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Top 10 Plays: No. 11 Michigan 33, No. 17 Florida 17

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We rank Michigan’s best 10 plays (with video!) from its dominating 33-17 win vs. No. 17 Florida.

NCAA Football: Florida at Michigan Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, we at Maize n Brew will count down Michigan’s best 10 plays from its most recent game. There is no set formula which determines how we choose or rank these plays. The top spot could be awarded to a play consisting of individual brilliance or a simple play that has a significant impact on the outcome of the game. It depends on how we are feeling each week.

There is one set piece of criteria, though: these are Michigan’s top 10 plays, not the game’s. You did not come to this website to watch the opponent’s highlights. You came to watch the best of what the Wolverines have to offer each week. So that’s exactly what we are going to give you.

What were Michigan’s best 10 plays from its 33-17 win over Florida? Let’s begin:

10. The Boring, Game-Deciding Touchdown (11:57 3Q)

In the first half, Michigan demonstrated that it was the better team, but pick-sixes thrown by Wilton Speight on back-to-back drives in the second quarter caused the Wolverines to trail at halftime, 17-13. However, after regrouping in the locker room, they opened the second half with the ball and marched right down the field with tempo. The drive culminated in Karan Higdon bursting into the end zone for a three-yard touchdown to give Michigan a 20-17 lead, one that it would not surrender.

The score itself was nothing particularly special. Michigan used tempo to lock Florida’s defense on the field and keep them on their heels. On the snap, Mason Cole purposely allowed Florida defensive end Jachai Polite to shoot into the backfield, betting that Polite could not get to the mesh point in time. Hint: Polite couldn’t. Rather than block Polite, Cole combo’d the defensive tackle to whom Ben Bredeson was assigned and then walled up against the linebacker in the second level. The Gators had no other help in the nearby area, so Cole’s blocking permitted Higdon to waltz in for a big score.

9. Depositing a Dime to the ‘Banks (7:50 4Q)

Wilton Speight did not have his best game. However, midway through the fourth quarter with Michigan looking to deliver the knockout blow, he threw his best ball of the game. On 2nd & 7, Speight fooled Florida with play action out of an offset I-formation and focused downfield, where tight end Nick Eubanks was splitting two safeties on a post pattern. With time, Speight launched the ball and dropped it right in Eubanks’ breadbasket before the safeties could recover, hitting him in stride. The pass resulted in a 48-yard gain and set up Michigan with 1st & Goal on the 8-yard line.

This should have led to Michigan slamming the door shut on Florida with another score, but miscues pushed the Wolverines back before Quinn Nordin missed a 32-yard field goal. Otherwise, this dime to the ‘Banks would have been higher on this list.

8. STOP SPINNING THE BALL, GRANT PERRY (12:34 3Q)

Only one throw can challenge the one at No. 9 as Wilton Speight’s best of the game: his 28-yard strike to Grant Perry during Michigan’s opening drive of the second half. Speight needed to show his resolve after tossing two pick-sixes in the second quarter, and he did just that here. On 2nd & 10 with U-M seeking to retake the lead, he connected with Perry, who ran a skinny post between the hashmarks. Speight had to drop this ball precisely behind the linebacker shadowing Perry underneath and the safety closing in over the top. Speight did just that, and Perry used every millimeter of his fingers to snag the pass and bring it in. If he had not, the safety may have had an interception waiting for him. But he did, and the completion placed the Wolverines inside the Florida 10-yard line. They capitalized two plays later with Higdon’s score.

However, this almost was for naught as Perry spun the ball in celebration afterwards.

Again.

7. Bush in the Backfield (7:29 2Q)

Devin Bush, Jr. was a menace in the middle for Michigan against Florida, registering seven tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks. Don Brown used Bush’s athleticism and aggression to spring him into the backfield over and over again for big stops. One such stop was on the first play of the fourth quarter when Florida faced 3rd & 6 just past midfield. Bush blitzed and burrowed past the Gators’ right tackle before chasing down a panicked Malik Zaire for a critical sack. It forced Florida to punt and ensured that Michigan would maintain a two-score lead, giving the Wolverines a safety cushion:

But it was not Bush’s most impressive play of the game. That happened in the second quarter when it seemed like Michigan may be unraveling. The Wolverines had just thrown two pick-sixes and had a punt blocked. Suddenly, Florida had a 17-10 lead and the ball inside Michigan’s 30-yard line. And, on 3rd & 2, the Gators used tempo to snap the ball before Michigan’s defense was fully set. They ran power to strong side, and with Noah Furbush caught inside, running back Lamical Perine seemed to have green in front of him to pick up a first down. However, Bush shut down that idea in a hurry:

Bush’s tackle for loss, with Tyree Kinnel’s assistance, forced Florida to attempt a 47-yard field goal. The Gators barely missed it, and it remained a one-score game. As a result, Michigan could take a breath and stop the bleeding.

6. The Sleepover Was Worth It (4:27 2Q)

Another way to stop the bleeding? Have your redshirt freshman placekicker Quinn Nordin drill a 55-yard field goal that just grazes past the crossbar. Just past it. Nordin showcased his power and accuracy at the perfect moment because Michigan really needed to add some points to (its total on) the scoreboard before the intermission.

5. Josh Metellus’ Shed and “Strip” (10:19 3Q)

The strip is in quotes because Feleipe Franks just dropped the ball while trying to scramble for the first down. However, Franks never would have fumbled the ball short of the marker if it had not been for Josh Metellus. Once Franks broke the pocket, it appeared that he would pick up the first down with relative ease. Metellus was the only Wolverine in the area and was being blocked by wide receiver Brandon Powell. But Metellus quickly and authoritatively chucked Powell aside to the turf like a rag doll and hit Franks shy of the first down. Franks was not ready for the contact and lost the ball, which trickled over next to the sideline where Lawrence Marshall could jump on it. The fumble gave Michigan excellent field position, and the Wolverines would take advantage with Nordin converting a 50-yard field goal and extending their lead to nine.

4. Ambry Thomas’ “Special” Contribution (11:53 3Q)

Michigan had just retaken the lead on Karan Higdon’s rushing touchdown, and true freshman Ambry Thomas made sure that the positive vibes would remain on the Wolverines’ sideline. On the ensuing kickoff, Jordan Glasgow knocked return man Tyrie Cleveland off balance, which allowed Thomas to sneak his arm into Cleveland’s body and rake out the football. Before anyone else could realize what happened, including the nearest official, Thomas pounced on the loose ball to earn his first forced fumble and fumble recovery. This was an enormous energy-booster for the Wolverines, and they were suddenly in prime position to extend their lead and put pressure on Florida.

3. Ty Isaac’s Fourth-Down Shake and Bake (13:05 3Q)

Fifth-year senior Ty Isaac had his best performance as a Wolverine, tallying 11 carries for 114 yards (10.4 YPC). A running back does not have an average like that unless he is reeling off several big gains, and that is exactly what Isaac did. He had runs of 36 yards (on 3rd & 13), 22 yards, and 14 yards (also on 3rd & 13). However, Isaac’s most impressive and important run went 18 yards in the third quarter. Why? It was 4th & 1.

And not only was it 4th & 1, it was 4th & 1 on the drive which ended in Karan Higdon’s touchdown. If Isaac fails to pick up that first down, the Wolverines continue to trail by four points, and Florida gains possession on their 45-yard line. That could have been a tough, tough position for Michigan and its defense. Instead, Isaac ran past the marker before he caused defensive back CJ Henderson to lose his jockstrap with a filthy juke. It’s not often that Michigan running back showcases that sort of creativity to pick up extra yards on the ground, so that Isaac did it in that situation makes it special.

2. #BombToBlack (3:13 1Q)

This was not Wilton Speight’s best — or even second-best — throw of the game. In fact, Speight underthrew it because Tarik Black slowed down as he reached the end zone in order to retrieve it. But when a freshman receiver finds himself that open to record a 46-yard score and Michigan’s first touchdown of the year, it’s in the top two.

1. Chase Winovich’s Strip-Sack Seals the Win (1:43 4Q)

Chase Winovich has a nose for the quarterback. He amassed nine tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in limited duty last season, and as a starter this season, he is already off to a fast start. Earlier in the fourth quarter, Winovich introduced himself to Malik Zaire in an impolite fashion with a crushing blow to Zaire’s legs on a 3rd & 18 desperation toss:

However, Winovich really said, “Hello!” to Zaire with Michigan’s top play of the game late in the fourth quarter. With less than two minutes remaining, the Wolverines held a 26-17 lead and had Florida pinned back against their goal line. Given that the Gators’ offense had been futile all game, the odds that they could muster two scores that quickly were very slim. However, those odds were not zero yet because Michigan had squandered multiple chances to put the nail in the coffin. Winovich took care of that:

Winovich smoked Florida’s left tackle and best offensive lineman, Martez Ivey, with a small stutter step to beat him inside. Winovich then had a clear line towards Zaire in the end zone, and he smelled blood. Winovich mauled Zaire and ripped out the football for a strip-sack, and Noah Furbush jumped on top of it for a Michigan defensive score.

The outcome may had already been decided, but this was the play that resembled Michigan’s defensive performance. The Wolverines were aggressive, nasty, and ferorcious up front and dominated Florida’s offense. Michigan was deserving of a defensive touchdown, and not only did it give Michigan a margin of victory that better represented the play on the field, it put Michigan’s defensive stamp on the game.

And that’s why Winovich’s strip-sack is named Michigan’s best play against Florida.