ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2) wasted no time showing Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines (9-3) why he’s a 4-time national champion during the Vrbo Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium Wednesday.
While Michigan got first play and Giles Jackson made an impressive 50-yard return with precision rushing, Michigan couldn’t capitalize on that first drive. On Alabama’s turn, not only did they get the first touchdown in the first quarter on the first day of the New Year, but made a historic first while they were at it. Mac Jones launched an 85-yard pass to Jerry Jeudy for the score, the longest pass in Citrus Bowl history. After Joseph Bulovas’s solid extra point, the score was 7-0, Alabama.
At 7:06 in the first, Michigan clapped back with seven plays over 85 yards, closing the deal with Shea Patterson’s slick 7-yard pass to Nick Eubanks off to the left, who scrambled into the corner of the end zone. After the extra point, both teams tied at 7.
Michigan got a near-miss with 4:35 left in the first: Alabama defensive lineman Christian Barmore sacked Michigan’s Patterson, causing a fumble, which Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and the drive continued with a second down, even after play review. To close out the drive, and with nine seconds left in the first, kicker Quinn Nordin nailed the 36-yard field goal, lifting Michigan to a 10-7 score.
During Michigan’s scoring series in the second quarter, wide receiver Ronnie Bell completed Shea Patterson’s 8-yard pass, but was flagged for illegal touching due to going out of bounds then coming back in to make the catch, costing them a down. Michigan made that fourth down count, though, with Nordin kicking a successful 42-yard field goal, widening Michigan’s lead to 13-7.
With just over three minutes left in the first half, Alabama’s Najee Harris rushed for 9 yards for the next touchdown, flipping over Michigan’s Josh Metellus to get there, causing Alabama to jump one point over Michigan 14-13. This was Harris’s seventh straight rushing touchdown.
In the final two seconds–yes, two seconds–of the first half, Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin closed out the half and sent the audience roaring by making history in his own right, kicking his first-ever 57-yard field goal…and nailing it. Barely. His was the longest field goal in Citrus Bowl history and matched Michigan’s current record for longest field goal.
At halftime, Michigan was 3 of 8 in third down conversions to Alabama’s 0 of 3. However, Alabama packed a greater punch in yards: While Michigan boasted 286 yards in 45 plays in the first half, Alabama clocked 205 yards in only 23 plays. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones was 8 of 13 in passing for a total of 145 yards while Michigan’s Shea Patterson was 9 of 18 for 151.
Third quarter began with a bang. Alabama’s Mac Jones threw a 42-yard touchdown bomb to DeVonta Smith, who was able to catch it, despite being covered. After the extra kick, Alabama’s lead stretched to 21-16.
With 9:30 left in the third quarter, Mac Jones’s pass to Henry Ruggs III was incomplete, and because of Ruggs’ double coverage, he tumbled and rolled several times, ultimately having to be walked off the field.
Scoring momentum slowed after that point, due to both teams’ defensive lines rising up to stop the run and more incomplete passes.
Total penalties up to the end of the third quarter: Michigan had 7 for a loss of 61 yards to Alabama’s 5 for a loss of 25 yards.
Alabama widened the lead again in the fourth with ten minutes left. Mac Jones, with the help of Jerry Jeudy’s 14- and 58-yard completed passes on first and second downs, nailed a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Miller Forristall. After the extra point, Alabama towered over Michigan 28-16.
Najee Harris was Alabama’s man for the rest of the game, rushing a total of 70 yards over the course of Alabama’s final scoring drive (12 plays) to get the last touchdown of the game and put the nail in Michigan’s coffin with the final 35-16 score.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org