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Alabama tops Michigan 35-16 in 2020 Vrbo Citrus Bowl

By Dan Ryan, Florida Citrus Sports

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jerry Jeudy didn’t just show up — he showed out at the Vrbo Citrus Bowl.

The Alabama wide receiver took home MVP honors Wednesday, as he logged a career-high 204 yards on jut six catches — including an 85-yard touchdown his team’s first play from scrimmage — in a 35-16 victory over Michigan in front of an announced crowd of 59,746 at Camping World Stadium.

The first Alabama wide receiver to register 200 yards in a postseason game, Jeudy helped the 13th-ranked Crimson Tide (11-2) erase a 16-14 halftime deficit while its defense posted a second-half shutout of the No. 14 Wolverines (9-4).

Mac Jones finished with 327 yards and two other touchdowns to his talented Alabama wide receiving corps – a 42-yarder to DeVonta Smith that put the Crimson Tide ahead 21-16 on the opening possession of the second half and a 20-yarder to tight end Miller Forristall with 10:01 remaining.

Najee Harris rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns to round out the Alabama scoring.

Jeudy hasn’t officially announced whether he will enter the NFL Draft, but if anything, Wednesday cemented the 2018 Biletnikoff Award winner’s place as one of the country’s top receiver prospects.

“I’ve played football all my life, so I couldn’t just sit out there and watch
my team play and my brothers be out there,” Jeudy said of the decision to play in the game. “So I just wanted to go to war with my brothers like I’ve been doing the whole season. I love playing football, so I just wanted to come out here and compete with my brothers.”

Jeudy’s 85-yarder against one-on-one coverage was nice, but his key catches came in the fourth quarter, with Alabama backed up to its own eight-yard line facing third-and-11.

Jones hit Jeudy on an out route for a 14-yarder that gave Alabama its first third down conversion of the game. On the next play, Jeudy did what Jeudy does on a 58-yard catch-and-run that put the Crimson Tide in the red zone and set up the Forristall touchdown one play later.

“For Jerry to go out there and play the way he did, certainly he used this opportunity to showcase his ability,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “It probably even enhanced his opportunities at the next level.”

Early on, Michigan hung with the Crimson Tide blow-for-blow.

The Wolverines’ seven-man front controlled things, Shea Patterson settled into a rhythm after misfiring on six of his seven attempts and Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins combined for 121 first-half yards on the ground. Michigan held the ball for 19:41 while its defense forced three consecutive Alabama punts after the opening score.

However, all the Wolverines could manage were leads of 13-7 and that 16-14 halftime lead when Qunn Nordin’s third field goal of the half – a Vrbo Citrus Bowl record 57-yarder – just cleared the crossbar on the final play of the second quarter.

Alabama, which only needed 55 plays to register 480 yards, held Michigan to 90 total yards and picked off Patterson twice in the second half.

“It seemed it took us a little while to get our sea legs under us, but we played much better in the second half,” Saban said. “In the second half, we we decided to play nickel, which gives us more multiples of things that we can to. We’re a little smaller on the field when we do that, but it’s easier to adjust and the players did a really good job of it and we were able to pressure more, which really helped us stop the run.”

Patterson finished 17 of 37 for 233 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown to Nick Eubanks with 7:06 remaining in the second quarter.

“We were doing a good job containing the run and then we created some pressures and got some first downs and three and outs, had a good stretch in the first half that helped us, “ said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

“Ultimately, you know, they made some really big plays, made some really good plays, some outstanding catches and throws. Alabama’s receivers are as impressive a group as you’re going to ever see. They’re fast but they also made the contested catches, made some great catches, ran some tremendous routes and they were able to get behind us two or three times.”

Smith (56 yards) and Forristall (53) each had three catches for Alabama while Giles Jackson (57), Ronnie Bell (53) and Nico Collins (48) each had three catches for Michigan.

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