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Florida State rallies for scintillating Orange Bowl victory


In a game that was defined by twists and turns, the biggest twist would be if Florida State’s extraordinary running back Dalvin Cook ever wore a Seminoles uniform again.

The Seminoles’ career rushing leader and the Orange Bowl’s Most Outstanding player insists he hasn’t made up his mind about the NFL draft, but the only shock would be if Cook isn’t in the NFL next season.

And considering Friday likely was his final game for Florida State, Cook went out in grand fashion.

Cook led Florida State to a 33-32 victory over Michigan at Hard Rock Stadium with 207 yards of offense, including 145 on the ground. He now has 4,464 yards, No. 1 in FSU history and second in ACC history.

“I know one thing, if we get him (back) we’ll be the luckiest team in the world,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Whoever drafts him will be the luckiest team in the world.

“So somebody’s going to be happy.”

Either way, FSU enters the offseason pretty happy.

Florida State finishes another 10-win season (10-3), having won seven of its final eight games after starting 3-2. The Seminoles, No. 11 in the College Football Playoff standings, should finish in the top 10 for the fourth time in Fisher’s seven seasons.

Michigan (10-4) entered No. 6 in CFP standings. The Wolverines lost three of their final four games after starting 9-0.

Michigan was without All-American linebacker Jabrill Peppers, who sat out after he reportedly tweaked a hamstring during practice. Peppers, though, was not made available to the media from the day Michigan arrived in South Florida.

For Cook, his signature run from his third consecutive New Year’s Six/playoff semifinal game will be the 71-yard spring that snapped the Seminoles out of their second-half stupor. While that run led to quarterback Deondre Francois’ 3-yard touchdown run that gave FSU a 27-15 lead with 11:38 to play, it was just the start of a wild fourth quarter.

The quarter included three touchdowns — two by Michigan in a 3:25 span to forge ahead with two minutes remaining — a two point conversion, a blocked PAT attempt that turned into two points by Michigan and a stunning 66-yard kickoff return by FSU true freshman receiver Keith Gavin, who had not touched the ball all season.

In the end, it was sophomore receiver Nyqwan Murray outdueling Michigan consensus All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis in the end zone for a 13-yard game-winning score with 36 seconds to play.

The score was Murray’s second and the third for which Francois was responsible, including two through the air and one on the ground. The Seminoles freshman quarterback was 9-of-27 for 222 yards. He also threw a pick-six. But Fisher said statistics do not tell the story.

“The throws he made, the moments he made them, when he made them, how he made them, that’s championship football,” Fisher said. “That’s why numbers don’t tell the story.”

The only drama remaining came when Michigan returned the blocked PAT for two points, meaning a field goal could win the game. But the Seminoles’ defense had one last stand and the Wolverines never got close.

“Nothing comes easy,” Fisher said. “And we can make it that way and I know that. Dadgum.”

FSU opened up a two-touchdown lead early, moving the ball on the Wolverines’ vaunted defense.

Michigan entered the game second nationally, allowing 12.5 points and No. 1 in the country in pass defense, allowing 135.9 yards per game.

The Seminoles exceeded both of those numbers in the first quarter with 17 points and 160 passing years.

In fact, FSU had just five fewer points in the first 12 minutes than Michigan had total yards.

But the Wolverines slowly chipped away and trailed just 20-15 after Mike McCray intercepted Francois and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown.

Then the fourth quarter happened.

First it was Cook.

“Guys didn’t think I could break out at that point in time,” Cook said. “I got in the open field with a couple of guys and made them miss. I was just trying to go the distance.”

Cook stepped out at the 16 but when Francois scored four plays later Florida State had all the momentum.

“That was the play right there that turned the second half for us and got our momentum going,” Fisher said.

After gaining 201 yards in the first quarter, the Seminoles had 57 total until Cook’s run.

Then it was Michigan’s turn.

Wilton Speight tossed an 8-yard scoring pass to Khalid Hill with 5:22 remaining to cut the FSU lead to 27-22 before Chris Evans burst through the line and raced to the end zone with 1:57 remaining. The Wolverines were successful on the two-point conversion and led 33-30.

The Seminoles appeared on their way to a third-consecutive bowl loss, which would have been a first in program history.

Enter Gavin.

The true freshman played sparingly and had not caught a pass or returned a kick until he received the kickoff a yard deep in the end zone, hesitated, started to take a knee and the decided, what the heck.

Finally, he was taken down at the 34.

“He hesitated but at 1-yard deep, we always bring it out,” Fisher said.

Francois then hit Cook for 21 yards before finding Murray on third-and-9. Murray’s only other catch resulted in a 92-yard touchdown that gave FSU a 17-3 lead.

“He can do and be anything he wants to be,” Fisher said of Murray. “Sometimes I love him, sometimes I want to choke him.”

Everyone knows which one it was Friday.



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