Michigan Crushes Washington in College Football Title Game

It took an entire career as a college and National Football League head coach for Jim Harbaugh to make it to the promised land: a championship. And he did so Monday night in Houston at the end of a personally tumultuous season, leading the Michigan Wolverines to a 34-13 victory over Washington in the final of the College Football Playoff.

Harbaugh served two suspensions: one for three games, handed down by his own school for recruiting violations to open the season, and another three-gamer from the Big Ten Conference for illegal scouting late in the season.

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Still, his Wolverines finished the season 15-0, running all over the Huskies to capture the title at Houston’s NRG Stadium.

Wolverines running back Donovan Edwards scampered for touchdown runs of 46 yards and 41 yards on Michigan’s first two possessions, giving Harbaugh’s team a 14-3 lead on the way to the school’s first national championship in 26 years.

“We’re 15-0. We took on all comers. We’re the last one standing,” Harbaugh said just after the game as gold confetti poured from the rafters. “Thousands of pieces of confetti and every one of them tells a story. I’m so proud of our team.”

Although the Huskies pulled close, the Wolverines never looked back, scoring their other touchdowns on short runs by Blake Corum, the offensive player of the game.

The Wolverines totaled 443 offensive yards, 303 of them on the ground, in comparison to 303 total for Washington.

“It’s glorious,” Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy said. “That’s all I can say. It’s bittersweet because this is the last time we’re going to play together.”

Washington and Michigan were both 14-0 coming into the game, having survived down-to-the-wire semifinal clashes last week over Alabama and Texas in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, respectively.

But there was no such last-second tension in Houston on Monday night, as Michigan broke open the game with the two fourth quarter scores, on runs of 12 yards and 1 yard by Corum, who finished his college career with 27 TDs, a Michigan record.

Michigan finished off the Huskies the way they took control of the game—on the ground. On his first opening-quarter score, Edwards broke from scrimmage at the Washington 41-yard line and dodged tacklers to break into the open. The second TD was almost identical, as Edwards sped toward the end zone from the 46 of the Huskies.

Huskies kicker Grady Gross notched a 25-yard field goal sandwiched between the two opening Michigan TDs. The Wolverines led 17-3 when Washington put together an 11-play, 61-yard drive, culminating in a 3-yard toss from quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to Jalen McMillan, who was open in the middle of the end zone.

Two key plays led to that score: Michigan had the ball and a fourth and 1, but Harbaugh opted to go for the first down rather than punt out of danger. A sideline pass failed.

“We were playing the percentages,” Harbaugh said about the call. “We put our defense in a bad position.”

The second was a pass interference call. On third and 10 from the Michigan 23, Penix lifted a pass to toward the left side of the end zone for McMillan, whose jersey was grabbed by Mike Sainristil.

Washington scored five plays later to make it a semblance of a game. But it wasn’t to be.

Sainristil had a key fourth-quarter interception to end the Huskies’ hopes.

“This wasn’t what we planned on,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said. “We believe in each other, and we believed we could win this football game. Even though we didn’t think this would happen, our players have helped restore UW football.”

For Harbaugh, the win was hard fought and a long time coming. He came close with the San Francisco 49ers at the end the 2012 season, when they lost the Super Bowl, 34-31, to the Baltimore Ravens, coached by his brother, John. The Niners had a chance to win it at the end, but couldn’t cash in on several chances near the Ravens end zone.

Two years later, Harbaugh, now 60, was fired by the Niners and returned to Michigan, his alma mater, where he starred as a quarterback. It took him nine seasons as coach there to win his first title.

This year, his team overcame the dual suspensions by winning all six of the games Harbaugh was not allowed to coach. There’s still a pending NCAA investigation, but that’s a story for another day.

For now, Harbaugh walked off the field as a winner, with his brother on hand to witness it.

When asked after the game by ESPN if anybody had it any better than him right now, Harbaugh responded: “Nooo-body!”

“I can finally sit at the big person’s table in the family,” he added.

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