- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2016

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Florida hoped its Citrus Bowl matchup with Michigan would underscore a changing culture under first-year coach Jim McElwain.

The No. 19 Gators left the field acknowledging there is clearly much more work to it.

Michigan’s quarterback Jake Rudock overwhelmed Florida’s defense, throwing for 278 yards and three touchdowns in the No. 17 Wolverines’ 41-7 victory over Florida on Friday in the Citrus Bowl.

In a game billed a battle of two of the top defenses in the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference, the Wolverines’ offense shined from the outset in their first bowl victory since 2012. Florida suffered its second-worst bowl loss ever and ends the season with three straight losses following a regular-season finale setback to Florida State and SEC title game loss to Alabama.

“It was a case of getting your rump kicked in. That’s‘ what it was,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “They really took it to us on both sides of the ball.”

Michigan (10-3) had three touchdown drives of at least 70 yards and finished with 503 yards of offense against a Florida defense that entered the game ranked sixth nationally.

Leading by 10 at the half, Michigan scored on each of its first two possessions in the third quarter to take a 31-7 lead.

Michigan played without safety Jabrill Peppers, who sat out with an undisclosed injury. But the Wolverines didn’t miss him, holding the Gators (10-4) to 28 total yards in the second half.

“They took it to us up front,” McElwain said. “Your game is defined by your front guys. And their front guys got the better of ours.”

He acknowledged there might have been some complacently after the Gators clinched the SEC East Division title that might have carried over down the stretch.

“We’re gonna get better because we know what the expectations are. You can never take your foot off the gas pedal. I think we had some guys that were satisfied after we won the East. They got a taste of what you have to do in person preparation.”

Florida quarterback Treon Harris had his moments early. But he also had a costly interception in the end zone late in the first half that stifled the Gators’ attempt to stay in the game.

Michigan took a 17-7 lead into halftime thanks largely to the efficiency of the Wolverines passing attack.

Michigan’s receivers did a great job creating lanes for Rudock to throw to, and ran crisp routes to open up deep-play opportunities.

The best example was on Rudock’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Jehu Chesson early in the second quarter that put Michigan up 14-7. Chesson used a double move, initially faking an inside slant, to strand and separate from cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.

Despite some unsteady outings to end the regular season, Harris managed the Gators’ offense well for most of the first half.

Florida seemed poised to keep pace early on, tying the game at 7 in the first quarter with an efficient eight-play, 75-yard drive. The series was capped with a fake reverse pass from receiver Antonio Callaway to Harris.

But on the series following Chesson’s touchdown, Harris made a poor decision while getting chased toward the sideline, tossing a third-down pass from just outside the red zone into a crowded end zone. The pass was intercepted by Jarrod Wilson.

The Wolverines drove down on the next series and added a field goal to extend their lead to 10.

Even with how the season ended, McElwain said he would rate the season a success.

“I hope it has a lot of motivation, obviously,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of new guys coming in…The guys that are coming back (have) got to do a great job of indoctrinating the new guys into how we do it and our expectations.”


AP College Football website: collegefootball.ap.org

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