Florida State 33, Michigan 32

Submitted by Ace on December 31st, 2016 at 12:43 AM

Dalvin Cook lived up to his billing. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]

Sometimes you make it a game despite yourself and the human lightning bolt that is Dalvin Cook and then a freshman receiver who looks like a tight end turns a dumb play into a game-swinging kickoff return and a 5'11" guy beats Jourdan Lewis for a touchdown because sure why not and a series of improbable events occur and a laugher turns into a heartbreaker.

For most of the game, Florida State showed why Michigan is on the wrong side of the playoff bubble. Michigan's offense couldn't overcome a shaky offensive line to put any sort of consistent attack together, mustering only 83 first-half yards. Florida State's couldn't either but for the notable exception of Cook. The future Pro Bowl running back had 141 yards and a score on 16 touches. Nyqwan Murray exploited a busted coverage for a 92-yard touchdown. The rest of the FSU offense had 22 yards on 17 plays. The Seminoles held a 20-6 lead at halftime.

Neither team did much of anything in the third quarter until Kenny Allen, for seemingly the umpteenth time, backed up FSU deep in their own territory with 1:12 left in the quarter. Facing second-and-ten from his own eight-yard line, quarterback Deondre Francois rolled right to escape pressure and threw a pass directly to Mike McCray, who ended his short trip down the sideline with a dive into the end zone to make it 20-15. Michigan had pulled within a score for the first time since the opening quarter, setting up one of the wildest finishes of this college football season.

Chris Evans, flying. [Fuller]

Cook once again pulled the game almost out of reach, breaking a 71-yard run on third-and-22 to set up a three-yard touchdown run by his backup, Jacques Patrick. After the teams traded punts, Wilton Speight capitalized on great field position with a third-and-goal touchdown pass to Khalid Hill. The Wolverines returned to the end zone less than four minutes later, forcing a three-and-out before Chris Evans juke-posterized an FSU safety on a 30-yard touchdown scamper. Before you could say "Captain America," Michigan had taken a 30-27 lead.

The ensuing kickoff looked as innocuous as could be. FSU freshman Keith Gavin fielded Allen's boot a couple yards deep in the end zone, surveyed the field, and paused. In football, when you pause on a kickoff return, you kneel for a touchback. That is the only play. Except for this play. This play, Gavin belatedly took off despite the protestations of fellow return man Kermit Whitfield, burst through a tackle, and was finally dragged down 66 yards later by Jourdan Lewis.

The winning touchdown. [Fuller]

Cook got the Seminoles to the 12-yard line on a screen pass. Two plays later, Murray rose over Lewis to haul in the go-ahead touchdown. As if this game wasn't frantic enough, Michigan blocked the extra point and Josh Metullus, filling in for an injured Jabrill Peppers, brought it all the way back for two points. With 36 seconds left, down a point, Michigan had the opportunity to give this meandering game one final twist.

Instead, the Seminoles held strong, intercepting a desperation fourth-and-ten heave by Speight forced by instant—perhaps too instant—pressure by DeMarcus Walker.

It may be coachspeak cliché, but it's true: Florida State made more plays. The better team, at least tonight, won the game. Cook showed Michigan what they lack: an offensive playmaker that makes opponents sigh with relief every time the ball goes elsewhere. That, or an elite quarterback, can overcome a porous offensive line. The Wolverines had neither.

Maybe next year.



December 31st, 2016 at 1:58 AM ^

probably needs to change.  Is it just me or does it seem like our coaches have lost the ability to be creative enough to get guys open cheaply?  The spread to run with zone read does this so well for so many teams. And it seemed like at the end of last year, Harbaugh and team could fool the bejeezus out of defenses with creativity that made us think this pro-style thing could work (see the bowl game).  

This year, at least in the losses, it seemed like we were back to playing a vanilla pro-style offense without much misdirection that required Lloyd Carr-level perfect execution from the line and a perfect throw from the QB.  We motion two TEs to one side of the field and then just so obviously run a slow developing sweep with a slow RB to that side.  And when you're counting on Ty Wheatley to run a crisp out route to beat a quicker guy which inevitably requires you to make a perfect throw...it just seems like we're running an offense that requires too many things to go perfectly.


December 31st, 2016 at 4:26 AM ^

Our OL is bad, our QB is bad, theres nothing our coaches could do about that considering the first has been here forever and been bad forever and the 2nd was never expected to see the field.  Playcalling and coaching can only do so much.  The staff didnt recruit them.


December 31st, 2016 at 1:18 PM ^

and QB are above average for Big Ten talent.  The coaches repeatedly called doomed read-options with Peppers against scrape exchanges against Iowa, without a counter and without even going away from it. They called uninspired games last night and against OSU.  Great offensive coaching should be able to do more with the talent we have (or at least coach them up to not let LBs blitz come untouched up the middle).

Like I said, our offensive coaching seemed to get better and better last year.  They're obviously very good, but for whatever reason, they didn't seem to be putting our guys in the best position to succeed towards the end of the year.  They'd probably be the first ones to admit that.


January 1st, 2017 at 10:15 AM ^

FSU set a new record for TFLs (15) Friday night, in the Jimbo era; plus 4 sacks (Michigan sacked Francois twice.)  Our DL is very good and very under-rated (as shown in Brian's preview).  People were evaluating FSU's D on the basis of the eitire season, but there were radical changes to the D scheme (basically, simplifying things) after the first 2 losses (Louisville, UNC) and since then the D has been excellent.  

As noted in the game summary, FSU did connect on some big chunk/explosive plays.  And FSU has been doing this all season (see FSU's top 10 explosive O S&P) with Cook and its WRs.  Francois is a Freshman QB, but he lead all Freshmen QBs in the country in passing yards.  He's got a big arm and has faced some very good Ds.  And the opposing DC game plan for every team has been to take away Cook (duh) and force Francois to win the game with his arm.  So Francois is used to throwing the ball and he's got a big arm and athletic WRs that he has developed a lot of chemistry with and has a lot of trust in.

I thought for the most part (esp. 2nd & 3rd quarters) your D played as expected--like a top 5 D.  Honestly, I thought FSU basically gave the game away losing the turnover battle 2-0, one of which was a pick 6, the other gave you the ball on our 1.  Plus the blocked extra point.  If those mistakes were cleaned up, I don't think this game would have been close--your O didn't score an O TD until about 5 minutes left in the game.  But FSU is young and young players make mistakes.

BTW, love that Ohio State got dominated (& embarressed)!  Where's the love for Urban now? ;-)


December 31st, 2016 at 6:43 AM ^

too. Maybe in coaching circles it's not 'cool' to do that all the time or something. The play calling has been more conservative this year but until recently it's worked. Was it execution? Opponents not being familiar with the play calling? You certainly can win with conservative play calling if the execution is there but it didn't appear to be there last night. Certainly the speed and 'football players' FSU had last night made that task more difficult.

The play calling, Speight not having his best night, FSU having 'football players' that are going to be high first round draft picks, missing Peppers, the lack of star alighnment, whatever; it all added up to a loss.

I don't feel so bad about this one; we lost because we got beat fair and square. Unlike in Columbus. 


December 31st, 2016 at 3:43 PM ^

YES - I've been saying this following every game since Iowa. Time for accountability in play calling, because it hit a WALL this year! Failed usage of Peppers, ridiculous calls at other times. We know from past experience that JH can call a great game - time for him to replace Fisch with a true OC (or make Fisch the OC) & let Drevno concentrate on getting our blocking in order.

The OL were TERRIBLE tonight! Completely manhandled


December 31st, 2016 at 2:46 AM ^

a bunch of top 100 (overall!) offensive linemen?  There are four on the roster that are fourth or fifth year guys (five if you count Cole as a third year guy at 127th)! Fine, the previous regime didn't develop them well, but you'd expect they could do a little more with them after two years. The cupboard certainly wasn't bare and they've had some time.  Here's to hoping their guys they're bringing in work out better.  Odds are almost certain that they will.

I Like Burgers

December 31st, 2016 at 2:46 AM ^

The "he didn't inherit anything" defense only works for so long.  Next season, with nearly every offensive weapon off the roster, plus a handful of linemen, we'll get a true chance to see what kind of coaching and development they've done.  The bare cupboard excuse doesn't work in year three.

Frankly, I'm not that encouraged.


December 31st, 2016 at 6:27 AM ^

Back to back double digit win seasons should leave you encouraged. I think the problem is that the fan base expected Harbaugh to win national championships with someone else's recruits who spent half their college careers being underdeveloped by coaches who couldn't turn elite recruits into elite players. What Harbaugh did with Hoke's players is impressive for the speed that he turned them around. It's also tragic to think what he could have done with the seniors if he had had them from 18 year olds.

I Like Burgers

December 31st, 2016 at 1:03 PM ^

The problem with the "hey they won 10+ games two seasons in a row" thought process is that's not the benchmark for a successful season anymore.  That all changed when Harbaugh showed up.  So from the coaches, to the players, on down to the fans, I don't think anyone is happy with just winning 10+ games, but missing out on a Big Ten championship, or the CFP.

10+ wins was great for Year 1, a letdown for Year 2, and for Year 3?  If they miss out on the BTCG and CFP again, it's not going to be great and will make Year 4 a HUGE put up or shut up year.


December 31st, 2016 at 5:37 PM ^

If Michigan doesn't give harbaugh at least five years there isn't a coach in the country that would take the Michigan spot for the rest of eternity, especially if his teams are winning 10+ games each season.

You all need to get your expectations seriously in check. Harbaugh is the coach for Michigan. If you start talking about hot seats with a team that is always in the hunt for the playoffs we will end up in a worse situation that the one we have.


December 31st, 2016 at 2:55 AM ^

not 6-3.  The reason we lost all 3 games this year was due, in part, to O, D, ST, and coaching.

Don't put that much blame on just the O coaches.

Bottom line, we didn't have guys that make plays in the clutch.

But if the question is, what element of the team was most CONSISTENTLY underperfrpming in the crunch? (which led to the losses)

 It is the OL. And 2nd is not close.


December 31st, 2016 at 12:46 PM ^

This game was an even loss, but both Iowa and Ohio State were squarely on the offense. 


We gave up 12 points on defense to Iowa (remember, 2 of their points were a safety that was the offense's fault) and we only gave up 3 points (!!!!!) to Ohio State in regulation but were killed by ceding 14 points on pick 6s (yes, I know the second wasn't an actual pick 6, but I'm not blaming our defense for allowing OSU to score when they get 1st and goal on the 4 yard line). 


December 31st, 2016 at 1:38 PM ^

our defense scored 6, our ST scored 5 (and it should have been 9 if the offense could have just scored the TD from first and goal from the one!!!) and put our offense is really good field position all night.  

Offense averaged 4.3 yards per pass and 2.5 yards per rush. Yikes!  It was far worse even than that with just half the fourth quarter to go when the offense had only scored 6 points. So certainly give credit for fighting for those last two TDs.  For as bad a Speight was most of the night, he shook off some big hits to lead two TD drives (short ones thanks to STs, but still did it).  Needed more the first 52 minutes of the game.


December 31st, 2016 at 10:51 AM ^

We lost 3 games this year by a total of 5 points to three very good football teams all on the road in the last second or double OT. Many on this board are acting like we just got blown out by Rutgers. FSU is a damn good team and will be in the playoff hunt next year. I'm not not happy about the loss last night but a few big plays and missed opportunities killed us. Time for the staff to get back to work

I Like Burgers

December 31st, 2016 at 1:08 PM ^

Just saying the "hey we scored an assload of points this season" excuse rings hollow when that supposedly high-powered offense looked inept against good competition.  Especially late in the year.

The reality is that the program has progressed to the point where they can blow out bad competition and rack up a ton of points, but when they face tougher competition or average competition on the road they still have another leap or two to make before joining the CFB elite.


December 31st, 2016 at 3:48 AM ^

I don't know if you noticed, but 50+ vs Hawaii, UCF, Rutgers does NOT GET YOU VERY FAR against good teams. In 1905 EVERY team we played was essentially Rutgers. This is what our haterz always say.

They are LAFFING tonight. Offensive coherency is a must going forward. Even Don Brown had an off night tonight. Not an impressive performance


December 31st, 2016 at 7:25 AM ^

Does 78 points at Rutgers make you feel better about 13 at Iowa? Or 17 in regulation against OSU? Or the 21 last night? (OK, 24 if you count the fumble recovery at the 1 then lost yardage before the FG).

I don't think anyone should get fired, but I think the OL coach should be worrying about his OL and not calling plays. And how many HC's have been good play callers?


December 31st, 2016 at 11:09 AM ^

This is a similar argument to the "Richrod had great offenses" argument. This team and Richrod's teams looked sexy on offense and could wreck mediocre to bad teams but when we played the top teams, the offense could not be relied upon to do anything and took a serious dive in productivity. We couldn't run the ball against anyone of note and the Pepcat was very sad in retrospect


December 31st, 2016 at 4:30 AM ^

Florida State does not fall into that same category. 


The first two losses were because of the offense (the defense only surrendered 12 points at Iowa and 3 points in regulation at Ohio State). 


FSU was as even of a team loss as I've seen. Offense has a horrendous first half, most notably failing to score a TD after first and goal from the 1 yard line. 


Defense gives up a 70 yard run (with several missed tackles/out of position players) on a 3rd and 22 which led to an FSU TD. 


Special Teams allows a 70 yard kickoff return at precisely the moment we could not afford it. 


All three phases had a chance to win this game and all three failed.

The offense scored 21 points against the best defensive line we've faced this season. That's not great but it's far from bad. 

I Like Burgers

December 31st, 2016 at 1:16 PM ^

The offense was inept against FSU and the defense and ST had lapses as well.  It can be both things.  If you want to make an excuse for the FSU, that's fine, but it doesn't change what we all saw -- they looked the same as they did in the three previous games: unable to run, 100% reliant on Speight/O'Korn doing something with the ball to move the offense, and the playcalling didn't help at all.

They fell short of their goals this season becasue the offense couldn't do shit when push came to shove for the last quarter of the season.


December 31st, 2016 at 12:51 AM ^

...I'm not too down about this. FSU didn't have to leave its state. Michigan played without two of its best players - imagine this game if the Noles don't have Cook. And Michigan still only lost by a point to a very talented team. It would have been great to win, but Michigan still looked like the very good but imperfect team they've been all year.