Michigan’s controversy-filled season ends with national championship win over Washington
HOUSTON Slap an asterisk next to their name if you want.
Choose to remember Connor Stalions, the low-level staffer who led an alleged sign-stealing, in-game scouting scandal, when you recall how this 2023 college football season unfolded.
On the field, Michigan left no doubt.
Monday night, it completed a perfect, 15-0 season its way with dominant defense, a punishing ground attack and a clutch quarterback who made big plays when they were needed.
It shut down Washingtons top-ranked passing attack and pummeled the Huskies on the ground, cruising to its first national championship in 26 years with a commanding 34-13 victory inide NRG Stadium.
Off the field issues? Were innocent, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said after leading his alma mater to its 12th national title, but just the second since 1948. We stood strong and tall because we knew we were innocent. These guys are innocent. To overcome that, it wasnt that hard because we knew we were innocent.
6Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy celebrates their win against Washington in the national championship on Monday. APIn the Wolverines third trip to the College Football Playoff in as many years, they finished the job.
The defense didnt allow more than 24 points all season and only two of Michigans 15 wins were decided by a single score despite Harbaugh missing six of them due to a pair of three-game uspensions.
In mid-October, the sign-stealing scandal broke.
It didnt sidetrack these Wolverines.
They kept on winning, and doing so convincingly.
Were built to last no matter what the outside circumstance is, cornerback Will Johnson, the games Defensive MVP, said. Thats just what were all about.
In what may be Harbaughs final game coaching his alma mater he could return to the NFL Michigan owned the first and fourth quarters, outscoring Washington, 28-3.
6Michigan Wolverines running back Blake Corum (2) runs the ball against Washington Huskies cornerback Elijah Jackson (25) during the third quarter. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con6Donovan Edwards #7 of the Michigan Wolverines reacts as he holds the national championship trophy. Getty ImagesIt picked off Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback Michael Penix Jr. twice and limited him to 255 yards through the air.
The Wolverines piled up 303 rushing yards and Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards each scored twice on the ground while each ran for over 100 yards.
Quarterback J.J. McCarthy, the hero of the dramatic Rose Bowl victory, led a game-clinching touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter that iced the title.
6Michigan Wolverines running back Donovan Edwards (7) runs with the ball for a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the first quarter. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con6Michigan celebrates winning the national championship. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConThe game was very much in doubt for much of the second half, a touchdown separating the two teams.
Washingtons offense just couldnt get on track.
Penix was inaccurate.
His receivers dropped passes.
Then, McCarthy hit Colston Loveland on a 41-yard gain over the middle.
Heroes, zeros from Michigan’s win vs. Washington: Donovan Edwards starred in first quarter
Four plays later, Corum scored from 12 yards out.
Penix was intercepted deep in Michigan territory by Mike Sainristil on the ensuing possession, ending any comeback thoughts.
Playmakers. Coaches always say playmakers have to make plays. And dont wait on anyone else to make a play, said Corum, who ran for 134 yards on 21 carries. There were so many people making plays out there. And when we needed a play, someone made it.
The Wolverines started fast.
Edwards scored on touchdown runs of 41 and 46 yards.
In the first quarter alone, the Wolverines had 174 rushing yars on seven carries and three runs of at least 40 yards.
The Huskies had given up two such runs all year and trailed 14-3 their largest deficit of the season after 15 minutes.
Washingtons defense didnt let the game get away.
Michigan had just a field goal on four second-quarter possessions, twice stalling near the middle of the field.
6Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) reacts after a play against the Michigan Wolverines during the fourth quarter, USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConPenix was intercepted on the first play of the third quarter, but the defense held again, forcing a 38-yard field goal that extended the lead to 20-10.
Late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, Washington had three chances to pull even.
The offense stalled, managing just two first downs.
There were key drops and a killer penalty.
We just couldnt get over the hump. We couldnt finish the drive the way that were used to, Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said. Thats a credit to Michigan.
Eventually, Michigan put the hammer down.
Washington had no response.
A celebration 26 years in the making was on.
Asterisk or no asterisk, the Wolverines were the last team standing.
For me personally, I can now sit at the big persons table in the family, Harbaugh said. They wont keep me over there on the little table anymore. My dad, Jack Harbaugh, won a national championship and my brother John won a Super Bowl. Its good to be at the big persons table from now on.
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