Jacksonville Sports Day

CITRUS: Alabama’s Romps Past Michigan in Second Half

ORLANDO, Fla. –– The No. 17-ranked University of Michigan football team built a 16-14 halftime lead at the Vrbo Citrus Bowl, but No. 9 Alabama scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to defeat the Wolverines, 35-16, on New Year’s Day (Wednesday, Jan. 1) at Camping World Stadium.

Michigan used a strong rushing attack in scoring on its final four possessions of the first half, getting a touchdown and three field goals from senior Quinn Nordin to build its two-point halftime advantage. The Wolverines ran for 135 yards on 27 carries while accumulating 286 yards in the first half. However, the Wolverines managed just 27 yards on 16 rushes and gained 109 total yards in the second half while being kept off the scoreboard.

Freshman Zach Charbonnet rushed 13 times for 84 yards to lead the Michigan offense, while sophomore Hassan Haskins added 61 ground yards on 18 attempts. Senior quarterback Shea Patterson completed 17 of 37 passes for 233 yards and one touchdown, to senior Nick Eubanks, while freshman Giles Jackson, sophomore Ronnie Bell and junior Nico Collins each had four receptions.

Seniors Josh Metellus and Jordan Glasgow paced the defense with 11 and 10 tackles, respectively, while freshman Daxton Hill and sophomore Aidan Hutchinson each had 1.5 tackles for loss.

Jackson returned the opening kickoff 50 yards to midfield, but the Wolverines had to punt after two incomplete passes sandwiched around a short rush. Working from its 15-yard line, Alabama struck immediately, as quarterback Mac Jones hit Jerry Jeudy in stride on a deep ball for 85 yards and a 7-0 Crimson Tide lead with 13:47 on the clock.

The Michigan defense held Alabama scoreless on its next three possessions, and the Wolverine offense took advantage by putting up points on its last four drives of the half.

Michigan started to click on offense on its third possession behind a strong ground game. Charbonnet ripped off a 12-yard run on first down from the Michigan 15-yard line and added rushes of nine and 12 yards before Patterson found junior Donovan Peoples-Jones for 34 yards to the Alabama 18. An 11-yard rush from Haskins set up the tying score, as Patterson rolled left and connected with Eubanks for a seven-yard TD. Nordin added the PAT to tie the score at 7.

The Wolverines gashed the Crimson Tide defense with a few more rushes for double-digit yards and another big pass play to take their first lead. Starting from its 1-yard line, Michigan used four rushes — including two 11-yard gains from Charbonnet — and an eight-yard pass to freshman Mike Sainristil to move out to its 40. Then Patterson found Jackson down the right sideline for 40 yards down to the Alabama 20. The drive stalled there, but Nordin was perfect on a 36-yard field goal to make the score 10-7 with 0:09 left in the first quarter. The 10-play drive consumed 81 yards in 4:28.

Michigan put together another long drive starting from its 20-yard line and extended its lead to six with another field goal. After Patterson twice converted third downs using his legs, he found Bell for 22 yards down to the Alabama 28-yard line. Nordin’s 42-yard field goal attempt capped a 13-play, 56-yard drive that took 5:43 and made the score 13-6 with 7:16 left before halftime.

The Crimson Tide regained the lead with an eight-play, 75-touchdown drive capped by Najee Harris’ run and leap into the end zone with 3:32 to play in the second quarter. The drive appeared to end at the 26-yard line with an incomplete pass on third down, but Michigan was called for roughing the passer. The PAT put Alabama ahead, 14-13.

The Wolverines went back on top with another Nordin field goal as time expired and took a 16-14 lead into the halftime break. Patterson opened the drive with a run-pass option to the right and hit Collins for 18 yards. An offside penalty and seven short Haskins runs — the last converting a fourth-and-2 — moved the ball into Alabama territory, and Nordin made good on a 57-yard boot, setting a Citrus Bowl record and matching Hayden Epstein’s 18-year-old school mark for longest field goal.

Michigan’s balanced offensive attack yielded 286 yards in the first half with 151 through the air and 135 on the ground, and the defense limited Alabama to 120 yards after its opening 85-yard play. Charbonnet led the Wolverines rushing attack with 73 yards on 10 carries. Michigan’s offense was on the field for nearly two-thirds of the opening half (19:41).

Alabama received the ball to start the second half and again struck quickly to go up, 21-16. After Hutchinson stopped Harris for a three-yard loss on first down, a 25-yard pass play and 11-yard rush moved the ball to the Michigan 42-yard line. Jones then found DeVonta Smith down the right side for another big pass play to the end zone.

Following two short drives to open the second half, the Wolverines put together a sustained drive on their third possession (14 plays, 55 yards, 6:59) but ended up without any points. Starting from the Michigan 4-yard line after an Alabama punt, Patterson connected with Haskins (19 yards), Bell (17) and Collins (12) to get into Crimson Tide territory. However, a sack took the Wolverines out of field goal range, and they were forced to punt.

Michigan’s defense put pressure on Alabama, which faced third-and-11 from its own 8-yard line, but the Tide turned the tables with a big first down on a 14-yard pass from Jones to Jeudy and followed that up with a 58-yard pass to Jeudy and a 20-yard touchdown throw to Miller Forristall. The PAT was good, and it a two-possession game, 28-16, with 10:01 to play in the fourth quarter.

The Michigan defense held Alabama to a three-and-out, and the Wolverines got the ball back in excellent position at their own 48-yard line after a punt. However, an interception on the drive’s first play gave the ball back to the Crimson Tide, and they salted away the game with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with only 0:26 left in the game.

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