FSU rallies to edge Michigan in Orange Bowl thriller

Published 10:47 am Sunday, January 1, 2017

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Deondre Francois threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Nyqwan Murray with 36 seconds remaining, and No. 10 Florida State beat No. 6 Michigan 33-32 in a wild Orange Bowl on Friday night.
Francois threw for two scores — both to Murray — and ran for another for the Seminoles (10-3). They got 145 yards rushing from Dalvin Cook and recovered after wasting a 12-point lead midway through the fourth.
Chris Evans had a 30-yard touchdown run and Khalid Hill an 8-yard scoring catch in the final minutes for Michigan (10-3), which also got a defensive conversion when Josh Metellus ran a blocked extra point back after the second Francois-Murray TD.
But Michigan turned the ball over on its final possession, and the Seminoles held on to win a game where the teams combined for 23 points and two lead changes in the final 5:22.
“The character on this team,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I’ve said it before. I’m as proud of this team as any I’ve coached.”
Evans’ scoring run put the Wolverines up 30-27, but Florida State’s Keith Gavin swung momentum back to the Seminoles with a 66-yard kickoff return right up the middle — setting up the drive where his team would take the lead for good.
“Best game of my life,” Cook said.
Michigan played without injured star linebacker Jabrill Peppers, who was out with a hamstring injury, and lost tight end Jake Butt to a knee injury early in the second quarter. Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh said the early indications were that Butt has either an MCL or ACL injury.
“Really proud of the effort of our team,” Harbaugh said.
Wilton Speight was 21 for 38 passing for 163 yards for Michigan, which got a 14-yard interception return from Mike McCray for a touchdown. Francois completed his freshman season with a 9-for-27 night, but threw for 222 yards — including a 92-yarder to Murray early in the game when the Seminoles were rolling out to leads of 17-3 and 20-6.
“The offense in the first half, it was tough sledding,” Harbaugh said.
Florida State was in total control, but the game turned midway through the fourth when Trey Marshall was ejected for targeting on a punt return — giving Michigan a short field on which to start its comeback.
Marshall missed an amazing finish.
“This game here took so many turns,” Cook said. “But we kept fighting … and things turned our way.”
Michigan: In addition to not having Peppers, the Wolverines lost standout TE Jake Butt early in the second quarter after he appeared to hurt his right knee while being tackled near the end zone. Butt finished with three catches for 28 yards. … Michigan managed only 3.4 yards per play, and had players tackled for losses 15 times in the game.
Florida State: The Seminoles had 201 yards in the first quarter alone. That’s more than Michigan allowed in any of four entire games from Sept. 24 through Oct. 22. … Cook broke his own school single-season rushing record, finishing 2016 with 1,765. … Florida State snapped a two-game bowl slide. There’s never been a three-game bowl losing streak in school history. … The ACC improved to 6-2 in this season’s bowl games.
Francois’ pass to Murray in the first quarter was the longest touchdown throw in Orange Bowl history, the 92-yarder topping the mark set in 1959 when Oklahoma’s Brewster Hobby connected with Ross Coyle on what became a 79-yard score against Syracuse. Francois also was part of the shortest interception return for a TD in the game’s history, when McCray ran his back 14 yards late in the third.
Pittsburgh running back James Conner, who came back to excel this season after beating cancer, was honored with the Courage Award presented by the Orange Bowl and the Football Writers Association of America. Conner, who is skipping his senior season and going pro, leaves Pitt as the ACC’s all-time leader with 52 rushing touchdowns.
Michigan: Another Sunshine State team awaits the Wolverines, with Michigan starting its 2017 slate Sept. 2 against Florida in Arlington, Texas.
Florida State: The Seminoles open their season Sept. 2 in Atlanta, against Alabama — in the new domed stadium being built for the NFL’s Falcons.
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