Ty Isaac repeatedly broke into the open field. [Chris Cook]
The score doesn't do it justice.
Outside of two no good, very bad plays, Michigan put it on Florida. The Gators offense had no answer for Don Brown's defensive strategy, which was to bring heat from all angles around a three-man line, eschewing a DT in favor of speed an unpredictability. Two first-half pick-sixes by Wilton Speight, a bizarre illegal formation penalty that negated Michigan's first touchdown, and a blocked punt not only kept Florida around, however, but allowed them to take a 17-13 lead into halftime.
Eventually, the score reflected Michigan's dominance. The offense turned up the tempo on their opening drive of the second half, springing Ty Isaac free for 18 yards on a fourth-and-one to set up a Karan Higdon touchdown plunge. While the offense could only muster two Quinn Nordin field goals—and two Nordin missses—after that score, the defense hardly required help. They held the Gators to a total of 192 yards and capped the scoring when Noah Furbush dove on a fumble forced by Chase Winovich in the end zone.
Yes, the defense technically returned only one starter, and that starter, Mike McCray, missed a couple series early for reasons unclear. They hardly missed a beat, stiffening up in the red zone to hold Florida to a field goal on their first drive of the game, then outscoring UF's offense 7-0 the rest of the way. Maurice Hurst, Rashan Gary, and Chase Winovich made a three-man line feel a whole lot like a four-man line to the Florida offensive front; linebackers Devin Bush and Khaleke Hudson often flew into the backfield unimpeded; the young secondary didn't let anything get over the top. Michigan finished with six sacks, 11 TFLs, four forced fumbles (one on special teams on a great rip by Ambry Thomas), and five pass breakups. They were aggressive. Florida had problems.
Chase Winovich's strip-sack effectively ended the game. [Cook]
The offense would've fared nearly as well if not for those two Speight interceptions; the first bounced right to Duke Dawson off the hands of Kekoa Crawford, and the other sailed over an open Grant Perry into the hands of CJ Henderson on the ensuing possession. The next two drives were turned over to John O'Korn, who could only get Michigan into position for a 55-yard Quinn Nordin field goal.
Save for that stretch, Michigan moved the ball with regularity against a strong UF defense. Running back Ty Isaac put forth the best performance, rushing for 114 yards on only 11 carries, repeatedly breaking into the secondary as the coaches dialed up running plays on passing downs. With sacks removed, Michigan ran for 6.1 yards per carry, which kept the offense moving despite an uneven day in the passing game.
We saw flashes of what the aerial attack can look like. Tarik Black exploited a Florida bust for his first career receiving touchdown in the first half and added an impressive catch from O'Korn down the sideline; Grant Perry had a couple tough catches over the middle; Sean McKeon picked up a couple first downs on catch-and-runs; Nick Eubanks had a big play up the seam late to help seal the game. There are a lot of weapons, and while many of them are still getting acclimated to college ball, it's easy to see the potential.
Michigan overcame some self-inflicted adversity to get past their first of four major tests slated for this regular season. The next one, at Penn State, doesn't occur until mid-October. If the Wolverines hold this form while cleaning up some of the more heart-stopping mistakes, they have a great chance of heading into that game 6-0. Consecutive home games against Cincinnati and Air Force should allow them to carry this momentum into conference play.