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Donovan Edwards’ stunning performance in the National Championship reignites his season

When it mattered most, Edwards made up for a mostly lackluster season.

2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images
Jacob Singer Jake Singer is a junior at the University of Michigan majoring in Political Science. He is a Michigan Football and Basketball Writer for SB Nation's Maize and Brew

In a season where Donovan Edwards seemed to be fading into the background, Monday night’s game against the Washington Huskies in the National Championship marked an electrifying resurgence for the junior.

Edwards, who had been experiencing a lackluster year, reminded everyone of his game-changing ability with a performance reminiscent of his heroics against Ohio State, Iowa and TCU last season.

When Blake Corum went down with a year-ending injury against Illinois in 2022, Edwards was thrust into the spotlight where he lit up the stat sheet. In that game against the Buckeyes, Edwards — playing with a cast on his right hand — ripped off 85- and 75-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter to lead the Wolverines to a 45-23. He finished with 216 yards on 22 carries.

The week following, he ran for 185 yards and a touchdown against Purdue in the Big Ten Championship. Then he went for another 119 yards in the CFP semifinal loss to TCU.

This season, however, was filled with underwhelming performances. Averaging just 28.1 yards per game with only three touchdowns, his contribution was a far cry from his previous season’s achievements. His longest carry before this game was a mere 22 yards, a stark contrast to his explosive runs last night.

On Monday night, all of Edwards’ previous games were forgotten.

The National Championship started with a bang, as Edwards stunned the stadium with two long touchdown runs of 41 and 46 yards in the first quarter alone. This feat etched his name in the history books as the first player since the BCS era began in 1998 to score multiple 40-yard touchdowns in a championship game. With just six carries, Edwards finished the game with 104 yards.

“I was so excited for Donovan because I just felt like he needed that,” Corum said. “He needed it. He’s back — Dono is back. And I don’t know what he’s going to do after this. I hope he just celebrates and doesn’t think about what decision he’s going to make. But I was happy for him. That’s something Donovan was praying for. He talked to the media the other day, I listened to the interview. He said he’s working on growing. He said he went to a therapist and just talked and talked. But Donovan, he puts in the work. He’s always there. I love that guy. Don, the Don. That’s going to be what you call it, a good friend, trusted agent, a known friend for life. That’s my guy. I’m glad I got to share the backfield with Donovan. I wish Donovan nothing but the best, if he ever needed anything, best believe I’d be there for him.”

Edwards’ quarterback was also proud of how his teammate shined on the brightest stage.

“I’ve been honored to be his roommate for two years, and just knowing everything he goes through behind the scenes and just the man he is on a day-to-day basis, this couldn’t have been a better moment for him to show out and show the world who he really is. And just so frickin’ happy for the guy,” J.J. McCarthy said.

Reflecting on his journey and the pressure he put on himself, Edwards shared his emotions following the game.

“It’s a beautiful feeling. Everything is just relief right now,” Edwards said. “I was stressing myself, putting pressure on myself that I shouldn’t. I just let everything be free.”

Recalling Edwards’ past performances, particularly in high-stakes games against Ohio State and in the Big Ten Championship, it’s clear he thrives under pressure. His impressive runs in these games had previously set high expectations.

Despite the challenges and a dip in form, Edwards’ father summed up the situation with optimism, emphasizing patience and faith.

“He’s been very, very patient, but look what we got. We have a national championship. Just wait your turn and keep the faith,” he said.

Edwards’ journey this season, marked by a significant drop in yards per carry and total rushing yards, was a test of resilience and perseverance. Last night’s game against Washington wasn’t just a win for Michigan — it was a personal victory for Edwards. A testament to his ability to rise above challenges and shine when it matters most.

“The Don is back,” Corum said, and the football world watches with anticipation to see what Edwards does next with this career.