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Woe Blue: Michigan falls apart, loses to South Carolina in Outback Bowl

Associated Press • Jan 1, 2018 at 11:21 PM

TAMPA, Fla. – Michigan's bowl game was supposed to be a springboard into the upcoming season, but the Wolverines will want to leave this one behind.

The Wolverines imploded late in the second half and allowed a 19-3 lead late in the third quarter evaporate. They succumbed to five, second-half turnovers. Meanwhile, South Carolina took control of the game, scoring three consecutive touchdowns, including one off a Michigan fumble, to take a 23-19 lead with 11:33 left in the game. Jake Bentley hit Shi Smith on a 53-yard pass for a lead the Gamecocks never relinquished.

Michigan fell to South Carolina, 26-19, in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day at Raymond James Stadium. The Wolverines finished the season 8-5 and marred the Big Ten's unblemished bowl record entering the day.

The Big Ten finishes 7-1 in bowl games.

Kicker Quinn Nordin was 4-for-4 on field goals for Michigan. Redshirt freshman Brandon Peters was 20-of-44 for 186 yards and two interceptions. Michigan had 277 yards, including 74 rushing.

After the Gamecocks (9-4) took the lead, Michigan responded with a long drive and reached the South Carolina 5-yard line on third-and-5. But Peters, who said earlier in the week he wanted this to be his breakout game, was intercepted, trying to hit Donovan Peoples-Jones, with 7:53 left in the game.

The Wolverines continued to spiral when, on a punt return, the ball bounced off the right shoulder pad of Peoples-Jones. South Carolina recovered at the Michigan 14-yard line.

South Carolina missed a 48-yard field goal with just under two minutes left, giving Michigan one last chance, but on fourth down, Peters was picked off with 1:05 left on a pass attempted for Kekoa Crawford.

After a dreary offensive first half, Michigan opened the second with an efficient drive that featured a back-shoulder throw to Nico Collins from Peters for 13 yards, followed by a 27-yard deep pass to Crawford. Peters, who was not given great protection in the first half, took big hits on both of those throws. Karan Higdon powered to a 16-yard gain and freshman fullback Ben Mason scored from one yard for a 16-3 lead.

Michigan appeared ready to add to its lead when Noah Furbush intercepted a pass that had deflected off the helmet of Khaleke Hudson, who was defending the intended receiver. Furbush returned it 27 yards to the South Carolina 27-yard line. Targeting was called against the Gamecocks after a completion to Peoples-Jones and Michigan had the ball at the 9-yard line. It could have been a pivotal score for the Wolverines at that point, but running back Karan Higdon then fumbled.

South Carolina didn't take advantage, however, and on Michigan's next possession, Nordin added a 48-yard field goal for a 19-3 lead.

But then things got interesting. A late flag on Josh Metellus was called a late hit, extending a South Carolina drive that culminated with a touchdown to pull within 19-9. Devin Bush defended the two-point conversion.

The Gamecocks got the ball right back when Peters and tight end Sean McKeon fumbled a handoff, turning it over at the Michigan 21-yard line. South Carolina scored on the next play, closing the gap at 19-16.

The offensive line, which had been an issue all season, had a new look. Mason Cole was at left tackle for his 51st start, but left guard Ben Bredson missed the game because of injury and Michael Onwenu started in his place. Patrick Kugler made his final collegiate start at center, but was slowed by an injury suffered in practices and was replaced by Stephen Spanellis. Freshman Cesar Ruiz made his fifth start at right guard, and Jon Runyan started at right tackle. Juwann Bushell-Beatty, who had been the starter at right tackle, was not at the game, along with running back Kareem Walker, for undisclosed reasons.

Michigan's defense, key special teams plays and Nordin's leg kept the Wolverines above water in the first half, which they led 9-3. Nordin made field goals from 35, 26 and 45 yards as time expired in the half.

South Carolina managed 89 yards but was 0-for-6 on third down and had five tackles for loss.

The Wolverines, meanwhile, couldn't get much going offensively. They gained 97 yards and averaged 2.4 yards a play. Michigan averaged 1.2 yards a carry in the run game and on third down was 2-of-10.

South Carolina mishandled a punt and Ambry Thomas recovered, giving Michigan the ball in South Carolina territory. The Wolverines reached the 16-yard line and settled for a 35-yard field goal by Nordin.

Michigan benefited from a fumble by quarterback Jake Bentley recovered by Chase Winovich, giving Michigan the ball at the Gamecocks' 31-yard line. The Wolverines reached the 8-yard line and again Nordin made the field goal.

Nordin added the 45-yarder as the first half ended.

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