Michigan trailing Florida 17-13 at the half in Dallas

Writer – Erik Slaby
Arlington, TX- On Florida’s opening drive, wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland took the opening handoff for a four yard gain, but at the end of the play there was a personal foul for a late hit by Michigan linebacker Devin Bush. That added 15 yards to the end of the run. On his first pass as Florida’s starting quarterback, Felipe Franks completed a 34 yard deep pass to wide receiver Josh Hammond. On the ensuing play, Franks fumbled the snap but luckily, was able to recover the ball for a four yard loss. Following a running play that resulted with a one yard loss, Florida offensive lineman Martez Ivey was flagged for a false start, costing Florida five yards. On 4th down, Florida kicker Eddie Pineiro drained a 46 yard field goal.

Aided by a penalty a big play from Franks and Hammond, Florida had some success of their first drive but were ultimately thwarted by penalties.

On Michigan’s first drive, the mystery of who Michigan’s starting quarterback would be was answered when quarterback Wilton Speight led the offense to the field. Florida’s defense performed well on the first couple plays but on 3rd down, Speight was able to scamper through the middle of field for eight yards, resulting in a 1st down. On 2nd down and nine, Florida defensive back Chauncey Gardner Jr. was flagged for pass interference, giving Michigan the ball in Florida territory and a 1st down. Florida defensive lineman Jordan Sherit came up with a big play when he sacked Speight for a 7 yard loss. On 3rd down and 13, Michigan running back Ty Isaac powered through the teeth of the Florida defense for a 36 yard gain.

Michigan had the ball at the Florida 16 yard line and the drive seemed to stall for a bit but on 3rd down, Michigan running back Chris Evans had a 6 yard run to the left for a 1st down to keep the offense rolling. Florida’s defense then buckled down and stopped Michigan three times. On 4th down, Michigan went for it and appeared to score a touchdown on a two yard pass from Speight to wide receiver Kekoa Crawford, but Michigan was flagged for having an ineligible receiver downfield. On the replay of 4th down, Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin drilled a 25 yard field goal through the uprights.
Michigan’s offense had some success on that drive as it was a 14 play, 68 yard drive that took 6:59 off the clock. Ultimately though, much like Florida, penalties and their own mistakes hampered them.

After a quick three and out by the Florida offense, the Michigan offense got back on the field and set out to redeem themselves from their previous drive and redeem themselves they did. On 2nd down, Evans shot through the Florida defense and scampered down the left side for a 29 yard gain. This gave Michigan great field position on the Florida 46 yard line. On the very next play, after a play fake, Speight completed a deep 46 yard pass to wide receiver Tarik Black for a touchdown. At that point, Michigan led Florida 10-3 with 3:01 left in the first quarter.

On Florida’s next offensive series, Franks seemed to be a bit uncomfortable in the pocket. Especially on the first play of the drive when he tripped over his own feet coming out of a play fake, resulting in a seven yard loss. On 3rd down and 15, Franks continued to look uncomfortable in the pocket but he was able to run for a 16 yard gain to give Florida a 1st down.  On the ensuing 3rd down, Franks was unable to muster up anymore magic, as his pass fell incomplete and Florida was forced to punt.

After a booming 55 yard punt from Florida punter Johnny Townsend and an 18 yard return from returner Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan began the drive at their own 26 yard line. On the ensuing 3rd down, Michigan appeared to convert it on a nine yard pass from Speight to wide receiver Grant Perry but after the play, Perry was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Two plays later, on 3rd down and nine, Speight’s pass was high and tipped by Crawford, right into the hands of Florida defensive back Duke Dawson. He returned the ball 48 yards for a touchdown.

On the ensuing series, history repeated itself once again for Michigan. Deep in their own territory on 3rd down, Speight overthrew his intended receiver and Florida defensive back CJ Henderson intercepted the pass and returned it 41 yards for another defensive touchdown. Florida gained their first lead of the game, leading 17 -10.

The Michigan offense returned to the field for the third straight series but with a change at quarterback. It appeared that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was displeased with Speight’s performance on the last two drives and benched him. Quarterback John O’Korn replaced Speight but Michigan was unable to get anything going as they went three and out.

It went from bad to worse for Michigan on 4th down as the punt was blocked by Florida, giving them great field position at the Michigan 37 yard line. The Florida offense was unable to do anything with that great field position and after solid defense from Michigan, Florida went to attempt a field goal. Michigan caught another break though when Piniero hooked the 47 yard field goal to the left and missed.

On Michigan’s next offensive series, they started off hot with a beautiful deep pass from O’Korn to Black for a 37 yard gain. On 2nd down, O’Korn was sacked by Florida defensive lineman Cece Jefferson for a four yard loss. On 3rd down, nothing was open downfield for O’Korn and on his way out of the pocket he was tripped up for a one yard loss. Nordin made the drive a success for Michigan when he was able to kick a 55 yard field goal. It was close, but he managed to have enough leg to make the field goal. It was the longest field goal in a college football game at AT&T Stadium.

On Florida’s next drive, Cleveland was able to adjust beautifully to catch a 31 yard pass from Franks. On 3rd down and 3, Florida running back Mark Thompson appeared to run for a touchdown from midfield but the play was called back due to offensive holding. On the ensuing play, the Michigan defense stood strong and was able to force Florida to punt.

On Michigan’s next drive, Speight was back in the game at quarterback for Michigan, pinned back deep in their own territory at their own seven yard line. It was unclear why O’Korn was removed from the game given his success on the previous drive. Michigan appeared to want to just get back in the locker room and regroup as they ran the ball four times to run the clock out. At halftime, Florida led Michigan 17-13.

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