Michigan averaged 36.8 points, 214.3 rushing yards and 212.9 passing yards entering Saturday’s bowl game.
Beyond the below-average stats Michigan recorded, Florida’s defense proved they had the mental edge by how they succeeded Saturday despite several stressful situations.
The first situation occurred on Michigan’s first drive when a 41-yard touchdown was called back after running back Christian Turner’s foot was ruled out of bounds on the Gators’ 38-yard line. After the video review, Michigan faced a third-and-1 play, but Florida stonewalled Michigan on third and fourth downs, keeping the game scoreless.
Michigan was 6-of-15 on third-down plays and 0-of-2 on fourth downs.
Florida brought the same defensive edge from the first half into the second half, when they limited Michigan to 137 total yards and eight points. On Michigan’s first drive of the second half, Patterson was intercepted by Florida defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who returned the pick 53 yards to the Michigan 44-yard line. The Gators went on to score a touchdown six plays later on a 5-yard pass to running back Lamical Perine to extend their lead to 20-10 with 8:06 left in the third quarter.
“It's been a ride... It just shows you like the growth because you gonna take some bumps along the road,” Gardner-Johnson said of the Gators going from a 4-7 record last season to a New Year’s Six bowl. “Last year was the most painful for us, not just for me, because seeing my teammates down, it hurt me.
“Like I said, this year was nothing but joy, you know.”
Gardner-Johnson, chosen the Peach Bowl defensive MVP, returned an interception for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to give the game its final score and finished the game with five total tackles and two interceptions.
Florida’s defense shows its first signs of sloppiness in the fourth quarter as defensive back Trey Dean drew the defense’s first penalty of the game on a pass-interference call near the goal line on Michigan wide receiver Nico Collins. The penalty put Michigan on Florida’s 16-yard line with an automatic first down and resulted in a 26-yard field goal that narrowed Florida’s lead 27-13.