Controversy aside, the Michigan Wolverines beat themselves. The two pick-sixes and blown opportunities on the goal line more than made up the difference in this heartbreaking loss.
I’ll readily admit that a handful of the grades — namely quarterback, pass-catchers and deportment —would have been higher if Michigan had pulled it out at the end. But, alas, our beloved Maize and Blue are now watching the National Championship from home. Let’s dissect how each group faired.
J.J. McCarthy’s two pick-sixes were inexcusable. Add on the mishandled snaps at crucial junctures, and you have the makings of his ugliest performance yet. Yes, McCarthy nearly compiled 400 yards by himself and kept the Wolverines within striking distance. However, without even one of the two disastrous mistakes, Michigan could very well have been ringing in the new year as the victors.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: B
The efforts Roman Wilson and Ronnie Bell put forward could have been legendary. They deserve most of the credit for the comeback that came up just short. Wilson and Bell earned an A in my book. Standing in the shadow of those two, everyone else in this group was mediocre at best — specifically Colston Loveland. The usually sure-handed tight end dropped more balls than he caught — a microcosm of how Michigan’s night went.
Running Backs: C+
Kalel Mullings was just as responsible for the goal line fumble as McCarthy, and he also didn’t look the part of a bruiser at all. Donovan Edwards had a fine day, running for 119 yards at a 5.2 yards per carry average. It just wasn’t enough.
Offensive Line: F-
For the Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line, this was a face plant of epic proportions. The line was outmuscled, out-finessed and just plain outplayed. The four sacks and 13 tackles for loss given up — yes, 13 — make this easily the worst Michigan offensive line performance of the season.
Front 7: F
Much like their counterparts on offense, the defensive front laid a massive egg. TCU had its way in the run game and Max Duggan played in a clean pocket all night.
So much for limiting the big plays. Their two picks pushed this grade into the D range, but surrendering the massive receptions by Quinten Johnston — TCU’s only receiver with more than 40 receiving yards — is what sealed Michigan’s fate and kept the momentum from fully swinging in the Wolverines’ favor.
Special Teams: A-
Jake Moody was as great as always. Brad Robbins did his job efficiently. No major mistakes were made. It would have been great if Michigan had better punt returns.
Michigan’s Deportment: D-
I said to myself several times during the second half, “I can’t believe they’re still in this one.” But I wouldn’t have had to say that if Michigan played even somewhat decently in the first quarter.
The Wolverines came out flatter than a pancake and were outside their comfort zone all game long. The fact Michigan broke off so many big plays and stayed within striking distance merely added salt to the wounds of this defeat. The defensive adaptability and physicality that were the hallmarks of the defense all season long must have been left in Ann Arbor.
We have come to expect so much from this young and talented coaching staff, but one cannot help but lay the blame for this heartbreaking loss at their feet. From getting too cute on offense to overcommitting to the blitz on defense, Michigan beat itself far more than any of us would care to dwell on. This is going to hurt for a while; there’s no way else to slice it.