After weeks of waiting, the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines squared off with the No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs in an exceptionally fun College Football Playoff semifinal. Unfortunately it didn’t end the way we hoped, as TCU took the 51-45 victory to advance to the National Championship against the Georgia Bulldogs.
The Wolverines fell into a hole early, as multiple mistakes proved costly in the end. J.J. McCarthy threw two pick-sixes that really altered Michigan’s attempts to dig themselves out of a deficit. Granted one of those gave TCU the go ahead early in the first half, but the Wolverines were unable to find the end zone until the second half.
Despite many unhappy reactions to a first half that produced two field goals, Michigan was still within two scores. It was hard to look past it when it seemed forces were going against the Wolverines from touchdowns called back to turnovers on the goal line. And most of those mistakes were just Michigan working against itself.
For the first time this season, we are going to look at what went wrong that led to Michigan’s demise. Now, there are a few things to consider that changed the trajectory of this game that I think we can all agree on. Honestly, over the course of the game there were so many that it was hard to settle on one, but I will try.
Obviously having Roman Wilson’s first touchdown overturned was incredibly frustrating. It’s hard not to look at it and determine how it impacted the game. Then having McCarthy throw two pick-sixes and inadvertently giving TCU 14 points hurts more after losing by six. One fewer mistake and the game ends differently.
No sense in dwelling on all the what-if’s, so let’s get to the turning point of the game. After questionable play calls, overturned touchdowns, turnovers and scoring six points, Michigan was down 15 at the half. Many of us were hopeful for second half adjustments, and for the most part they occurred. The Wolverines actively chipped away the deficit, but the second pick-six really hindered the efforts.
After trading touchdowns to pull within 11, Michigan capitalized on a fumble to enter the fourth quarter down 41-38.
The stadium started rocking again and the Michigan section came alive. TCU took to the field, probably experiencing a semblance of deja vu from their conference championship. But on 3rd and 7, Max Duggan found Quentin Johnston on a blitz by Michigan’s defense. DJ Turner went for the tackle, but Johnston broke free and rattled off a 76-yard score to put TCU back up by double digits.
I think that was the turning point. Momentum was in Michigan’s favor and suddenly it wasn’t. The Wolverines punted on their next two drives while TCU kicked a field goal to go up, 51-38.
The Wolverines scored their final touchdown late in the fourth, but the time management was iffy. TCU obviously drained as much clock as possible when Michigan got the ball back with about a minute to go. At this point, I had some faith they could have a scoring drive in less than a minute. But the play calls were questionable and they turned it over on downs after essentially going nowhere.
Again, it’s hard to single out a moment, but the missed tackle was a particularly hard gut punch. When hope breathed back life into the Michigan fan section, one 76-yard touchdown ruined it all.
So the Wolverines end their fabulous 2022 season 13-1, but they promise to run it back next year. At least we have that, along with a Big Ten championship and wins over Michigan State and Ohio State.