ORLANDO — The Big 10 vs. the SEC has traditionally been a matchup of size against speed. On Friday afternoon size won out in a big way as the Michigan Wolverines dominated the Florida Gators in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl 41-7.
“I think a lot of it is stereotypes,” Michigan defensive end Chris Wormley said leading up to the bowl game. “If you see Jehu Chesson running nobody is going to catch him…. There’s a lot of stereotypes out there and I guess we’ll have to prove them wrong.”
Wormley was right. Chesson was running, and catching too. The senior had five receptions for 118 yards and a score. He beat All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves twice and looked every bit as good as any receiver Florida has faced this season. Senior transfer quarterback Jake Rudock completed 20-of-31 for 278 yards and three touchdowns in his final collegiate game as Florida couldn’t muster up a pass rush without Alex McCalister.
“Credit Coach Harbaugh,” sophomore cornerback Jalen Tabor said. “His offensive system is tremendous. That’s why he’s a head coach in the NFL.”
The Michigan domination started up front, where Florida couldn’t match the physicality the Wolverines brought to the table. The Gators were hanging on in the first half, going into the break down 10.
Michigan received the ball to start the third and the rout was on. Rudock led the offense down the field on a nearly nine minute drive that resulted in three-yard touchdown pass to Grant Perry.
Florida’s offense mustered up three plays, gained no yards and punted the ball back. Michigan was back in the end zone five plays later. 31-7 and, for all intents and purposes, ball game.
“It was a case of getting your rump kicked in. That’s what it was,” Jim McElwain said after the game. “Our energy was good. We came out and played inspired football and, you know what, call it the way it is. They out-physicaled us guys. No doubt about it. They did a great job with their pad level and really took it to us on both sides of the ball.”
Florida’s 6-0 start to the season seems like a distant memory after the team closed out the 2015 campaign with three straight losses. This loss hurts, it was ugly and there’s not much you can learn from it. The better team won on Friday and Florida had to accept that as the final seconds ticked off the clock and Michigan began to celebrate.