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Wolverines emphasize culture shift headed into Fiesta Bowl

The lessons from last year’s semifinal appearance seem to have been learned.

Big Ten Championship - Purdue v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Michigan Wolverines fans may remember this story: following the 34-11 loss to Georgia in the Orange Bowl last year, the majority of Michigan players cleared the field prior to the trophy presentation. A few, however, decided to stay — watching the ceremony in full before making their way to the locker room.

In hindsight, it was a rather transcendent who’s-who of the 2022 season’s leaders.

While he wasn’t part of the group that stuck around to let it sink in, Cornelius Johnson remembers how his own decompressing went that night — and what stuck with him during it.

“I’ll never forget some of those conversations we had on New Year’s Eve in South Beach after the game,” Johnson said. “Just like my brothers, my dad, my roommates, we were up until three in the morning just in the hotel. Probably their guys were out partying and celebrating and everything, and we were just reminiscing about stuff and trying to get back.

“It was just a dark place because we knew how much of an opportunity that was and we weren’t able to capitalize, so now we have to pay them back.”

That idea of needing to capitalize is one that’s clearly at the heart of the Wolverines as they head into this year’s College Football Playoff. Where previous teams may have gotten a little too enamored by the bright lights of a high profile stage, this year it’s all business.

“Me as well as a lot of my other teammates have been on that College Football Playoff semifinal stage, and it’s something to look forward to,” Johnson said. “Maybe it’s something in the past teams you could say ‘oh, we’re just happy to be here, we’re just happy to win the Big Ten,’ but now coming to the playoffs you just gotta be hungry for more. That’s the main thing we’re stressing to ourselves right now, you can’t be content cause the job’s not finished yet.”

With the Wolverines looking to claim their first national title in 25 years, the memory of last season’s heartbreaking end to the year is fueling their second chance at college football immortality.