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Biggest takeaways from Michigan’s Fiesta Bowl loss to TCU

Evaluating the big things that happened in the Fiesta Bowl.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Semifinal Game Fiesta Bowl Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michigan lost to TCU in the Fiesta Bowl by a score of 51-45 on Saturday, and there was a plethora of things that occurred in what was one of the wildest games you can ever watch.

Here are takeaways from the game.

A game of retrospect

There were moments when Michigan’s play-calling shined. A flea-flicker touchdown to Ronnie Bell, deep balls to Bell, Roman Wilson, and Colston Loveland that connected, a rushing play to the edge for Wilson for a touchdown, a long J.J. McCarthy touchdown run. When an offense scores 45 points, it wasn’t all bad. However, there were plays that didn’t work. A trick play on the opening drive reminiscent of the “Philly Special” where the tight end Loveland became the QB and McCarthy the receiving option. TCU snuffed it out. There were plays that featured Kalel Mullings getting carries which didn’t have much success (and one fumble). Michigan’s offensive line struggled against the 3-3-5 defense, having trouble identifying which defenders were pass-rushing. On the defensive side of the ball, Michigan opted to blitz more than usual to pressure TCU quarterback Max Duggan but unfortunately for the Wolverines Duggan made big plays when he had to. TCU’s rushing attack was highly potent as well with 263 yards on the ground. There’s more to dissect than this, but these are just some of the things Michigan will be wishing went differently.

Blake Corum was greatly missed

Running back Blake Corum injured his knee against Illinois, had surgery before the Big Ten Championship Game, and was on crutches at the Fiesta Bowl. Corum’s skillset was needed in this one. On inside runs, the holes just weren’t there for Donovan Edwards and Corum has elite awareness and speed to bounce runs to the outside to make something out of nothing. Further, Corum has been a major asset in short-yardage situations, an area Michigan struggled in the Fiesta Bowl with Edwards and Kalel Mullings. Edwards rushed for 119 yards, but 54 of those came on the first play from scrimmage.

Corum, who would have been a Heisman favorite if it wasn’t for his injury, is a transcendent player, and I’ll always be wondering what the outcome of the game would have been if he was able to suit up. Corum was a major reason why Michigan was able to remain undefeated during the regular season, and it’s fair to believe he would have made all the difference in the world against TCU.

J.J. McCarthy’s ups and downs greatly impacted game

McCarthy threw two interceptions, both of which were returned for touchdowns. This was brutal for the team and the young quarterback personally. But to McCarthy’s credit, this didn’t do him in psychologically and he powered through. In short, McCarthy made the two worst plays of his Michigan career, but also made some of his best. The short passing game was bottled up by TCU and McCarthy had to rely on deep balls, and he connected on plenty of them, with notable bombs to Bell, Wilson, Loveland, and Schoonmaker. McCarthy also was a difference maker with his legs, rattling off a couple long runs, including a rushing score. McCarthy’s day was paradoxical, he hurt his team and helped his team at the same time. He knows the interceptions were on him and the only thing to do now is keep his chin up and move forward and never let it happen again.

Officiating was horrendous

I wrote a whole article on the subject. For that, Click Here.

A great season ends a game too soon

Michigan had its first 13-win season in program history. They beat Michigan State, Ohio State, and won a Big Ten Championship. This was one of the best seasons Michigan has ever had. There is only one team who gets to hoist a National Championship Trophy, and that won’t be Michigan, but that doesn’t mean this season wasn’t anything short of spectacular. Michigan’s loss to TCU, where they certainly had their chances to win will hurt for awhile, but the program can be proud of what they accomplished. Many programs would dream to have a year such as this. Of course, the standard is higher at Michigan, as it should be, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. Michigan was 2-4 two years ago and their obituary was written. Jim Harbaugh and the team rose from the ashes and has proven a lot of people wrong two years in a row. At some point, they’ll need to break through and win the big one, but congratulations to the Wolverines nonetheless.