois and sprinted from one side of the field to the other on his way to the end zone, stretching Florida State's lead to 17-3. Francois' 92-yard touchdown to Murray was the longest touchdown pass in Orange Bowl history.
"For him to do that, he's been doing that all his life," Francois said of Murray. "Big players make big plays in big-time moments, and that was a big-time moment right there."
Florida State had 201 yards of total offense to Michigan's 22 at the end of the first quarter.
The Seminoles' goal-line defense once again held Michigan out of the end zone in the second quarter, forcing Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh to send out the kicking unit. Allen kicked a 28-yard field goal, trimming Florida State's lead to 17-6, but the Seminoles stretched their lead on a 38-yard field goal by Aguayo with 4:49 left in the first half.
Michigan tight end Jake Butt was seriously injured on a tackle after getting the Wolverines into the red zone on a 16-yard catch in the second quarter. The John Mackey Award winner was helped off the field and didn't return to the game.
Florida State went into the locker room at halftime with a 20-6 lead and all the momentum. Michigan's offense amassed a paltry 83 yards by the end of the half.
"Really the offense in the first half, it was tough sledding," Harbaugh said.
Allen's 37-yard field goal on Michigan's first possession of the third quarter cut Florida State's lead to 20-9.
Francois' lone interception of the evening came with less than a minute to play in the third quarter. Michigan linebacker Mike McCray scored on a 14-yard interception return, but Michigan's two-point try failed, leaving the Seminoles with a 20-15 lead.
Cook, who became Florida State's all-time rushing leading this season, was noncommittal about his future after the game.
"I still haven't made my decision yet," the junior told reporters.
Cook said playing in the Orange Bowl, and winning it, fulfilled a childhood dream.
"To be up there on this podium with these guys and this coach, you know, I'm just blessed to be up here and, you know, I'm just proud to be a part of this group," Cook said.
Perhaps his finest play of the game was one that didn't result in a touchdown. Cook shook off two defenders early in the fourth quarter, raced past everyone on the field on his way to the end zone, but the score was called back after it was ruled that he stepped out of bounds on Michigan's 16-yard line.
"I actually didn't think I did step out," Cook joked.
Instead, Cook settled for a game-high 71-yard run.
"When (coach) called my number, you know, I just answered the bell for him," Cook said.
Francois ran the ball three times on the next four plays, which culminated with a 3-yard touchdown to give the Seminoles a 27-15 lead. He finished the game 9-of-27 passing for 222 yards and two touchdowns.
Speith went 21-of-38 for 163 yards and one touchdown, but he was also sacked four times.
Michigan's second-ranked defense was playing without star linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist Jabrill Peppers, who was held out with an injured earlier in the week during practice.
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