Tampa Bay- In season three of the return of Jim Harbaugh to Michigan, most understood this would be somewhat of a rebuild year after losing so much talent on both sides of the ball. What most didn’t see coming was a 8-5 finish, with three L’s in a row. With the return of Brandon Peters at quarterback after injury, and the month long preparation many thought they’d get a glimpse of the future. What they left with was something from a nightmare, and questions about Brandon Peters ability to take Michigan to the next level.
Both teams got off to a very pedestrian start today, Michigan got on the board first on a 35-yard field goal by Quinn Nordin 3-0. Michigan would stretch the lead to 6-0 on another Nordin field goal. The Gamecocks would eventually get on the board on a 44-yard field goal from Parker White 6-3. With the game reduced to a battle between Nordin and White. Nordin would closed out the first half scoring hitting a 45-yard field goal. With the weather conditions going downhill, the second half was yet to come.
The second half would prove to be worth the wait as both teams found a little more footing. On Michigan’s first possession of the 2nd half Peters got into a rhythm hitting on four straight passes. Karan Higdon would then explode for a 16-yard run down to the Carolina 1-yard line, capped off by a 1-yard touchdown by fullback Ben Mason 16-3. Michigan would score once more in the game and that came on a 45-yard Nordin field goal to give Michigan a 19-3 lead in the 3rd quarter.
Turnovers were a problem for both teams, and Michigan loss the turnover battle with a 6-3 margin. Michigan loss four fumbles and Peters tossed two interceptions and loss one of the fumbles. Peters was in position to solidify himself as the man at Michigan but came up short. Shea Patterson the former 5 star recruit who recently transferred from Ole Miss is waiting to see if he will be eligible to play next year. If Patterson is able to play, both he and Dylan McCaffery will push Peters for the lead role.
With South Carolina down 19-3 in the third quarter, they began their push for the victory. The Gamecocks scored their first touchdown when Rico Dowdle ripped off a 17-yarder for six, to cap off a 77-yard drive 19-9. They failed to convert the 2-point conversion. On the next possession for Michigan, Peters fumbled giving the ball to South Carolina at the Michigan 21. On the very next play, Jake Bentley hit Bryan Edwards on a 21-yard reception for the score 16-19. With Michigan’s offense stuck in neutral they were forced to punt right back to the Gamecocks. On the possession Bentley put the Gamecocks up for good when he found Shi Smith for a 53-yard touchdown 23-19. They closed out the scoring on another field goal from White 26-19.
Michigan had chances in the end to tie the game and go to overtime. When it was all said and done, Peters was picked off twice. They also turned the ball over on downs in between the two picks, going four plays and picking up zero yards. Those last three possessions were pretty telling of how most of the season was on the offensive side of the ball. With spring practice right around the corner, Michigan will have to figure out quite a bit with the offense. The defense which was the saving grace for the team, will be even better as they were one of the tops in the country all year.