We just witnessed what may be the most memorable run in the history of Michigan Wolverines football. Capped off with a National Championship, the team went 15-0 and dominated nearly every opponent.
After re-watching the entirety of the season (in condensed versions), there were so many plays or comments that stuck out to me as defining moments for the season. There is no specific criteria for this list, but I tried my best to rank the top-10 moments I think pushed the Wolverines to their national title this season.
Feel free to criticize and come up with your own in the comments. Here are numbers 10-6:
10. Mike Sainristil’s pick-six against Rutgers
Michigan did not have a good first half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Week 4. It was Jim Harbaugh’s first game on the sidelines and it was a little shaky to start.
On the opening possession, Rutgers quarterback Gavin Wimsatt threw a 69-yard touchdown pass for an early 7-0 lead. The Michigan offense responded with two first-half scores, but the game was very much in reach for Greg Schaino’s team in the second half.
Down 17-7, the Scarlet Knights were driving down the field on their first possession of the second half. Wimsatt had already connected with three different receivers for 45 yards on the drive, and it looked like Rutgers was going to make it a one-possession game late in the third quarter.
Instead, Mike Sainristil jumped in front of a screen-pass, showed an incredible display of balance, and took the ball to the house for a game-changing 71-yard pick-six:
No one knew what was going on during that play, as it didn’t even look like Sainristil had picked it off because Mike Barrett rolled on top of him after the interception. Michigan needed a big play from the defense, and like many times this season, Sainristil was the guy who provided it.
The Wolverines beat Rutgers, 31-7, and would subsequently outscore opponents, 239-44, in their opening six games of Big Ten play.
9. Punt, safety sequence against Maryland that saved the season
In the last two years, the Wolverines have had to survive scares against the Terps in their undefeated regular seasons. Michigan jumped out to a 23-3 lead in the second quarter, but Mike Locksley’s group wouldn’t go away and the Wolverines’ offense stalled for most of the second half.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Wolverines maintained a small 29-24 lead, and Maryland had multiple chances to go down the field and win the game. The Wolverines also had an opportunity to seal this one, but a holding penalty moved them behind the sticks, forcing them to punt the ball back to the Terps with less than five minutes remaining.
Tommy Doman whipped out his best punt of the season that iced the Terps at the one-yard line:
Two plays later, pressure from Cam Goode forced an intentional grounding in the end zone from Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa.
Intentional grounding for a safety— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 18, 2023
Tough penalty for Maryland pic.twitter.com/Q05j5Ov98m
The Wolverines would get the ball back with a touchdown lead and less than four minutes to play. Blake Corum ran the clock out and Michigan escaped, winning its 1,000th game in program history.
8. Will Johnson jumps route for INT in The Game
It was a defensive battle between Michigan and Ohio State in the early parts of The Game. Both teams traded possessions after quick drives in the first quarter.
Throughout the season, much had been said about the good, not great, play from Kyle McCord and his elite weapon, Marvin Harrison Jr.. Many considered Harrison to be the best wide receiver in college, and maybe the best overall pro prospect this season.
On one of his first targets in the biggest game of the season, the Ohio State duo met their match in superstar corner Will Johnson:
INTERCEPTION MICHIGAN 〽️— The Trick Play - NCAA/CFB (@TheTrickPlayFR) November 25, 2023
CB Will Johnson intercepte Kyle McCord dans la redzone des Buckeyes.
Simply put, this play was a tone-setter and it gave the Wolverines wonderful field position that they capitalized on to go up 7-0.
7. Roman Wilson’s tipped-catch to put Michigan in the red zone in Rose Bowl
There were so many moment from that fourth quarter drive in the Rose Bowl you could choose from. Corum’s reception in the flat on fourth down to move the sticks was a close cut from this list, but it was such an easy catch for a conversion that it was more a play-calling spectacle then a wow moment in my eyes.
What stood out to me more was the catch from Roman Wilson later in the drive that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. If Wilson mistimes his leap or misses the ball because of the tip, this ball is intercepted and Michigan loses the game.
At this point, it felt like the football gods were in the Wolverines’ favor and they were going to come back to beat Alabama. It was improbable that so many things could go right when it very easily could have gone the other way:
6. Sherrone Moore’s epic postgame interview after beating Penn State
Whew. It was really hard to not put this one in the top-five because it was such an emotional point in the Wolverines’ season. Harbaugh being suspended for the second time less than 24 hours before Michigan’s biggest game of the season up to that point felt like such a cheap shot.
Almost every player knew the stakes, they knew the unprecedented injustice they were facing without their head coach. Harbaugh did even try to earn his appeal in court because it was a losing battle. But each player and member of the staff BET on themselves to show out and run the ball down Penn State’s throat in Happy Valley.
Acting head coach Sherrone Moore just couldn’t contain his emotions after all the heartache and drama of the last couple days, and it was one of the most passionate displays of how this team felt about each other this season:
Tune in for our top-five moments coming next weekend here at Maize n Brew!