HOUSTON (AP) — Jim Harbaugh raised the championship trophy as gold and white confetti was sprinkled over his team and the phrase “We are the champions” was shouted.
Nine years into his tenure at Michigan, Harbaugh has fulfilled the lofty expectations he brought with him to his beloved alma mater.
Blake Corum ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, as Harbaugh and the top-ranked Wolverines — undeterred by a suspension and a sign-stealing case that has cast a pall over the program — completed a three-year rise to the national title with a win over No. 2. Washington 34-13 Monday night in the College Football Playoff.
“We are innocent and we stood strong and tall because we knew we were innocent. “And I would point that out,” Harbaugh said when asked about the off-field issues, jumping in to answer a question posed to his players. “And those guys are innocent. And overcome it? It wasn't that hard because we knew we were innocent.
“(The season) went exactly the way we wanted it to go. It went exactly the way we wanted it to go.”
The Wolverines (15-0) captured their first national title since 1997 when Corum scored the winning goal in overtime against Alabama in the Rose Bowl semifinals, from the 1-yard line with 3:37 remaining to put Michigan ahead. 21 and unleashed another exciting rendition of “The Victors.”
After nine seasons coaching his alma mater and in his third straight playoff appearance, Harbaugh has achieved the title many expected when he took over a struggling, powerhouse team in 2015 — despite missing six regular-season games this season while serving a separate suspension.
“This guy, he's the reason we're here today,” Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy said of his coach.
Harbaugh did it on a team his old coach, Bo Schembechler, adored. The Wolverines ran for 303 yards against Washington (14-1), and their stout defense held Michael Penix Jr. and the Huskies' prolific passing game to just one touchdown while the Heisman Trophy runner-up had two interceptions.
“There are over 100 Michigan guys on this team,” Harbaugh said. “What they did is amazing. They will forever be known as national heroes.”
Penix's remarkable six-year college career ended with perhaps his worst performance of the season. Penix was typically unfazed by pressure, and was nearly as inaccurate against a Michigan defense that took away his signature deep throws.
“That was an amazing play by our defense,” Harbaugh said.
The Indiana transfer who returned from two knee surgeries and two shoulder injuries was roughed up by the Wolverines, who limped at times, stomped at others.
When asked how he felt, Pinnicks, still brave, said: “Better than I was three years ago.”
Penix finished 27-for-51 for 255 yards and a touchdown as the Huskies' 21-game winning streak was snapped.
“They gave me everything they could,” coach Calen De Boer said of the group of players who went 4-8 just two seasons ago and 25-3 since he took over in 2022.
McCarthy had an unimpressive game, throwing for 140 yards and running for 31. But it was enough for him to improve to 27-1 as the Wolverines' starter.
Michigan gave Washington a taste of life in the Big Ten, where the Pac-12 champions are headed next season, and the Huskies have been ready to grind for a while.
Two long touchdown runs by Donovan Edwards and 229 yards rushing in the first quarter put the Wolverines up 17-3 early in the second quarter and conjured memories of last year's historic Georgia blowout of TCU.
Washington settled down and did not allow the Wolverines another point in the first half. After the Huskies stopped Michigan on fourth-and-2 from the UW 38 with 4:46 remaining in the second quarter, Penix went to work.
Jalen found McMillan on fourth-and-goal with 42 seconds left for a 3-yard touchdown. After being nearly buried by the Wolverines, the Huskies fans sang along to “Who Let the Dogs Out,” happily down 17-10 at the half.
Will Johnson's interception of Penix on the first play of the second half gave Michigan another chance to open a two-touchdown lead, but the Huskies forced another field goal by James Turner to make it 20-10.
“Today was a complete team effort,” Corum said.
Michigan maintained the touchdown lead until midway through the fourth quarter, when it put together a 71-yard scoring drive, capped by Corum Break tackle – 12 yard touchdown That finally gave the Wolverines some space with a 27-13 lead with 7:09 remaining.
Corum, the engine of the ground-and-pound offense and the heart and soul of a team loaded with fourth-, fifth- and even sixth-rounders, missed the CFP last year with a knee injury. He was named an offensive lineman in the national title game in college football's final four-team division before it expanded to 12 teams the next year.
“Michigan, this is for you,” Corum told the Wolverines fans.
Michigan appeared to be headed toward a third straight Big Ten Championship and playoff appearance when it was revealed in October that the NCAA was investigating the program for a possible violation of rules prohibiting scouting opponents in person and using video equipment to try to decipher opponents' play signals. .
The scandal turned Connor Stallions, the low-level Michigan recruiter accused of masterminding the scheme, into a household name and threatened to derail the Wolverines' season.
The NCAA process will continue through 2024 and it is unknown what penalties Michigan may face. However, the Big Ten decided to act quickly and punished Michigan Harbaugh's comment for the final three games of the regular season, including matchups with Penn State and rival Ohio State.
With offensive coordinator Sherron Moore replacing Harbaugh, Michigan is against everyone and No one can stop Wolverine.
Harbaugh returned for the postseason, completed the job and celebrated with his father Jack — himself a former college football coach — when he accepted the trophy.
Michigan became the first college football program to record 1,000 wins in November and won its third national title in January.
“Who has it better than us?” Jack Harbaugh asked the crowd during the trophy ceremony. They answered loudly: “No one!”
Now the question is Whether Harbaugh coached the team on which he played quarterback for the last time, With the NFL seemingly back on track again.
Harbaugh said it's good to not be the only coach in the family without a national championship. His father won a Division I-AA title with Western Kentucky, and his brother John won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens by defeating Jim's San Francisco 49ers 11 years ago.
“I can now sit at the table of the elder person in the family,” Harbaugh said.
As for what next?
“I just want to enjoy this,” he said. “I hope you give me that. Can I have that? Does it always have to be what's next, what's the future?”
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll And https://apnews.com/hub/college-football
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