By Lauren Merola, Max Olson, Austin Meek, Jim Trotter and Nicole Auerbach
It’s been 26 years, however lastly, nobody has it higher than Michigan.
The Wolverines, who ranked second in passing yards allowed per recreation with 150.0 heading into title city, confronted their hardest activity but in taming the flamethrower that’s Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Michigan answered the bell, subduing Penix to 255 yards and one landing — the one Washington TD on the evening — in opposition to two interceptions on 27-of-51 passing, an enormous divergence from the standard efficiency of the nation’s chief in passing yards per recreation (332.0) and passing yards (4,648).
Couple that with the Wolverines’ run recreation they usually downed the Huskies 34-13 to emerge because the 2023 Faculty Soccer Playoff national champion on Monday evening at NRG Stadium in Houston. It’s Michigan’s first title since 1997 and underneath coach Jim Harbaugh.
Down 27-13 with lower than 5 minutes to play, Penix tried to throw a move to vast receiver Jalen McMillan however was picked off in double protection. Michigan defensive again Mike Sainristil ran it again 80 yards earlier than working again Blake Corum punched it in for the solidifier.
Corum completed with 134 speeding yards and two touchdowns whereas his counterpart Donovan Edwards added 104 yards and one other two scores on the bottom.
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Popping out of the half down 17-10, Penix was swallowed by the Wolverines’ defensive position on the first play. He threw an interception to Michigan defensive again Will Johnson, giving up the ball on Washington’s 32 whereas Penix hobbled to the sideline after a teammate stepped on his ankle in the course of the play. The Huskies protection then got here up large, with the assistance of two Michigan penalties, to solely give up a subject aim and preserve the sport at bay, 20-10. It wasn’t sufficient, and Michigan reclaimed the swaying momentum to maintain the wire-to-wire lead.
“I just feel like it came down to executing,” Penix mentioned postgame. “I missed a couple of throws, just a couple of reads on routes and stuff like that. Just small details within our system that we do great all the time.”
After the sport, Penix had noticeable hassle strolling off the sector however mentioned that “no matter what, I was going to make sure I finished it for the guys.”
“I’m not healthy, but I’ll be there. I’m good. It’s nothing major. I know that for sure,” he mentioned. “I talked with the doctors and stuff like that. It’s nothing major. If I had to play tomorrow, I’ll play.”
41 YARDS TO THE HOUSE 🏠
Michigan’s Donovan Edwards strikes first within the #NationalChampionship
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) January 9, 2024
Michigan set the tone as early as doable, gaining 5 first downs on an eight-play drive with its first touches on ball to bounce out to a 7-0 lead. By the point Michigan held a 14-3 benefit with 2:23 to go within the first quarter, it had 115 speeding yards. By the tip of the first, Edwards had 87 yards and two touchdowns after solely having three TDs on the season getting into the sport. It was an off-brand job by Washington, which allowed solely two rush performs of 40-plus yards all season earlier than Monday, when it let up three such rushes within the first half.
Within the air, a relatively forgotten a part of Michigan’s first half, quarterback J.J. McCarthy accomplished his first three passes of the sport however then simply two of the following 9. He was 0-for-4 on third and fourth downs at half. He completed 10-of-18 for 140 yards.
On the day, Washington posted 301 whole yards to Michigan’s 444. Practically 85 p.c of Washington’s yards got here within the air, whereas Michigan, inversely, racked up practically 68 p.c of its yardage on the bottom.
“I’m just super proud of this team and how far we’ve come, always being the underdog,” Penix mentioned. “This is the only time you all were right, but we were able to fight and push through so much adversity and just people doubting us and not believing us throughout the season. To get to this point, it’s a blessing.”
What the title means for Michigan
Michigan lastly broke by means of and introduced house a national championship in a yr that at occasions felt extra like a wild season of actuality TV. This group had the proper stuff to end the job after consecutive CFP semifinal losses in 2022 and 2023, received its third consecutive Huge Ten title thanks to gritty wins over Penn State and Ohio State, saved preventing for an time beyond regulation triumph in opposition to Alabama within the Rose Bowl and, in its largest check but, shut down Washington and its prolific offense. This was a particular group on a path to future.
And that path was suffering from drama, from Harbaugh serving a three-game suspension to begin the season to the in-season investigation into Connor Stalions’ impermissible sign stealing operation to one other three-game Harbaugh suspension served up as his group landed in State Faculty, Pa. By way of all of it, regardless of who was teaching or who they have been taking part in, these Wolverines have been undeterred. They’d the No. 1 protection in faculty soccer, skilled leaders who refused to lose and the poise to play their finest of their largest video games. — Max Olson, faculty soccer senior author
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Edwards shines when the highlight is brightest
Edwards has a popularity for exhibiting up in large moments. He wasn’t a lot of an element for a lot of this season, averaging simply 3.5 yards per carry in a restricted position. However within the national championship recreation, big-game Edwards reappeared in beautiful trend.
Edwards opened the sport with a 41-yard landing burst and scored once more on Michigan’s subsequent drive with a 46-yard run. Edwards laid the groundwork for Michigan’s victory and Corum completed it, plunging into the tip zone from 12 yards out to give the Wolverines a two-touchdown lead.
The 2-headed speeding assault Michigan envisioned with Corum and Edwards didn’t materialize for a lot of the season, nevertheless it confirmed up within the largest recreation of the yr. Each gamers topped 100 yards on the bottom, with Edwards speeding for 104 and Corum speeding for 134. When the Wolverines run the ball that manner, no person can cease them. — Austin Meek, Michigan beat author
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What occurred to Penix?
Statistically, it was not the worst efficiency of Penix’s sensible season. However contemplating the stakes, it felt prefer it.
One week after placing on a stunning efficiency in a Faculty Soccer Playoff win over Texas, Penix was overwhelmed and overwhelmed down, with he and his Washington teammates falling to Michigan within the national title recreation. The pinpoint accuracy and explosive performs that wowed observers in opposition to the Longhorns have been nowhere to be discovered Monday evening.
He appeared in bodily ache by the tip, although the lack of an ideal season probably damage extra. There have been alternatives for large performs, however Penix was uncharacteristically off on a number of alternatives. And when he was on the right track he was damage by dropped passes. — Jim Trotter, senior author
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Credit score Washington’s protection
It regarded early like Michigan was going to run away with the sport — actually, after two Edwards landing runs of greater than 40 yards. However credit score Washington’s protection for its resilience and toughness for permitting the Huskies to grasp round on this recreation, even with Penix not practically as crisp as he was every week in the past within the Sugar Bowl.
After all of the fireworks within the recreation’s first 17 minutes, Michigan went punt, turnover on downs, punt, subject aim, punt, punt, punt; the longest drive the Wolverines put collectively solely went 41 yards … till that landing drive on the midpoint of the fourth quarter that resulted in a Corum landing and put Michigan up by two scores. — Nicole Auerbach, faculty soccer senior author
A Pac-12 swan tune
Monday evening’s recreation was such a bittersweet second for the Pac-12 convention. The Huskies lastly broke by means of to attain the CFP and snap a seven-year drought for the convention they usually win an exhilarating semifinal to attain a national championship recreation … and it’s the final recreation for the Pac-12 as we’ve at all times identified it, with 10 of its 12 groups set to depart for different energy conferences subsequent season. This Washington group has been a blast to watch all season, as was the whole Pac-12 convention, with surging groups like Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona and the national phenomenon that was Colorado. It’s a tricky tablet to swallow as a result of it looks like if the Pac-12 had the season it did this fall a yr or two in the past, its demise would have by no means occurred. Alas.
However the Huge Ten is worked up it’ll boast each title recreation contributors as league members come August. A national championship recreation rematch shall be a Huge Ten convention recreation, on Oct. 5. — Auerbach
(Picture: Maddie Meyer / Getty Photographs)