College Football

Wolverines run over Huskies to take National Championship


The Michigan Wolverines rushed for 303 yards and routed the previously undefeated Washington Huskies 34-13 to win the 2023 NCAA Division I football title. In doing so, the Wolverines captured their 12th national championship and only their second one since 1948.

Washington won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. The Wolverines started on their own 16-yard line and ended the eight play, 84-yard drive with a 41-yard rush up the middle by running back Donovan Edwards for the touchdown. Kicker James Turner’s extra point made it 7-0 in favor of Michigan with 10:14 remaining in the opening quarter.

Husky quarterback Michael Penix Jr. found wide receiver Jalen McMillan on a short pass of 11 yards; connected with a pass on the left side with running back Tybo Rogers for 11 yards; and a 16-yard strike to wide receiver Rome Odunze to move the ball from the Washington 25-yard line to the Michigan 8-yard line. However, Penix overthrew Odunze in the end zone on third-and-goal, which forced Kicker Grady Gross to attempt a 25-yard field goal instead. Gross’s field goal was good and the score was now 7-3 in favor of Michigan with 3:56 left in the first quarter.

The Wolverines started the next possession on their 14-yard line. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy hit a pass deep right to wide receiver Roman Wilson for 37-yards to get to the Husky 46-yard line. After an incomplete pass intended for wide receiver Semaj Morgan, Edwards broke a rush up the middle for a 46-yard touchdown run. Turner’s extra point extended the lead to 14-3 in favor of the Wolverines with 2:23 left in the first quarter.

The Huskies went three-and-out on their next possession, netting only seven yards over the next 2:02 before Jack McCallister’s punt gave the Wolverines the ball on the Michigan 21-yard line.

On the first play of the possession, running back Blake Corum rushed up the middle for 59-yards to the Washington 20-yard line. However, the drive stalled at the 14-yard line and Michigan had to settle for a 31-yard Turner field goal with 13:28 remaining in the half to drive up the lead to 17-3.

Both teams were forced to punt on their respective next two possessions.

The Huskies began their subsequent possession at their 39-yard line with running back Dillon Johnson rushing up the middle for six yards. Tight end Jack Westover then took a reception up the middle for 10 yards.

Slowly and methodically the Huskies continued to work. A Dillon Johnson rush for two yards, then a pass to Odunze for nine more. After 11 plays and 61 yards, the Huskies found the end zone on a three-yard touchdown pass up the middle on fourth-and-goal. Pat Grady’s extra point was good and the Huskies were back in striking distance, 17-10 in favor of Michigan at halftime.

The Huskies began the third quarter at the Washington 25-yard line. Penix dropped back and launched a pass to his left which was intended for Rogers, but intercepted by cornerback Will Johnson at the Washington 32-yard line, just five seconds into the quarter.

However, two false start penalties, the first being on “everyone but the center” and the second on left tackle LaDarius Henderson stalled the Michigan drive. On 4th-and-14, Turner kicked a 38-yard field goal to give Michigan the 20-10 lead with 11:55 remaining in the third.

The Huskies didn’t give up. Starting at the Washington 25-yard line following the touchback on the kickoff, Penix completed passes to tight end Devin Culp, Westover and Odunze. The seven play, 47-yard drive ended with a Grady Gross field goal, making the score 20-13 with 8:58 remaining in the third quarter.

The defenses from both teams kicked into a higher gear for the rest of the quarter. Michigan punter Tommy Doman and Washington’s Jack McCallister each punted three times between during the rest of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth.

The Wolverines began a drive on their 29-yard line with 9:44 remaining in regulation. McCarthy passed to tight end Colston Loveland up the middle for a 41-yard gain to the Husky 30-yard line. Corum rushed up the middle for three yards and then McCarthy passed to Roman Wilson for a 12-yard gain putting the ball on the Husky 15-yard line. Corum rushed up the middle for three yards, and then rushed right for a 12-yard touchdown. The Turner extra point doinked off of the left upright but managed to make it through the uprights and over the crossbar. Michigan now led 27-13 with 5:09 left on the clock.

The Huskies knew they had limited time to get back into the game and were starting at their 25-yard line after the touchback. Penix passed to wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk for four yards, and then connected on a pass deep right to Odunze for a long gain of 44 yards to the Michigan 27-yard line. Right tackle Roger Rosengarten was flagged for a false start penalty.

On 4th-and-13 from the Michigan 30-yard line, Penix threw deep for Odunze at the five-yard line, which was incomplete. Rosengarten was called for holding and Will Johnson was called for pass interference. The penalties offset and the down was replayed. This time Penix overthrew Jalen McMillan, right into the hands of Michigan cornerback Mike Sainristil at the 11-yard line. Sainristil returned the interception to 81-yards to the Washington eight-yard line.

Corum took the next two rushes. The first was for seven yards and the second was a one-yard touchdown. Turner kicked the extra point. Essentially a dagger had been driving through the heart of the Huskies as the Wolverines now led 34-13 with only 3:37 left on the clock.

The Huskies had one final chance to get back into it but five incomplete passes on the eight play, 14 yard drive forced Washington to turn it over on downs. Penix was seen on the field grabbing his side, which may have led to his inaccurate throwing late in the game.

A one-yard run by Corum up the middle followed by two kneel downs to run out the clock was all it took for the Wolverines to be declared the 2023 National Champions.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy went 10-for-18 for 140 yards and a rating of 120.9. Colston Loveland led all receivers with three receptions for 64 yards. Roman Wilson grabbed three receptions for 54 yards while Cornelius Johnson pulled down three receptions for 25 yards. On the rushing front, Blake Corum rushed 21 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Donovan Edwards rushed six times for 104 yards. The Wolverines rushed 38 times total for 303 yards and four touchdowns.

“Glorious win, I could not be prouder or happier of our team, 15-0. Took on all comers. Last one standing. It’s a great feeling,” said Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. “And just so happy for our players, our parents, grandparents, our coaches, Sherrone Moore, Jesse Minter, Jay Harbaugh, the coordinators, the coaches, the staff. We just couldn’t have had a better staff. Jesse Minter, A plus plus the whole way.”

“For me personally, I can now sit at the big person’s table in the family. They won’t keep me over there on the little table anymore. My dad, Jack Harbaugh, won a national championship and my brother won a Super Bowl. It’s good to be at the big person’s table from now on,” he added.

Michael Penix Jr. led the Huskies in passing, going 27-for-51 for 255 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of 93.6. Jalen McMillan led all receivers with six receptions for 33 yards. Rome Odunze pulled down five receptions for 87 yards. Jack Westover grabbed five receptions for 42 yards. The Huskies rushed 20 times for 46 yards. Dillon Johnson rushed 11 times for 33 yards to lead Washington.

“First of all, just congrats to Coach Harbaugh and Michigan on a great season and a well-played game tonight. Obviously a very good football team,” said Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer. “And on our end I’m just proud of these guys. It starts with these two that are up here and everyone in the locker room. It wasn’t what we were expecting. We came out, and I know our mentality and mindset was to come in and win the football game. But sometimes things don’t always go the way that you want. And I’m proud of what these guys have done this year and over the last two years. And we got a lot of great things happening within our program and a lot to build off of.”

Michigan is the only school in the history of football to have over 1,000 wins. Their 1,004 wins ranks No. 1 all-time among high schools, colleges, and even the NFL. For Blake Corum, the preparation for this undefeated season (the first time they’ve gone 15-0 in school history) started at last year’s Fiesta Bowl and this season’s spring practice.

“For me, when we all decided to come back, we knew what it took to get here, right? And when we all said we were coming back, and the guys that had no other choice but to come back, we had to pay attention to details. And our strength coach actually hit on it last night when he was talking to us,” said Corum, who was named Offensive Player of the Game. “But it’s the little things, the details and the details we really locked in on those details all the way back to winter workouts, summer workouts, we were trying to execute at a high level and pay attention to detail. I think that’s what separated us a lot.”

J.J. McCarthy agreed.

“I’d say we came a long way, but in order to accomplish things like this, you’ve got to go to those dark places where everything’s not great. And just the response, the urgency right after that last game last year, it was different. I knew it. Just from being on the podium last year and saying we would be back. I knew the guys that were coming back. I had this feeling that it was going to be where we are right now,” said McCarthy. “And just all credit goes to the players on this team, everybody in that facility, Coach Harbaugh. That man, he’s the reason we’re here today. So just all thanks to him and to everybody on the team.”

After the game ended, Penix and his head coach met around the 20-yard line.

“I just made sure, just asked him if he’s all right, because I mean he was obviously hit quite a few times. Making sure he was okay. And it was a brief time we spent together there. Just wanted to make sure he knew how I felt about him,” said DeBoer. “And this guy came here, and the trust he put in me to put people around him, whether it be offensive staff, offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, other players, and he picked up and moved all the way across the country.”

“And I just can’t tell you how much that means to me to have that trust from someone like Michael because this was his last crack at it, a year ago when he made that move, or two years ago when he made that move,” DeBoer added.

Now that a champion has been crowned, college all-star games will be held starting with the Hula Bowl on Saturday in preparation for the upcoming NFL Draft.

NOTE: The NFLPA has announced that they have cancelled future NFLPA Collegiate Bowls in favor of partnerships with the remaining four College All-Star Games. Those games are scheduled are as follows:

Hula Bowl – Saturday Jan. 13, 2024 at Noon ET from UCF Mortgage Stadium in Orlando, Fla. It will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

Tropical Bowl – Saturday Jan. 20, 2024 at Noon ET from Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Fla. The game will be live-streamed from the Tropical Bowl website for $30.

East-West Shrine Bowl – Thursday Feb. 1, 2024 at 8 p.m. ET from the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas. The game will be televised on the NFL Network.

Senior Bowl – Saturday Feb. 3, 2024 at 1 p.m. ET from the University of South Alabama, Hancock Whitney Stadium, Mobile, Ala. The game will be televised on the NFL Network.

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