MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Renegade, the horse that serves as Florida State’s mascot, took an uncharacteristic tumble while prancing on the field before kickoff.
The horse got up and was just fine.
Hours later, Florida State collapsed — and like Renegade, recovered with a flourish.
Deondre Francois’ 12-yard touchdown pass to Nyquan Murray with 36 seconds left put No. 10 Florida State ahead for good, and the Seminoles topped No. 6 Michigan 33-32 in a frantic, down-to-the-wire Orange Bowl on Friday night. It capped a simply wild final few minutes of a game that Florida State controlled most of the way before needing a rally in the final moments.
“The character on this team,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I’ve said it before. I’m as proud of this team as any I’ve coached.”
Dalvin Cook rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown for Florida State (10-3), which led 17-3 and 20-6 early — and was up by 12 midway through the fourth quarter before falling behind. Francois completed only 9 of 27 passes but made the most of them, throwing for 222 yards and connecting with Murray for two scores.
“There’s no team in the country like this team,” Seminoles offensive lineman Alec Eberle said.
Chris Evans had a 30-yard touchdown run and Khalid Hill an 8-yard scoring catch in the final minutes for Michigan (10-3), which also got a defensive conversion when Josh Metellus ran a blocked extra point back after the second Francois-Murray TD.
But Michigan turned the ball over on its final possession, and the Seminoles held on to win after the teams combined for 23 points and two lead changes in the final 5:22.
“I love them. Love these guys,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Great group of competitors, great group of workers, and a great group of guys that find a way.”
Well, almost, in this case.
The Wolverines played without Heisman Trophy finalist Jabrill Peppers, their do-everything guy who couldn’t go because of a bad left hamstring, and lost standout tight end Jake Butt to what was believed to be a serious knee injury in the second quarter.
Wilton Speight was 21 for 38 passing for 163 yards for Michigan, which got a 14-yard interception return from Mike McCray for a touchdown.
Florida State was in total control, but the game turned midway through the fourth when Trey Marshall was ejected for targeting on a punt return — giving Michigan a short field on which to start its comeback.
Marshall missed an amazing finish.
“Best game of my life,” Cook said.
Hill’s scoring grab was Michigan’s first offensive TD of the night, and Evans’ run with 1:57 left gave the Wolverines their first lead.
It lasted 81 seconds.
“Coach Harbaugh kept saying it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, just stay patient,” Speight said. “And I think before that drive that we scored, he basically just said now is the time. We were able to capitalize and almost pull it out.”
Florida State’s Keith Gavin swung momentum back to the Seminoles with a 66-yard kickoff return right up the middle — setting up the drive where his team would take the lead for good.
Francois lobbed one up perfectly for Murray, and the Seminoles escaped.
“This game here took so many turns,” Cook said. “But we kept fighting … and things turned our way.”
Michigan: The Wolverines’ three losses this season were by a combined five points. Michigan managed only 3.4 yards per play, and had players tackled for losses 15 times in the game. Michigan also played in the last Orange Bowl to be decided by a single point, the game on Jan. 2, 2000 when Tom Brady led the Wolverines past Alabama 35-34 in overtime.
Florida State: The Seminoles had 201 yards in the first quarter alone. That’s more than Michigan allowed in any of four entire games from Sept. 24 through Oct. 22. Cook broke his own school single-season rushing record, finishing 2016 with 1,765. Florida State snapped a two-game bowl slide. There’s never been a three-game bowl losing streak in school history. The ACC improved to 6-2 in this season’s bowl games.
Francois’ scoring pass to Murray in the first quarter was the longest TD throw in Orange Bowl history, the 92-yarder topping the mark set in 1959 when Oklahoma’s Brewster Hobby connected with Ross Coyle on what became a 79-yard score against Syracuse. Francois also was part of the shortest interception return for a TD in the game’s history, when McCray ran his back 14 yards late in the third.
Michigan: Another Sunshine State team awaits the Wolverines, with Michigan starting its 2017 slate Sept. 2 against Florida in Arlington, Texas.
Florida State: The Seminoles open their season Sept. 2 in Atlanta, against Alabama — in the new domed stadium being built for the NFL’s Falcons.
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