No. 1 Michigan runs all over No. 2 Washington to win national title

League: NCAA Football

Posted on: 09 Jan, 2024 at 05:59 AM

Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Corum missed Michigan's College Football Playoff semifinal loss a season ago due to a knee injury and incessantly envisioned a return to the big stage over the ensuing 12-plus months.

The Wolverines repeatedly chalked up victories this season with nary a blemish, so Corum received that opportunity, and he didn't disappoint.

Corum rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries to help No. 1 Michigan complete an undefeated season with a punishing 34-13 victory over No. 2 Washington in the national championship game on Monday night in Houston.

"There were a lot of us who said we had unfinished business," Corum said while being named Offensive Player of the Game. "I'll leave you all with this: Business is finished."

The title game certainly had a business-like feel as Michigan (15-0) won its first national title since winning in split fashion in 1997.

Donovan Edwards also rushed for two touchdowns and added 104 yards on just six carries as the Wolverines racked up 303 yards on the ground while limiting Washington to 46.

Corum gave credit in all directions before suddenly taking note of how he was a spectator when the Wolverines lost 51-45 to TCU last season. He was out due to a torn meniscus, sprained MCL and a bone bruise in his left knee.

"This means so much because I was so helpless last year," Corum said.

Michigan's victory ended a season in which coach Jim Harbaugh missed six games due to two suspensions with players repeatedly saying they were fueled by the adversity. Also hanging in the air is whether Harbaugh will end his nine-season reign at his alma mater and take an NFL head-coaching job.

"We're 15-0," Harbaugh said. "Took on all comers and we're the last one standing. Champions."

Mike Sainristil returned a key interception 81 yards to set up Michigan's final touchdown and Defensive Player of the Game Will Johnson also had a pick.

Michael Penix Jr. completed 27 of 51 passes for 255 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for Washington (14-1), which had its FBS-long 21-game winning streak halted. Jalen McMillan had a touchdown catch and Rome Odunze had five receptions for 87 yards for the Huskies.

Penix didn't flash the skills that saw him finish second in the Heisman Trophy balloting. The Huskies notched their lowest point total of the season, and their longest pass play through the game's first 53-plus minutes was just 16 yards.

"Obviously, it didn't come out how I wanted it to but I know that each and every player on this team gave it their all," Penix said. "It wasn't enough (Monday).

"For me, I'm going to take accountability for the offensive side of the ball, I could've done better."

Washington's Dillon Johnson played despite injuries to his left knee and right foot. He had 33 yards on 11 carries and caught two passes for 24 yards.

J.J. McCarthy completed 10 of 18 passes for 140 yards for the Wolverines, who outgained the Huskies 443-301.

Michigan led by seven when it took over with 9:44 left in the game.

On the first play of the drive, McCarthy connected with Colston Loveland for a gain of 41 to the Huskies 30-yard line. Four plays later, Corum scored on a 12-yard run to give Michigan a 27-13 lead with 7:09 remaining.

Penix lofted a 44-yard pass to Odunze with 6:18 left to get Washington in scoring range. But the Huskies soon faced fourth-and-13 from the Wolverines 30, and Sainristil picked off the ball and raced the other way, setting up Corum's 1-yard TD run with 3:37 remaining.

That touchdown -- Corum's 27th on the ground and 28th overall this season -- shut the door on the Huskies.

The loss was just the third in 28 games for Kalen DeBoer as Washington's coach. He said he delivered a heart-felt message in the locker room.

"I wanted them to know that even though this wasn't what we feel would happen, they restored (Washington) football and made a city proud and made a fan base proud and alumni proud and most of all, they showed what they're made of," DeBoer said.

"They showed heart, they showed the whole country what is special about our place and I'm so proud of them."

The game was Washington's final one as a member of the Pac-12. The Huskies move into the Big Ten next season. They will host the Wolverines on Oct. 5.

Michigan rushed for 174 yards in the opening quarter en route to taking a 17-10 lead into the break.

Edwards capped the game-opening drive with a 41-yard touchdown run on a play in which he faced inside congestion before bouncing to the left and easily sailing down the sideline for the score.

Grady Gross kicked a 25-yard field goal with 3:56 left for Washington. But Edwards was at it again 93 seconds later, scoring on a 46-yard burst through a huge hole to give the Wolverines a 14-3 advantage.

Corum delivered Michigan's third long run on the final play of the first quarter when he exploded for 59 yards. That set up a 31-yard field goal by James Turner that gave the Wolverines a 14-point lead with 13:28 remaining in the first half.

The Huskies moved within seven with 42 seconds left in the half when Penix tossed a 3-yard scoring pass to McMillan.

Johnson intercepted Penix at the Huskies 32 on the first offensive play of the third quarter. That set up Turner's 38-yard field goal to make it 20-10.

Washington trimmed its deficit back to seven when Gross booted a 45-yard field goal with 8:58 left in the third quarter.

--Field Level Media