Wilton Speight didn't have a great game at quarterback for Michigan, but the Wolverines defense was dominant and its run game wore the Florida defense down as Michigan won its season-opening showdown with the Gators, 33-17.
Speight threw two pick-sixes on back-to-back possessions in the first half, ultimately leading to his benching for two possessions. The struggles with interceptions aren't likely to squash the fears his critics have after last year's Ohio State game was largely decided because of Speight's poor throws.
Today, though, Michigan was too good in every other facet of the game for Speight's issues to matter.
The Wolverines, led by Ty Isaac with 114 yards, outrushed the Gators 215-11.
The Michigan defense was dominant, allowing just 192 total yards to Florida's offense. It sealed the deal late with back-to-back sacks on Florida's last-chance drive, finishing the day by forcing a Malik Zaire fumble in the end zone that Noah Furbush recovered for a touchdown.
Freshman wide receiver Tarik Black made his impact early on with a 46-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. He ended the day with two receptions for 83 yards and that score.
Quinn Nordin was a big story in his first collegiate game, going 4-for-6 on field goal attempts, and hitting his first four, which included two makes from 50-plus yards.
Michigan's defense seals the deal with TD
After forcing a Michigan punt, Florida was given one last chance to get back into the game with 2:22 remaining. The "drive" started at the Gators own 11, and it was never going any further. Khaleke Hudson forced Malik Zaire to fumble the ball on first down, pushing Florida back to its own 3. On the very next play, Chase Winovich hit Zaire hard and forced a fumble that Michigan recovered in the end zone to seal the deal, putting itself up 33-17 with 1:37 left to play.
Michigan's defense shuts down Florida on fourth down
Malik Zaire spun out of the arms of Rashan Gary and found C'yontai Lewis for a 14-yard gain that set up a third-and-short that Florida was able to make. On third-and-three, Zaire and his receiver had a bit of miscommunication that saw the ball fall well short of its intended target. The Gators, with 3:27 left to play and trailing by two possessions, had to go for it on fourth down but were unable to overcome Michigan's suffocating coverage.
The defensive line is getting pressure and the young secondary had played solid coverage all day long.
With 3:22 left to play, Michigan still leads 26-17.
Nordin misses second field goal
After Chris Evans set it up with a 13-yard gain on the ground, Wilton Speight dropped back on play-action and found Nick Eubanks for 48 yards down to the Florida 8. A false start penalty on second down pushed the ball back to the 15, and Speight overthrew his receiver in the end zone on third down, forcing the Wolverines to settle for a 32-yard Quinn Nordin field goal attempt, which he missed wide right.
That's six field goal attempts for the Wolverines today. They've got to do a better job of finishing these possessions in Florida territory.
Michigan's defense continues to dominate
Mike McCray sacked Malik Zaire and Florida followed with an illegal substitution penalty, meaning the Gators had virtually no chance of keeping a drive alive against a Michigan defense playing at an exceptionally high level.
With 8:45 left to play, Michigan's 26-17 lead is starting to look safe. The offense just has to avoid making a big mistake.
Nordin, Speight miss the mark
Quinn Nordin had a chance to hit his fifth field goal of the day, but a false start on the Michigan line forced him back five yards, and he pushed the 52-yard attempt just wide right.
With 10:46 left to play, Michigan still leads 26-17.
After Ty Isaac reeled off a 23-yard run to put him over 100 yards for the day, Wilton Speight found Sean McKeon for a 10-yard completion that put the Wolverines offense across midfield. Karan Higdon added a 12-yard run of his own, and on third down, it looked like Speight would hit Kekoa Crawford for a touchdown, but the Michigan quarterback overthrew his receiver by a mile.
Gators can't take advantage of big play
Malik Zaire was able to connect with Tyrie Cleveland for 22 yards on a big third down pass play that got the Florida offense out near midfield as the third quarter drew to a close. That was all the Gators could muster, though, as Zaire was gang tackled by the Michigan defense on third down and forced a punt.
Wolverines in control in third quarter
Ty Isaac kept another Michigan drive alive by running for a first down on third-and-13 against a Gators defense that was playing pass all the way. The Wolverines were able to get the ball across midfield before a Wilton Speight pass fell incomplete and forced a punt. Still, Michigan has control of field position and the defense is playing lights out. This is going to be an uphill battle for the Florida offense, which will start inside its 10 on the next possession.
Zaire not the answer at QB for Florida
Former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire came on at quarterback for the Gators, but the Michigan defense wasn't impressed. It was three-and-out for Zaire and the offense, and right now the Wolverines have a real chance to put their foot down and take complete control of this game.
Florida fumbles again, Nordin hits a long field goal...again
Feleipe Franks tried to make a play with his legs on third down and ended up fumbling the ball away to the Michigan defense, who set its offense up nicely at the Gators 37. The offense stalled, however, and Quinn Nordin was forced to show off his leg again, drilling a 50-yard field (his fourth of the day) to put Michigan up 26-17 with nine minutes to play in the third quarter.
Gators fumble leads to Nordin's third field goal
Former Detroit King standout Ambry Thomas made a play on special teams by forcing a Florida fumble that gave the ball right back to Michigan's offense at the Gators 16. The Wolverines weren't able to get in the end zone, but Quinn Nordin drilled a 30-yard field goal that puts Michigan up 23-17 with 11:05 to play in the third quarter.
Michigan opens up second half with TD drive
Karan Higdon capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run that puts Michigan back on top of Florida, 20-17, with 11:53 left to play in the first quarter.
Jim Harbaugh rolled the dice on fourth-and-short near midfield, handing the ball off to Ty Isaac, who was able to easily get the first down on a 18-yard run to the Florida 38. Two plays later, Wilton Speight hit Grant Perry for a 24-yard gain down to the 10.
Perry, who had his off the field troubles this offseason, could be a valuable part of this Michigan offense this season. He should provide a safety blanket for Speight as one of the only receiving options that has a decent amount of game experience.
Michigan trails Florida at the half
Wilton Speight came back in for the Wolverines with 1:50 remaining in the half and the Michigan offense starting at its own 7. They played in conservatively, rushing three times to get a first down across the Florida 20. Even with 30 seconds on the clock and a timeout, Jim Harbaugh allowed time to run out as he knew his team was getting the ball back to start the second half and wanted to avoid a mistake before the break.
At halftime, the Gators hold a 17-13 lead over the Wolverines.
On the previous possession, Florida had a long touchdown run called back because of a holding penalty. After a third-and-long pass breakup by Michigan's Brandon Watson, the Gators were forced to punt.
In the first half, freshman Tarik Black opened some eyes with two receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown, while the Wolverines offense outgained Florida 203-91.
Nordin hits 55-yard field goal
Quinn Nordin showed off his strong leg in his first college game by drilling a 55-yard field goal to cut the Florida lead to 17-13 with 5:10 remaining in the first half.
John O'Korn came on for a second series and was allowed to unload on the first play of the drive, hitting Tarik Black for a 37-yard gain into Florida territory. After a Gators sack on second down put the Wolverines offense behind the chains, O'Korn was tripped up on third down and Michigan was forced to try the long field goal.
Gators miss field goal
The Michigan defense wasn't going to let the offense's woes slow it down, as it stuffed Florida and forced a long field goal attempt from Eddy Pineiro, which he missed from 47 yards out.
With 7:02 remaining in the second quarter, Florida leads 17-10.
O'Korn in, Florida blocks punt
John O'Korn came in to play quarterback for Michigan after back-to-back interceptions from Wilton Speight. Well, Michigan ran the ball three times and got stuffed.
To make matters worse, the Gators blocked the ensuing punt and will take over inside the Michigan 40.
It's another pick-six for Florida
Wilton Speight threw a ball way over the head of Grant Perry, and just like that, the Florida defense had its second consecutive pick-six as C.J. Henderson went 41 yards for the touchdown.
Critics of Speight are going to have a field day. While the first interception wasn't entirely his fault, this second interception was a poorly thrown ball that will remind a lot of people of last year's Ohio State game.
Florida turns the tide with pick-six
On a third-and-long play, Wilson Speight fired a ball towards Kekoa Crawford, who couldn't reel it in, allowing the ball to fall in the lap of Duke Dawson, who returned it 48 yards for a touchdown.
That's a bad break for Michigan. They had all the momentum in the world going into that last possession. Now it's 10-10 with 12:19 to play in the second quarter.
Earlier on the drive, troubled junior wide receiver Grant Perry made a first down catch across the 35 before being hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty for spiking/spinning the ball following the catch.
Michigan's defense starting to dial it in
On third-and-15, Feleipe Franks was able to use his speed to turn a broken play into a first down with a 16-yard scramble. It didn't matter in the grand scheme of things, as the Wolverines defense forced the Florida offense off the field three plays later.
Since a sketchy first possession, the young defense has looked fast and dialed in. Franks will continue to present problems when he gets outside of the pocket, but Michigan's defense doesn't appear to be fooled by anything the Gators are throwing their way.
Early in the second quarter, the Wolverines still lead, 10-3.
Speight hooks up with Black for big TD
Chris Evans reeled off a 29-yard gain on the ground to get Michigan across midfield. On the very next play, the Wolverines went with play action and Wilton Speight found Tarik Black wide open in the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown that puts Michigan up 10-3 with 3:01 left to play in the first quarter.
On Florida's last possession, the Michigan defense went to work, forcing the Gators backwards and forcing a three-and-out. Devin Bush finished off the drive with a sack of Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks.
Wolverines settle for field goal after TD gets wiped out
In what should come as a surprise to no one, Wilton Speight came out to start the game at quarterback for Michigan.
On the 14th play of the drive, Michigan decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2. Speight hit Kekoa Crawford for what looked to be a touchdown, but Khalid Hill was called for being an ineligible receiver, and the Wolverines were forced to settle for a 25-yard Quinn Nordin field goal that ties the game at 3-3 with 5:27 remaining in the first quarter.
The biggest play of the drive came on a third-and-13 following a Florida sack. The Wolverines, appearing to be content with just punting back to Florida, handed the ball off to senior running back Ty Isaac. Low and behold, Isaac found a gaping hole and reeled off 36 yards to get the offense into the red zone.
Earlier in the drive, Speight picked up a first down on a broken play on third-and-eight, scrambling to the middle of the field and diving past the line to gain. Two plays later, a deep ball to Crawford drew a pass interference penalty that set Michigan up near midfield.
Florida gets a FG, Bush avoids ejection
The Gators struck first as Eddy Pineiro hit a 46-yard field goal on the opening possession to give Florida a 3-0 lead with 12:26 to play in the first quarter.
Michigan won the toss and elected to play defense first. It was a rough start as sophomore Devin Bush was called for a late hit out of bounds on the first play of the game. After the booth called down to the field for a review, Bush was in danger of being called for targeting and thrown out of the game. Luckily for Bush and the Michigan defense, after a lengthy review, Bush was allowed to stay in the game.
Still, Florida had the ball near midfield and attacked right away, as Feleipe Franks hit Josh Hammond for a 34-yard strike down to the Michigan 22. Franks tripped on his lineman on the next play, fumbling the ball as he attempted a handoff. The Gators recovered, but after a tackle for loss by Mo Hurst on second down, Florida was forced into a third-and-long made even longer by a false start penalty. On third-and-20, Florida went conservative to set up the Pineiro field goal.
Michigan set to battle Florida
The new all-maize uniforms are on (they're not that bad, I promise) and the Wolverines are set to debut a young but talented team against Florida at Jerry's World in Arlington, Texas.
Michigan returns just one starter on defense this season, but they have a lot of talented guys who saw plenty of playing time last year stepping up to the plate. Rashan Gary and Maurice Hurst figure to form what could be one of the scariest defensive line combinations in all of college football.
On offense, Wilton Speight figures to be the starter, though Jim Harbaugh will never give the definite word on his quarterback situation. Speight will have new weapons to work with, and a lot of them are freshmen. How he develops his timing with those youngsters will go a long way in determining Michigan's success this fall.
Florida comes in with 10 missing from its roster due to suspensions. Two big time offensive weapons (WR Antonio Callaway and RB Jordan Scarlett will be missing from a unit that was already anemic in 2016.
Stay right here all game long for updates for live updates from The News' Geoff Robinson.
MICHIGAN VS. FLORIDA
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
TV / radio: ABC / WWJ 950, WTKA 1050
Records: Season opener for both teams
Line: Michigan by 5