ORLANDO, Fla. -- All week Michigan players said they prepared for Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl with a “business” like attitude, with a strict focus on beating the Gators in Jim Harbaugh’s inaugural bowl game as the Wolverines head coach.
Well, whatever business plan Harbaugh drew up – it worked -- as No. 14 Michigan defeated Florida 41-7 in front of 63,113 fans at Tinker field.
“I don’t think I’ve seen our offense play better,” said Harbaugh. “I would say this best we have played all year. A great team win.”
Jake Rudock, who was named Citrus Bowl MVP, passed for 264 yards on 20-of-31 passing and threw for three touchdowns in his final game of his college career.
"Any time you come out with a win and offensively, the way we played, that was tremendous," said Rudock.
Leading 17-7 at the half, Michigan (10-3) came out firing in the third quarter. U-M would finish with a touchdown on its first three possessions of the second half and scored on seven of its first eight scoring drives, finishing with 503 yards of total offense.
Jehu Chesson finished with 118 yards and five catches, including a highlight double-move om Gator All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III for a wide-open 31 yard touchdown catch to put U-M up 14-7 with 8:49 left on the first half.
Florida’s (10-4) opening drive ended with a botched fake field that was intercepted by Channing Stribling at U-M’s 27. Then U-M established its run game identity.
In U-M’s opening drive, the Wolverines would run the ball six times for 55 yards, capping off its nine play 73 yard scoring drive with a four-yard touchdown run by Drake Johnson.
Michigan rushed for 225 yards, and were led by De’Veon Smith’s 109 on 25 carries. Johnson rushed for 58 yards with two total touchdowns.
Florida had 245 total yards in the first half, but only could manage one touchdown in its three red-zone appearances. UF quarterback Treon Harris struggled, completing 8-of-21 passes for 146 yards and an interception. UF could only manage 118 yards on the ground.
Early in the first quarter, Harris found Chris Thomson for a 20 yard gain to U-M’s 2. UF would score three players later on a end around wide receiver pass from Antonio Callaway to Harris for a two yard touchdown reception, tying the game at-7 with 1:58 left in the first quarter.
However, whatever UF momentum was lost when Harris rolled out at U-M’s 15 midway though the second quarter, as he lofted a ball into double coverage, with U-M’s Jarrod Wilson coming down with the Wolverines second interception of the game.
Kenny Allen went 2-for-2 in field goal attempts (21, 25 yards).
All-Big-Ten defensive back Jabrill Peppers dressed, however, did not play. He was seen wearing a sleeve on both arms with a glove just on his right hand, which was labeled a “hand injury” earlier this week.
Florida outgained U-M 245-233 at the half. UF had 13 first downs to U-M’s 12. However, Michigan went 3-for-3 in red-zone opportunities, while UF finished 1-for-3 in first half.
Florida finished with two total yards in the third quarter.