GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Michigan Wolverines finished an undefeated season in embarrassing fashion as they fell to the TCU Horned Frogs 51-45 at the Fiesta Bowl in the College Football Playoff semifinal.
The game was marred with poor coaching and awful play on both sides of the ball as Michigan squandered an opportunity of a lifetime. The men in maize achieved everything they wanted last season but are coming into the new year with the same destination as they did in 2022, with an humiliating loss.
The Wolverines were blown off the field in Miami to a better team in the defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs. In the same disastrous fate, Michigan got upset by an inferior team in TCU, who scored 51 points to become the first Big 12 team to advance to the title game.
It’s hard to overcome two pick-sixes, an abysmal red zone offense, and debacle play calling on both sides of the ball, but those decisions ultimately sealed their fate against first-year head coach Sonny Dykes.
It was plays like the failed Philly Special on fourth and goal from the two-yard line that took points off the board. It was also plays like the rushed snap on first and goal from the one-yard line when Michigan tried to trick the defense by inserting a linebacker for a William (Refrigerator) Perry-type goal line run that resulted in a touchback.
Decisions such as those are why head coach Jim Harbaugh is 1-6 in bowl games, with his defense averaging 36.6 points per game.
“Congratulations to TCU,” said Harbaugh. “They played a great game. They are a very opportunistic team, a very resilient team, a really great team, and they played a great football game, no doubt. There’s a winner, and there’s a non-winner.”
Michigan looked like the non-winners on the field, giving up big play after big play on third downs; Instead of just playing defense, for some odd reason, defensive coordinator Jesse Minter kept blitzing over and over and over as if he didn’t learn from his first mistake.
“They did an outstanding job by cracking off some big plays,” Harbaugh said. “We didn’t get fitted right. That was disappointing. Big plays being made. Mistakes being made. We just had one less than we needed.”
“All credit to them,” said quarterback J.J. McCarthy before walking off the podium after answering one question. “They won the game in the 60 minutes that was played. They’re a good football team, and they got the win. We fought our hearts out. There were a lot of things that we could’ve done better, and I can’t wait to watch the tape, but we’ll be back, and I promise that.”
McCarthy finished 20-34 for 343 yards passing two touchdowns and two pick-sixes while carrying the ball 10 times for 52 yards and a score, but you can’t spot a team with 14 points in a game of that magnitude. Even worse than that was how he only answered one question and walked off the podium.
Every time the Wolverines fought back into the game and cut the lead to single digits, the defense would give up a monumental play on third down. Especially in the third quarter, as both teams combined to score 44 points which played in the hands of TCU as they had the horses for potential shootouts in the Arizona desert.
The loss will sting for years to come as team 143 will fall into the biggest “What If” category not just in Michigan football history but in sports history. They’ll have no one but themselves to blame for that type of performance on the biggest stage in college football.
What are your thoughts on the game, and how are you feeling about the program’s future moving forward?