ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – University of Michigan’s Wolverines were hungry for a tenth win at the 2016 Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (BWWCB) Friday, including Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. “If we win [this] game, it will be the funnest game of my life,” he said during the kickoff press conference Thursday. The audience was ready for a showdown too: 61,313 people filled the Orlando Citrus Bowl for the sold-out game, the highest attendance OCB has had since its reconstruction. University of Florida’s Gators, who already had ten wins, however, appeared tentative during the game. “I’ve got to give Michigan all the credit in the world,” said UF Head Coach Jim McElwain during the post-game press conference. “They took it to us, beat us up front, did a great job in the red area, kept us off balance, and I think more than anything, played with a pad level…You know, we’ve got a ways to go.”
UF set up for a field goal in the first quarter but attempted to run a pass play instead, resulting in an interception by UM’s Channing Stribling (CB). Michigan took advantage of the opportunity: De’Veon Smith rushed 31 total yards and Drake Johnson rushed 16 total yards on the drive, including the four-yard touchdown, the first score of the game.
UF’s one and only touchdown came on their next drive. UM’s defense effectively limited UF’s progress at first—quarterback Treon Harris rushed for one yard on two plays, and Kelvin Taylor (RB) rushed for four yards. The breakthrough came with Harris’s pass to Jordan Cronkrite (RB) who gained 15 yards, then to Antonio Callaway, who gained 27 yards, and Chris Thompson (WR) who gained 20 yards. Despite Kelvin Taylor’s next one-yard loss and the quarterback hurry by UM’s Noah Furbush following, Callaway stepped in as quarterback and passed to Harris, resulting in a two-yard touchdown.
The second quarter saw Michigan score twice: Jehu Chesson (KR) caught quarterback Jason Rudock’s 31-yard pass for a touchdown, and Kenny Allen (PK) kicked a 21-yard field goal, bringing the score to 17-7. By halftime, UF had racked up ten incomplete passes and two interceptions, including the bombshell catch by UM’s Jarrod Wilson (FS) in the end zone in the second quarter.
UM clinched its next touchdown with 8:47 left in the third quarter, bringing the score to 24-7. Smith rushed for 20 total yards on the drive, Jake Butt (TE) completed two passes for a total gain of 23 yards, and Amara Darboh (WR) completed a 17-yard pass. Despite a total three-yard loss, UM got the touchdown with a three-yard pass to Grant Perry (WR).
In UF’s next drive, Harris was sacked by Chris Wormley (DT), causing a nine-yard loss, and the team only gained a total 13 yards before punting the ball back to UM. Smith rushed for a total 11 yards, Chesson made the highest rushing yardage of the game at 45 yards on the drive, and Sione Houma (FB) rushed two yards for the touchdown, raising the score to 31-7.
Despite UF switching out quarterbacks twice in the fourth quarter, they did not score, and Michigan scored twice again: Drake Johnson completed an 8-yrd pass for a touchdown, and Allen kicked a 25-yard field goal, finishing the game with a score of 41-7.
Coach McElwain explained in the post-game press conference what might have been a source of UF’s outcome. “Our normal kicker, Austin Hardin, actually sprained his ankle…He’s actually got—[an] ACL deal.” Furthermore, UF, which is known for trick plays, did not attempt an early field goal. When Coach Harbaugh was asked about that and UM’s response, he said, “It wasn’t a good call. I was surprised by it. So—I think we just responded in a good way.”
Harbaugh praised his team and UF’s on a great game.
“There are pro players on that Florida defensive line, without question,” he said. “I mean, Jake Rudock getting hit and passes against corners that were going to be playing in the NFL, he’s going to be drafted. De’Veon was a man possessed running the football. I don’t think I’ve seen our offense play better. And defensively, same thing. Jarrod Wilson, I think he’ll be a guy that’s drafted to the NFL.”
Jake Rudock is the 2016 BWWCB MVP, and he and two of his teammates made BWWCB history: Rudock is the third quarterback to throw three touchdowns in a BWWCB, De’Veon Smith is in the books for breaking the 100-yard mark with 109 total yards, and Jehu Chesson is the first to accumulate 100+ receiving yards (118) since Bruce Ellington back in the 2014 BWWCB.
Jamaica-born author and journalist Mellissa Thomas is a Jamaica-born is a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with Entertainment Business Masters and Film Bachelors degrees from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL.
She also helps CEOs and executives, advisors, coaches, consultants, and speakers double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book.
She has published seven books, all available on Amazon.com. Her newly released book, From a Babe 2.0, is now available on the Kindle.