It’s been a familiar story in Jacksonville, as the Michigan defense has struggled in the first half of the Gator Bowl versus Mississippi State. The Wolverines trail 31-14 at halftime.
The Bulldogs have shown a balanced attack, having success passing and rushing through a Wolverines defensive unit that has looked overmatched and disorganized. Quarterback Chris Relf has passed for 135 yards on 12-of-17 passing with two touchdowns. Relf is also MSU’s leading rusher with 43 yards and a score on 12 carries.
Mississippi State has been particularly productive on third down, converting eight of 11 opportunities.
The play that might sum up Michigan’s defensive performance the best occurred early in the second quarter. With the Wolverines trying to make a goal line stand and hold a 14-10 lead, the defense was caught attempting to make a last-second substitution.
Linebacker Obi Ezeh was seen running onto the field and across the formation as MSU snapped the ball. Tailback Vick Ballard rushed right through the hole that Ezeh likely would’ve filled for a touchdown and the lead. After the play, ESPN cameras showed defensive coordinator Greg Robinson chewing Ezeh out on the sideline.
Michigan’s offense has moved the ball, but also been tripped up by turnovers. Quarterback Denard Robinson has an interception and tailback Vincent Smith lost a fumble. In the first half, Robinson has 60 rushing yards on seven carries. He’s passed for two touchdowns and 151 yards, completing 11 of 15 passes.
Wide receiver Martavious Odoms, returning from a midseason foot injury, caught a 27-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone to give Michigan that 14-10 lead.