The Seminoles got off to a fast start, scoring a touchdown on their opening drive, forcing Michigan to settle for a field goal after the Wolverines took advantage of a FSU special teams blunder by Nyqwan Murray, and responded with a 92-yard touchdown pass from Deondre Francois to Murray, and two more field goals to establish a 20-6 lead at the half.
Murray’s response to his mistake resonated with his teammates. So, too, did his late-game TD grab to put the ‘Noles ahead and on top for good. “He is really growing up and playing,” said Jimbo Fisher. “This guy made plays — I mean, you're talking about a 90 something-yard touchdown, you're making a catch over and the guy he made the play on is pretty well covered, it was a great throw, but he went up and just made a great play and it shows him what he can be.”
“Big players make big-time plays in big-time moments, and that was a big-time moment right there,” added Deondre Francois. “As soon as that ball left my hand, I knew he was going to come down with it. I just knew in my heart he was going to come down with it.”
“I went out there with a gut mindset to execute a play,” added Murray. “Without Deondre's good throw and without the line I wouldn't have been able to make that catch, so I just thank them guys, and we won the Orange Bowl.”
Whenever Michigan picked up momentum, Florida State had an answer to either maintain or regain control. The first key instance was a Dalvin Cook run on 3rd and 21. Cook, who had been well-contained following the opening drive, broke free and picked up 71.
“I just feel like I could have took advantage of that moment because I just felt like guys didn't think I could break out at this point in time,” said Cook. “I got an open field with a couple of guys and made them miss, the wide receivers made blocks downfield, and I just tried to go the distance and change the scoreboard for my team.”
“That was as good as any protection we had and to get the ball in his hands somehow, some way,” said Fisher. “To me, that was the play right there that turned the second half for us that got our momentum going. There was no doubt.”
The second key moment came after Michigan took a three-point lead in the closing minutes. The Seminoles needed a spark, and Keith Gavin provided it despite hesitating for a second before bringing the ball out. Once he did, he had the ‘Noles deep inside Michigan territory…setting up the game winning touchdown pass to Murray.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” said Gavin, with a smile.
“Keith is a guy who I think is going to be a really, really good player,” said Fisher. “Now this is a really talented guy. He's a young freshman just coming along. Sometimes it takes something like it to get you over the hump and that was a big, big-time play.”
“A young guy stepped up and made the play,” added Cook. “That's who you'd never think, man and I'm so proud of this team the way we just kept battling back.”
Pride. A word used frequently around this program. It’s something Fisher has implored his team to play for. It’s something he has a large amount of after winning the program’s first bowl game since it won the 2013 National Championship. The seniors, like DeMarcus Walker, Freddie Stevenson, and Kermit Whitfield, have factored heavily into the continued success of the program over the seasons - and all of them were able to leave Florida State with a resounding victory, while fans will eagerly look to the future as a talented team will return with high expectations in its 2017 campaign.
“The legacy these seniors left with the youth and the talent on this team, boy, the future looks good, and I can't be excited and take a couple days off,” said Fisher. “I’m going to be right back on them. We've got a chance to have a good football team for a while. I'm very proud of these guys, the character and quality they are, and I'm blessed to be their coach.”
Congratulations to the battle-tested Seminoles. From 3-2 in the early stages of the season, to Orange Bowl Champions when all was said and done.
What a way to kick off the New Years Six.