Quinn Nordin became the first Michigan kicker to make two 50-yard field goals in the same game, one of them in a quick go-ahead spurt after halftime, and the 11th-ranked Wolverines won 33-17 Saturday to hand 17th-ranked Florida its first season-opening loss in nearly three decades.
The Gators had won 27 consecutive season openers, the nation’s longest such streak, since a home loss to Mississippi in 1989.
“It’s gonna hurt, and if it doesn’t, then something is wrong,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “We have a lot more to play. I like this team, I like the guys on this team. I think we have a chance to grow and I believe we will.”
Michigan trailed 17-13 at halftime before scoring three times in the first 6 minutes of the second half.
After Karan Higdon‘s 3-yard TD run capped a half-opening 75-yard, 10-yard drive, Ambry Thomas forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. That set up a 30-yard field goal by Quinn, who then made a 50-yarder after Michigan recovered another fumble.
“This win was a good start for the season for us, build our confidence, allow us to see what we’re capable of,” sophomore linebacker Devin Bush said.
Nordin made four field goals, including a 55-yarder in the first half. He missed two attempts wide right in the fourth quarter, one of those from 52 yards.
The nation’s No. 1 kicker in the 2016 recruiting class, Nordin had initially committed to Penn State but signed with the Wolverines after a home visit that included a sleepover by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
Florida’s only touchdowns came when Duke Dawson and CJ Henderson returned interceptions for touchdowns. Those came on consecutive throws by Michigan starting quarterback Wilton Speight in the second quarter.
“I thought Wilton did a good job getting calmed down,” Harbaugh said. “Showed a lot of resilience, our team today, and I’m very proud of that.”
MICHIGAN: While the defense has been greatly overhauled – remember, there were eight Michigan defenders drafted off last year’s unit – the Wolverines limited Florida to 192 total yards (only 11 yards rushing). They even scored a late touchdown on a sack that resulted in a fumble recovered in the end zone. Aside from the interceptions on consecutive throws, Speight was 11-of-23 passing for 181 yards with a 46-yard TD to Tarik Black.
FLORIDA: It was really hard to judge the Gators with their leading returning receiver Antonio Callaway and top returning rusher Jordan Scarlett among 10 players suspended for the opener. Redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks, in his first start for the Gators, completed 5 of 9 passes for 75 yards and lost a fumble early in the second half. Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire came on after that, and was 9 of 17 for 106 yards.
“We needed to shake up the batting order a little bit,” McElwain said. “I thought Malik would come in and give us a change of pace at that point when we were still in the ballgame.”
MICHIGAN: The Wolverines play their home opener next Saturday in a first-ever meeting against Cincinnati.
FLORIDA: The Gators have their final tuneup before SEC play, hosting Northern Colorado for their home opener next Saturday.
Republished with permission from the Associated Press.