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Michigan-Alabama key Rose Bowl takeaways

A glorious day in Pasadena for Michigan.

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

It was an up-and-down game but the final result was euphoric for the Michigan Wolverines against Alabama in the Rose Bowl. Michigan won 27-20 in overtime and is headed to the national championship in Houston.

Here are key takeaways from Michigan’s win.

Michigan’s defense was ferocious and had an epic goal-line stand in OT

Michigan’s defense made Alabama’s offense one-dimensional. Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe had limited success through the air, throwing for just 116 yards on the day. While Milroe made some great plays with his legs, he also turned the ball over on a fumble and was sacked a whopping six times by Michigan’s defense. Five of those sacks came in the first half, which is tied for the most in a half in the Nick Saban era. Michigan held Alabama to just 3-of-13 on third down and to 288 total yards. And with Michigan up 27-20 in overtime, the defense had an incredible goal-line stand which ended on a 4th and goal from the three-yard line where Milroe was stuffed on a run up the middle. There were many heroes on defense — Junior Colson had 10 tackles, Michael Barrett had nine and a sack, Mike Sainristil had some big hits and great coverage, Braiden McGregor had two sacks, Jaylen Harrell had a sack, Josaiah Stewart had a sack, Kris Jenkins and Derrick Moore both had sacks. It took cohesion from the defense for Michigan to win, and it was an epic performance down the stretch.

Michigan’s offense gets going late and turns the tide

Michigan took a 13-10 lead into halftime, but after neither team scored in the third quarter Alabama scored ten unanswered points to go up 20-13 on the Wolverines. Things were getting dire for Michigan, time was running out, and they had to score with time ticking down. A 35-yard pass from J.J. McCarthy to Blake Corum on 4th and 2 with 3;19 left in the game kept Michigan’s hopes alive. Then McCarthy rushed for 16 yards, Roman Wilson had a 29-yard reception and Wilson would score two plays later on a four-yard TD to tie the game at 27-7. In overtime, it was a quick and heavy dose of ground and pound from Blake Corum to give Michigan a 27-20 lead on a 17-yard rushing TD.

For every play that didn’t generate positive yardage, for every third-down Michigan didn’t convert (2-off-11 on the day), the offense made incredible plays happen and played inspired football, including McCarthy, who threw for 221 yards and three touchdowns. Roman Wilson had just four catches, but they were huge ones and totaled 73 yards. Blake Corum had a gritty 83 yards rushing and had heroic runs. The offensive line allowed just one sack after giving up four sacks to Iowa in the Big Ten Championship. Tyler Morris had the first touchdown of his career on a 38-yard reception. Just like Michigan’s defense, it took huge plays from multiple players on Michigan’s offense to get the job done.

The win silences the haters

Pundits have picked against Michigan in every big matchup this season. Penn State. Ohio State. And now against Alabama. It hasn’t turned out very well for them, and they have egg on their face, to say the least. Michigan hadn’t won a bowl game since 2015 until the Rose Bowl win on Monday. Michigan lost in the College Football Playoff semifinal in back-to-back years heading into the Rose Bowl. There was the narrative that the SEC would steamroll Michigan. There was the dynamic that Nick Saban was the best head coach ever and Jim Harbaugh had no chance of beating him. At some point, Michigan’s biggest detractors who have prestigious jobs in the media should own up to their bias against Michigan and admit they underestimated not only the talent of the Michigan team but the brotherhood within the locker room as well.

The job is not finished

Michigan’s accomplished a whole heck of a lot this season, but they still haven’t won their biggest game of the season. Sorry Ohio State, that Michigan-OSU rivalry is huge, but the national championship is substantially bigger. Multiple Michigan players spoke about the team having a Houston or bust mentality the entire season. Houston is where the national championship is being held. Well, now the Wolverines are headed to Houston on a business trip. This week of preparation is huge, as their opponent, Washington, has a prolific offense and a good defense as well. Washington’s undefeated and presents a huge challenge, a challenge Michigan gladly accepts.