TAMPA, FLA. - In a season filled with mistakes, Michigan's finale may have been the worst.
The Wolverines turned the ball over five times in the second half and allowed 23 unanswered South Carolina points during an ugly 26-19 loss to the Gamecocks in the Outback Bowl on Monday.
Michigan finishes Jim Harbaugh's third season with a record of 8-5.
After a brutal offensive showing in the first half, Michigan appeared ready to salvage this game up 13 points and driving toward the South Carolina goal line midway through the third, but Karan Higdon lost a fumble on the Gamecock 4-yard line and things changed.
After a Quinn Nordin field goal, South Carolina responded with a 77-yard touchdown drive, extended by a Josh Metellus late hit, that resulted in a 17-yard run from Rico Dowdle to make it 19-9.
On Michigan's following possession, the Wolverines coughed up the ball after trying a handoff to tight end Sean McKeon on third-and-short. The next play, South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley hit Bryan Edwards from 21 yards out to make it a three-point game.
And after another Michigan three-and-out, the Gamecocks struck when Shi Smith ran past Tyree Kinnel for a wide open 53-yard touchdown catch to give South Carolina the lead, 23-19, with 11:33 to go in the fourth quarter.
Brandon Peters led Michigan down the field on the ensuing drive, but ultimately made his most costly error of the game, forcing an interception in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 5-yard line.
Michigan's defense forced another stop, but Donovan Peoples-Jones fumbled a punt, allowing the Gamecocks to add a field goal with less than five minutes to play. Michigan was unable to convert a first down on its following possession, but the Gamecocks missed a 48-yard field goal and Michigan took over at its own 31 with 1:38 remaining.
The Wolverines were unable to gain a first down and on fourth-and-1 at the Michigan 40, Peters threw an interception near the sideline with 1:05 left.
Pick one of the five turnovers in the second half; all of them were critical. Higdon and Peters both committed turnovers inside the South Carolina 10-yard line.
Five second-half turnovers in a game where your offense can't move the football will result in a loss most every time.
Michigan averaged 3.6 yards per play in this game.
Peters finished 20-for-44 for 186 yards and two interceptions. The Wolverines ran the ball 33 times for 74 yards, another brutal day offensively.
What it means
Michigan lost five games this season. This team wasn't good enough.
And Jim Harbaugh's football program has a ton of work to do to fix this next season.
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