ATLANTA -- The play shouldn’t have worked.
Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks was stopped on the same call earlier in the second quarter, a sneak up the middle on 3rd-and-7 that only netted him five yards.
He even broke out a 15-yard scramble on the play before, so, if anything, the Michigan Wolverines should have been prepared for a run from the Florida signal caller.
They were not.
Franks took the snap and trotted back a few steps. When the defense was convinced Franks was passing the ball, he took off.
This play shouldn’t have worked. But it did.
Franks easily ran into the end zone from 20 yards out with no defender ready to stop him, giving the Gators a 13-10 lead, one it wouldn’t give up the remainder of the game.
Florida’s offense helped carry No. 10 UF to a 41-15 statement win over No. 7 Michigan on Saturday in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. It was the first time the Gators have beaten the Wolverines, having lost the last four matchups.
“I told our guys, the sooner everybody bought in, the sooner we'll start winning,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “It's evident. It started with the seniors. Those guys believed from day one. Nobody questioned, nobody resisted, everybody tried to do whatever we asked them to do.”
Franks finished the game with 173 yards on 13-of-23 passing and a touchdown. He also ran for 74 yards and a touchdown.
He became the first Gator with a passing and rushing touchdown in a bowl game since Tim Tebow did it in the 2010 Sugar Bowl.
“Just filled with emotion and...how much I felt like I've improved from last season under Coach Mullen and Coach Johnson,” Franks said about what was running through his head after the game. “So it's just a great feeling, tears of joy, that I've always wanted to be in the middle of confetti falling down on me, winning championships.”
The Gators defense put on a showing as well.
Safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson had two interceptions, defensive lineman Jachai Polite had a sack and forced a fumble, and defensive backs CJ Henderson and Jeawon Taylor combined for 16 tackles.
The defense also sacked UM quarterback Shea Patterson five times on Saturday.
Despite all this success, it was a close game early on.
The Gators settled for two field goals on their first three drives but couldn’t stop the Wolverines from taking a quick advantage. Patterson connected with receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones on a nine-yard pass in the first quarter, and kicker Jake Moody drilled a field goal from 48 yards out in the second to go up 10-6.
Franks’ touchdown run kick-started an offensive showing where Florida dominated Michigan. The run made it a 13-10 game at halftime.
It was all UF after that.
The Gators showed creativity in some of their play calling. During the third quarter, Franks pitched the ball to Kadarius Toney on a jet sweep on fourth down for 30 yards, and it brought Florida to the five-yard line. Two plays later, running back Lamical Perine scored on an under pattern that put the score at 20-10.
“Ever since Coach Mullen got here, he put me in the position to make plays and he do that for everybody on the offense,” Perine said. “I just been listening to him.”
Perine finished the game with a team-high 76 yards rushing and 22 yards receiving, along with two touchdowns, one he caught and one he ran in.
Florida’s other running back, Jordan Scarlett, also found the endzone in the second half. He scored on a one-yard run after multiple attempts of getting in. Earlier in the drive, he also ripped off a 30-yard sprint that brought UF to the Michigan 3-yard line.
Michigan mounted a small comeback in the fourth quarter. An early field goal was complemented by a blocked punt for a safety, but that was all the Wolverines could muster. Gardner-Johnson ran back an interception for a touchdown, putting an exclamation point on Florida’s Peach Bowl win.
“You ask what a successful season is, and it's you got better every single day,” Mullen said. “I would call this season a success.”
Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at [email protected].