Our quick little series of the most memorable plays and moments of the Michigan Wolverines’ 2023 season concludes this week. If you missed it, here is the first part which covered No. 10-No. 6, ending with acting head coach (and new full-time head coach) Sherrone Moore’s display of emotion after beating Penn State.
This week we will be breaking down five plays in three of the season's last four games: against Ohio State in The Game, in the OT Thriller over Alabama in the Rose Bowl, and the national title win over Washington.
Let’s put a bow on the magical season that was for Jim Harbaugh and his crew.
5. Blake Corum TD run after Zinter injury against Ohio State
This one will give almost every Michigan fan chills for the remainder of time. A tie ballgame late in the third quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes with a College Football Playoff spot on the line. Zak Zinter, the top offensive lineman on the team, goes down with a leg injury that immediately looked awful. The medical staff rushed onto the field and the cart was brought out to take Zinter, the soon-to-be unanimous first-team All-American, off the field for the final time in Ann Arbor.
It went from pin-drop silence to every Michigan fan in the jam-packed Big House chanting Zinter’s name as he was carted off the field. A legendary career in its own right was over, but the hopes of a national championship were very much alive. Like the team did all season when faced with adversity, they remained focused, and a leader of men led.
Blake Corum took the ball left on the very next play, made a jump cut to avoid a tackle, and had only green grass in front of him.
The Big House erupted as Corum flashed the 6-5 with his hands in honor of Zinter and a defining moment of this season was made.
Joel Klatt, the color commentator on the FOX broadcast, was stunned by the display of emotion from the fans and the brotherhood shown by the players. It’s something that just made this team so special:
"It was incredible, I've never seen anything like it in my career."@joelklatt shares the emotional moment when thousands of @UMichFootball fans loudly chanted "Let's go Zak" as @zak_zinter was carted off the field during an injury timeout ❤️6️⃣5️⃣ pic.twitter.com/D7Kvta7WU0— The Joel Klatt Show: A CFB Pod (@JoelKlattShow) November 28, 2023
4. Rod Moore’s INT to beat Ohio State
Late in the fourth quarter of The Game, Michigan went on one of its “Beat Ohio” drives that have killed the Buckeyes over the last three matchups. With a three-point lead, the Wolverines went on a 13-play, 56-yard drive that consumed seven of the eight minutes remaining in the game. A 37-yard field goal from James Turner gave Michigan a 30-24 advantage with one minute to go.
Starting on its own 19-yard line, Ohio State had no timeouts remaining and had to score a touchdown to win. McCord took a deep shot to Marvin Harrison Jr. who picked up 22 yards. Then, he threw a strike to Julian Fleming that gained another 21. All of a sudden, the Buckeyes were threatening in Michigan territory with 25 seconds to go.
However, junior safety Rod Moore called game:
Just thinking today about when Rod Moore called game— JD 〽️ (@MGoJDBlue) January 19, 2024
Pressure from the Wolverines’ aggressive defensive line assisted as Jaylen Harrell had a free shot at Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord, and the Wolverines would beat the Buckeyes for a chance at glory.
It was the most exciting finish in Michigan’s three-win streak over the Buckeyes and maybe the most important in the history of the rivalry with how the season ended for the maize and blue.
3. 4th-and-goal stop to beat Alabama in the Rose Bowl
Michigan had a lead in overtime during an instant classic with the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Rose Bowl.
Jalen Milroe had been using his legs all game to move the sticks, with 21 carries for 63 yards in the contest. He’d have the opportunity to do it again in overtime, picking up 15 yards on the second play of the Crimson Tide’s drive.
But, the Wolverines responded by stuffing Jase McClellan on consecutive attempts including a five-yard loss on 2nd-and-goal. This backed Alabama up to the 14-yard line, where Milroe connected on a corner route to Jermaine Burton. One play from the three-yard line would decide if Michigan would be headed to the national championship or a second overtime period.
After a poor snap, the defensive line did what it had done all season, dominate:
There was pressure from just about every angle. Mike Sainristil covered the outside and Josaiah Stewart crushed on the left side, making the tackle thanks to the defensive interior standing its ground.
The Wolverines finally got off the schneid, won a College Football Playoff game — The Rose Bowl, no less — and were headed to the national championship.
2. Mike Sainristil’s INT to seal National Title win
Even though it was a one-score game during portions of the second and most of the third quarter, it felt like Michigan was going to win the national championship after opening the game with two touchdowns by Donovan Edwards.
Still, it’s not over until the fat lady sings, and Michigan’s poor second-half offensive output almost allowed Michael Penix Jr. and the Huskies back into this game. Even with a two-touchdown lead with seven minutes to go, there was room for discomfort as Washington moved the ball slowly into Michigan territory.
On 4th-and-13, Penix needed a first down, but he overthrew his receiver, right into the hands of the great Mike Sainristil:
Watching Michigan Basketball struggle like this is hard to watch.— Don Thomas (@REALDonThomas) January 19, 2024
Watching Mike Sainristil and Blake Corum put a Michigan national championship on ice is NOT hard to watch.
Enjoy! #GoBlue pic.twitter.com/Q6MuFY9mvi
It was the moment that Michigan fans and players knew that business was finished and that they would be National Champions.
1. Blake Corum’s Rose Bowl run for OT TD
How can you top that moment? Only with a legendary player making the best play of his career in overtime of the Grandaddy of Them All.
Corum’s run here was unbelievable. This was a gritty, angry run at the finish, but he could have easily been tackled in the backfield. An unbelievable juke to the outside, avoiding a push from the middle started the most memorable play of this season. Him making this ridiculous play in overtime made it feel like there was nothing that could stop this team.
Undoubtedly, these Wolverines were a team of destiny, and it felt like we could start saying that after Corum finished off this run that wound up being the game-winner in the Rose Bowl.