Tide Roll Past Michigan in Citrus Bowl

ORLANDO, Fla – The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan Wolverines clashed at the VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando on Saturday. In front of a crowd of 59,746, the Tide defeated the Wolverines 35-16. Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy was named game MVP, going for 204 yards and a touchdown off of six receptions. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, playing for the injured Tua Tagovailoa, completed 16 out of 25 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns. As for Michigan, quarterback Shea Patterson threw for 233 yards and a touchdown, but also two interceptions.

The Tide won the coin toss and elected to defer, putting the Michigan offense on the field first. The Wolverines got off to a hot start, as they returned the opening kickoff to midfield, but the Alabama defense stood tall and forced a punt. Bama’s offense, led by Jones, wasted no time, as Jones hit the future NFL receiver Jeudy for an 85-yard touchdown on the opening play of the drive. In a blink of an eye, it was 7-0, Alabama. “It was just a perfect look,” Jones said later. “I knew Jerry was going to beat the guy and the line was going to block the guy, so [we were] really just all in.”

  After trading punts, the Wolverines offense showed signs of life, getting into the red zone off of a flea flicker pass from Shea Patterson to receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. Two Plays later, Patterson found tight end Nick Eubanks for a seven yard score. The extra point tied things up at seven with just over seven minutes left in the opening quarter. The Wolverines offense continued to roll the following drive, as Patterson hit Giles Jackson for a 40-yard gain. Michigan would get a field goal out of the drive and led 10-7 at the end of the first. The two quarterbacks put their skills on display in the opening quarter. Patterson and Jones both completed five passes and threw a touchdown, but Jones threw for 120 yards while Patterson threw for 96.

Michigan extended their lead in the second quarter, as the Wolverine offense marched down the field, eating up over five minutes of clock in the process. They only got a field goal out of it, but the drive gave them a six point lead with just over seven minutes to go in the half. The Crimson Tide wouldn’t stay down for long however, as they then went on a 75 yard drive, capped off by running back Najee Harris going airborne into the endzone on a nine yard touchdown run. With 3:32 left in the first half, Alabama had reclaimed the lead, 14-13. Michigan answered with the longest field goal in Citrus Bowl history. Kicker Quinn Nordin nailed a 57 yard attempt as the half expired to give them a 16-14 lead. “It was a tremendous kick,” Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh said after the game. “He (Nordin) had been kicking the ball really well leading up to the game, hit three from that same spot in pregame and got a great snap and a great hold and had real good spin on the ball. He hit it perfect.”

  Michigan outgained Alabama in the first half 286-205, including 135-60 on the ground. Despite being down, Jerry Jeudy was making his presence known in the first half, going for 132 yards and a touchdown on four catches.

The Crimson Tide offense started on the field in the second half and didn’t waste any time. They went 75 yards in four plays, scoring on a 42-yard touchdown throw from Jones to DeVonta Smith. The Wolverines would get the ball back, trailing 21-16. That is where the score would stay for the remainder of the third quarter, as both offenses seemingly disappeared. Alabama punter Mike Bernier had two punts land inside the five yard line, and had 220 total punt yards through three quarters. 

The Crimson Tide would break the punting streak early in the fourth quarter, as Jones hit Jeudy for a 58-yard gain, following that up with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Miller Forristall. With just over 10 minutes to go in the game, Alabama led 28-16. They would never relinquish the lead, as senior safety Shyheim Carter would intercept Patterson with six minutes to virtually end the game. Harris would score from two yards out in garbage time to bring the final score to 35-16. 

After the game, Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban talked about the resilience his team showed in both the game and during the season

“I’m especially proud of this team, for the adversity that they had to overcome this year, the perseverance that they showed, and the grit that they showed in coming out and playing the way they did in the second half of this game,” Saban said.

Many were surprised that Jeudy, a potential top 10 pick in the NFL draft, would risk getting injured to play in the Citrus Bowl. He addressed these concerns after the game. 

“First of all, you know, I played football all my life, so I couldn’t just sit out there and watch my team play and my brothers be out there,” Jeudy said. “So I just wanted to go to war with my brothers like I’ve been doing the whole season. I love playing football, so I just wanted to come out here and compete with my brothers.”

The Crimson Tide will finish the season 11-2, with losses to the number one ranked LSU and rival Auburn. Michigan, meanwhile, will miss out on double digit wins, finishing 9-4 after the loss in Orlando.

Written by Michael Hull

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