Tampa Bay Sports Day

FSU: Seminoles and Wolverines Produce Orange Bowl Classic

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Friday night’s Orange Bowl was a dud in the first half.  And then it became a classic, with two lead changes in the final 125 seconds.

In the end, Deondre Francois hit Nykwan Murray with the go-ahead 12-yard touchdown pass with 36 seconds left as the No. 10 Florida State Seminoles beat the No. 6 Michigan Wolverines 33-32 at Hard Rock Stadium.

Michigan (10-3) played most of the game without two players who could get drafted in the first round — All-America linebacker Jabrill Peppers and tight end Jake Butt. Peppers missed the entire game with a hamstring injury. Butt was pulled out in the first half with a knee injury.

The Seminoles (10-3) clinched their fifth straight season with at least 10 wins.

“Our kids kept fighting,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Situational football, and we were able to pull it out.”

Murray’s touchdown gave FSU a 33-30 lead. The extra-point try was blocked and Michigan’s Drake Harris returned it for a two-point conversion, accounting for the final margin.

Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, a Miami native, ran 20 times for 145 yards and a touchdown, winning MVP honors.

“This is the greatest feeling in the world,” Cook said. “To do this in this stadium with my family here is the greatest feeling in the world.”

After Michigan had closed its 20-6 first-half deficit to 20-15, Cook took a draw play on third-and-22 and exploded down the left side for 71 yards to the Michigan 16. That play turned the momentum back in Florida State’s favor.

“He’s a great back,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said of Cook. “He was as good as advertised.”

Michigan, though, was pretty good, too, battling back to take a 30-27 lead on a 30-yard touchdown run by Chris Evans with 2:05 left in the fourth quarter.

Florida State rallied with the help of a 66-yard kickoff return by freshman Keith Gavin. That set up Francois’ winning touchdown pass.

The Seminoles improved to 6-0 in their past six trips to Miami Gardens. That includes four wins over the Miami Hurricanes and a victory over Northern Illinois in the 2013 Orange Bowl.

Friday’s game was billed as a battle between Cook and Peppers. But it didn’t work out that way.

“I told myself that if I was even 80 percent, I was going to go, but I couldn’t even run,” said Peppers, holding back tears. “The fact that I couldn’t help my brothers, that hurt.”

With Peppers out, Michigan did its best to get to Francois, knocking him out for a few first-quarter plays after a big hit by defensive end Taco Charlton.

But Francois soon returned, scoring on a 3-yard run and firing two touchdown passes, both to Murray. Besides the winner, he also hit Murray for a 92-yard touchdown, which set the record for the longest in Orange Bowl history.

Florida State opened the scoring on a 2-yard Cook touchdown run with 12:47 left in the first quarter.

Murray made the game’s first major mistake when he fielded a Michigan punt near his goal line. He fumbled and

Michigan’s Dymonte Thomas recovered at the Seminoles’ 1-yard line.

But the Wolverines settled for a Kenny Allen field goal after a De’Veon Smith run lost three yards and Wilton Speight fired two incomplete passes.

Florida State extended its lead to 17-7 with a 42-yard Ricky Aguayo field goal, and Murray’s touchdown catch.

Murray, who ran a fly pattern down the left side of the field, caught the ball around midfield and zig-zagged his way to the end zone, evading two would-be tacklers.

Michigan had another big opportunity in the second quarter, getting a first-and-goal at the Florida State 6. This time,

Evans lost 4 yards on a run and Speight again fired incomplete on second and third downs, forcing another Allen field goal.

The Seminoles closed the half with a 38-yard Aguayo field goal, taking a 20-6 lead.

The Wolverines cut its deficit to 20-15, getting a third Allen field goal and adding a 14-yard interception return by linebacker Mike McCray. A two-point conversion pass attempt failed.

Cook’s 71-yard run led to a Francois touchdown from 3 yards.

Michigan cut its deficit to 27-22 on an 8-yard TD pass from Speight to Khalid Hill.

That led to the final two touchdowns. Two leads changes on consecutive drives — a classic finish.

ORANGE BOWL NOTES: Michigan was favored by seven points. … Florida State DB Trey Marshall was ejected in the third quarter for a “targeting” hit. … Florida State’s horse, Renegade, fell during the school’s traditional pregame ceremony. … Michigan freshman DE Rashan Gary, who attended the same New Jersey high school as Peppers, was ranked the No. 1 player in the nation’s Class of 2016. It’s the first time Michigan has had a No. 1 national recruit. … Florida State played with a depleted secondary. S Derwin James and CB Nate Andrews have been out for weeks. But S Ermon Lane, who was set to replace James, suffered a foot injury in practice and missed the game.