Michigan football sideline reporter Doug Karsch saw it all slip away from the Wolverines in the Peach Bowl. Here’s his take on what took place.
Karsch talked about…
• How much Michigan felt the impact of four missing starters: “It was pretty obvious. Devin Bush’s absence, and Karan Higdon’s absence, were most noticeable. There were open holes that guys missed in the run game, which was really disappointing, obviously.
“Devin Bush was the heart and soul of that defense, obviously. The step down from Devin Bush to [junior linebacker] Devin Gil, and when Devin Gil goes out, you’ve got big problems.
“You see what it is. Michigan is just not at the point where they can absorb the loss of four starters and not miss a beat against a quality opponent.
“It really felt like that Florida game from four years ago, where Michigan came in and just took Florida apart. There was no doubt this was an important game for the Gators.
“In that game four years ago, Florida thought they were playing for the national championship, and they lost the SEC title game, then they played Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. They weren’t as motivated as Michigan, establishing themselves in the first year with Jim Harbaugh and feeling like they’re back.
“It was a complete role reversal this time around. I had my real concerns going into this game — lack of starters, perhaps disappointment going into the bowl game, and an opponent really revenge minded. As disappointing as it was, I almost felt you could see it coming.”
• What kept Michigan in the game for 30 minutes: “They were getting stops defensively and moving the ball offensively. They held Florida to the one scoring drive in the first quarter, and Michigan looked like they could move the ball.
“But it was eerily similar to the Ohio State game, in that they opened up the second half, they get the stop they needed, a mistake in the passing game and the whole floodgates open. An interception on a deep ball. I know people love the deep ball, but that was a kind of a forced ball, and it kind of changed the game.
“It wasn’t just the interception. It was the 55-yard return that set Florida up, knocking on the door, that really was problematic. In the Ohio State game, it was the same thing. They get the stop they needed to open up the second half, and then they have a dropped pass on a third-down play and the wheels came off.
“I don’t know what that’s a product of, but you have to be tougher and you have to be resilient, and you have to come back when something goes wrong. Karan Higdon was the heart and soul of the offense. Without him, it takes away a little bit, but somebody needs to step up.
“Unfortunately, they didn’t have that guy … give Florida credit. They played really well.”
• When the frustration really set in: “I didn’t really see frustration setting in until the fourth quarter. I did notice something kind of interesting.
“On Feleipe Franks’ touchdown, to start to really put the game out of reach … it was a quarterback draw. It was a third-and-four, and Michigan is trailing, 13-10.
“I can’t hear what [defensive coordinator] Don Brown is saying, but Don Brown is barking from the sideline at Tyree Kinnel. Florida has gone empty set, so Kinnel is the only guy in the middle. Don Brown is talking to Kinnel and referencing Feleipe Franks.
“Kinnel walks up to the line of scrimmage, and it looks exactly like he’s the quintessential spy. His job is to not let Franks get looks. Sure enough, it’s a quarterback draw.
“They’ve seen it coming, they’ve schemed for it, they’ve got one of their better players there. I think it was Florida’s right tackle that just got out and made a little chip block on Kinnel, which gave him enough to get loose and get into the end zone, going 20 yards for a touchdown.
“It was interesting, because I’m thinking, well, there’s your play call, your defensive play call, and you’ve got what you want, and … they made a play. They still made a play. I don’t know if there was visible frustration, but it was a moment in the game where they knew what to call, they knew what to do, and the other guy executed.”
• Another sideline observation: “I’m standing behind the Florida offense and they run a play, and I felt like there was just a wave of blue jerseys right in their face. That was an example of what I’m always talking about — what dominates my vision. It was blue jerseys.
“And then [sophomore defensive tackle Michael] Dwumfour got hurt, [sophomore defensive tackle Kwity] Paye got hurt, Gil got hurt. It just didn’t look the same. They’re playing already without [Rashan] Gary, without Bush. Then David Long gets hurt.
“It really had that feeling of one hand tied behind their back. You want to get to the point where they can build some depth and hope those kinds of losses don’t hurt them. It became evident to me as the game went on that they just weren’t as capable of doing what they wanted to do.
“Early in the game, I really saw the Michigan defense winning the battle at the line of scrimmage.”
• A post-game observation: “I was a little surprised when I was talking to [junior viper] Khaleke Hudson in the locker room about the leadership role coming back next year, and he announced he hadn’t made up his mind yet.
“It was a really, really down locker room. The guys that played really wanted to win this game. They really wanted to send the seniors out. It appeared that some of those guys had been crying.
“[Junior guard] Ben Bredeson seemed very determined to lead the offensive line to better things, because that wasn’t their best game.
“At one point during the game, I overheard [offensive line coach] Ed Warriner talking to the line about communication issues, that they had to do a better job of communicating. Working with [Jon] Jansen and [Dan] Dierdorf, and [Jim] Brandstatter, they all knew you have no shot if you’re not communicating well up front.
“I don’t know what that was, whether it was the introduction of a new starter or what, but it seemed to be something he emphasized at one point in the game.”
• An impromptu positive: [Freshman running back] Christian Turner’s fast. Christian Turner is obviously a guy that can make some plays on the edge. But I don’t know that you had to be on the field to notice that.”
• A final thought: “Look, I understand the disappointment, and the real satisfaction that comes from Michigan fans is beating Ohio State. Winning this game wasn’t going to beat Ohio State. Losing this game didn’t do much.
“I don’t think anybody would have been that fired up printing up T-shirts, ‘Peach Bowl Champs.’ This program right now, what it needs is to beat Ohio State. The Big Ten title is important, but that starts with beating Ohio State.
“We can talk about playoffs, we can talk about all that other stuff, but this is one of the most desperate needs the Michigan program has — simply to beat Ohio State.”