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Michigan wins dramatic Rose Bowl in OT over Alabama

The Wolverines are headed to the National Championship!

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Daniel Plocher Dan Plocher contributes to Maize n’ Brew in several areas including podcasts, game previews/recaps, and various YouTube videos.

The Michigan Wolverines are officially over the hump. For the first time in three trips to the College Football Playoffs, Jim Harbaugh and his team are headed to the National Championship.

It wasn’t the prettiest game — Michigan botched an extra point, missed a field goal and muffed two punts. In the second half, it seemed like the game was over, but this team never stopped fighting. They overcame so much adversity in this contest, and throughout this season, to earn a spot in the national title.

Here’s how the game went down:

First Quarter

Michigan came out extremely slow. J.J. McCarthy threw an interception on the first play of the game that was called incomplete because the defender did not re-establish after stepping out of bounds. The offense proceeded to go three and out.

Thankfully, the defense stood up after sacking Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe twice on the Crimson Tide’s opening drive. But Michigan wouldn’t get the ball back due to a muffed punt by freshman wide receiver Semaj Morgan.

A few plays later, Milroe was pushing the pile on a sneak to pick up a crucial third-and-one at the Michigan 35-yard line. A favorable spot gave the Crimson Tide the first down and running back Jase McClellan took the ball 34 yards on the next play for the Rose Bowl’s first touchdown. Alabama took the early lead, 7-0.

After the sluggish start, Michigan responded the right way. A consistent running game was established, as the Wolverines ran for 46 yards on a 10-play, 75-yard drive. Blake Corum picked up a huge first down on fourth-and-one, and then found the end zone on a wide-open pass to put the Wolverines on the board:

Second Quarter

Michigan’s defense forced another three-and-out as Milroe slid short of the sticks after escaping the pocket on a third-and-11. The Wolverines’ offense was moving the ball effectively down the field again, staying ahead of the sticks. Max Bredeson was called for a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty, however, and it killed the Michigan drive.

Back in the hands of the Crimson Tide, Milroe and the offense had nothing cooking. Kris Jenkins and Michael Barrett picked up the Wolverines' third and fourth sacks of the first half, as Alabama’s offensive woes continued.

But Michigan couldn’t capitalize after McCarthy missed Cornelius Johnson on a deep out comeback route, and then failed to convert on third down on a misfire to Roman Wilson. To this point, McCarthy had not seemed dialed in and was not as efficient as we had seen him previously in the year.

Luckily, Michigan’s defense was as locked in as ever, forcing its third three-and-out of the ballgame with a really nice tackle from Mike Sainristil on a designed quarterback keeper.

McCarthy was back on the field with the Michigan offense with about eight minutes remaining in the half, and he started to heat up. He hit Colston Loveland and Roman Wilson on consecutive plays to move the sticks and put the Wolverines in striking distance. On third-and-10, McCarthy connected with Tyler Morris on a short crossing route that went 38 yards to the end zone. The sophomore wide receiver scored his first career touchdown with a fantastic display of speed:

A botched snap on the extra point gave Michigan a 13-7 advantage.

Alabama’s four-minute offense was needed to wrap up the first half, and Milroe had his best drive of the game. He hit Isaiah Bond on a 29-yard deep ball to help get things going for the Crimson Tide. At midfield, Milroe scrambled straight up the middle for a 17-yard gain on second-and-15, but Michigan’s defense wouldn’t break before the half, as Derrick Moore picked up the Wolverines’ fifth sack of the first half. Alabama settled for a 50-yard field goal from Will Reichard to cut the lead to 13-10 before the half.

Michigan’s defense allowed less than 100 yards in the first half. Many thought Michigan’s offensive line would struggle with Alabama’s pass rush, but they hadn’t gotten to McCarthy a single time. Meanwhile, the Michigan defense sacked Milroe five times. It felt lopsided, but the score didn’t show the same thing.

Third Quarter

Alabama started with the ball and the halftime adjustments were looking crisp. The offensive line began to open up some big holes up the middle, getting the Tide into plus territory. However, consecutive botched snaps put them well behind the sticks, though, and they were forced to punt after a nine-play drive.

It was a huge opportunity for Michigan to swing the momentum of this game. A 12-yard toe-tapping completion to Cornelius Johnson on third-and-nine picked up a first down. But the offense got cute, bringing in Alex Orji for a pass designed to go to Kalel Mullings, but took a two-yard loss. McCarthy completed the third-down attempt to Tyler Morris, but the ball was behind him, making him lose his balance after reeling in the ball and falling short of the sticks.

After a three-and-out by Bama, Michigan had another chance to make it a two-possession game. Two incomplete passes later, including one going right through the hands of Morgan, and the Wolverines gave the ball right back to Alabama.

Michigan had just one first down and less than 30 yards of total offense in the third quarter.

Fourth Quarter

The field position battle of the third quarter was won by the Crimson Tide. They took over at the 45-yard line and took advantage of Milroe’s legs consistently for the first time in the game. He ran for 37 yards on the drive, including a huge 18-yard pickup on second-and-15 that put the Crimson Tide inside the five-yard line. A play later, McClellan scored for the second time, giving Alabama the 17-13 lead.

It became a lack of execution for the Michigan offense. McCarthy missed Loveland, and on the next play, Donovan Edwards dropped a ball on third down. Michigan had to punt the ball back to an Alabama team with all of the momentum.

But this Michigan defense would try to bail out a struggling offense. Quinten Johnson made a play at the ball on a Milroe scramble and knocked it loose. Josh Wallace recovered it, giving the Wolverines possession in Bama territory.

A quick strike to Wilson picked up 20 yards, and it felt like the game was flipping in Michigan’s favor. Then, a botched flea-flicker lost seven yards, as Corum’s pitch back to McCarthy was short-armed. Michigan had to settle for a field goal, but James Turner pushed it left. An opportunity squandered.

Alabama also took over in decent field position. A 17-yard run from McClellan pushed the ball onto the right side of the 50 for the Crimson Tide. Jam Miller ran for another 11 yards on a pivotal third-and-three, just outside field goal range. The drive ended short of the end zone, as Alabama had 12 men in formation, and then Braiden McGregor sacked Milroe on the ensuing play. Reichard knocked in his second 50+-yard field goal of the game to give the Crimson Tide a 20-13 lead with less than five minutes to play.

It was a quick three plays, and suddenly it was fourth-and-two. With the season on the line, McCarthy hit a wide-open Corum in the flat who took it 27 yards. A block in the back by Wilson brought the Wolverines back to midfield, but the chains were still moved. Wilson made up for it a few plays later, as a ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage out of the hands of McCarthy, and Wilson leaped for a fantastic catch.

Two plays later, Wilson caught the game-tying touchdown with 1:34 remaining.

Alabama got the ball to around midfield on the next drive, but it would stall and was forced to punt. Michigan got the ball with three timeouts remaining and just less than a minute to play.

Harbaugh sent Jake Thaw back to return the punt, his first of the game. But for the second time, a Michigan returner muffed a punt, and the Wolverines barely avoided disaster as they got the ball on the one-yard line.

A short run up the middle for Corum and two kneel downs later, and the game was headed to overtime.

Overtime

It only took two plays, and Corum found the end zone. He ran left, made a cut, and went 17 yards to put the game in the hands of the Michigan defense:

It looked like Alabama was going to respond right away after Milroe ran for 15 yards on the second play of their possession. However, Mason Graham blew up a McClellan run, and Alabama lost five yards. On fourth-and-goal from the three-yard line, Milroe tried to run it up the middle, but he was stuffed by the defensive line.

The Wolverines were victorious, 27-20 in overtime, and are headed to the National Championship. They’ll play the winner of Texas and Washington, who are squaring up on Monday evening in the Sugar Bowl. Kickoff next Monday is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.