TCU holds an unlikely national championship victory after defeating more doubters in Michigan’s anger

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Try to find a turn. You can not. No way. Not when the college football playoff semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl saw two teams combine for 12 touchdowns and a CFP regulation-record 96 points.

Not even when two Michigan passes were intercepted and retaken for touchdowns. Not when TCU lost their first rusher. Certainly not when Michigan’s best team since maybe ever had half a hundred.

In the end, the undefeated No. 2 Wolverines – having won 13 games for the first time – had that look of a cartoon character who had just been punched in the face with a frying pan.

The weird thing? It was TCU rocking the cookware. Little ol’ TCU, the small private school on the east side of the Metroplex.

TCU, who this time last year were considering their future after changing coaches amid a losing season.

TCU, in its fifth conference since 1994 and only third team in history to come from a losing season at BCS/CFP.

TCU, of the much-maligned Big 12, which experienced its first CFP in the company’s nine-year history.

TCU, now poised to play for a national championship 84 years after winning its last.

But a turning point? Well, maybe there was; it just wasn’t on the court on Saturday. The players and coaches at TCU proved that following the biggest upset in CFP history, 51-45 against mighty Michigan as eight-point underdogs.

There was TCU linebacker Johnny Hodges who introduced him to the world. Hodges was just happy to play football anywhere. A year ago, he was transferred from the Navy and had a hard time imagining himself in the Power Five. On Saturday, he had the revenue from the program with the most victories in the history of the sport.

“[We were] circulating clips,” Hodges said of the (should we say) confident Wolverines heading into the game.

“They’re just more physical than us,” Hodges described. “They were going to run after us. They didn’t know what conference we were in.”

Yeah, there was that. Many. It seemed like there were more Michigan players impersonating their coach, Jim Harbaugh, during Thursday’s media day than there were questions about the game. It would be different, they thought, than that blowout loss to Georgia last year in CFP.

TCU has seen it all. Then he rocked this frying pan.

“I heard it. It frustrated me,” TCU coach Sonny Dykes said. “Let me just say this: We know we’re gonna hear it again. It’s not gonna stop now. We’re gonna play again in 10 days. We’re gonna hear the same shit for 10 days that we heard in the lead. .until that ball game.”

In 10 days, TCU will be looking to win their third national championship. It only took nearly nine decades for horned frogs to get back to that point. So long that the quarterback who won this title in 1938 (Davey O’Brien) would be proud of the quarterback who won his trophy (Davey O’Brien Award for the best quarterback in the country). That would be TCU’s Max Duggan, who wasn’t at his best but was definitely good enough.

It wasn’t a miracle, but it was pretty close. First rusher Kendre Miller left shortly after halftime with an injury. Backup Emari Demercado delivered with a career-high 150 yards. Meanwhile, Michigan could not explain the loss of consensus All-American RB Blake Corum. Brave backup Donovan Edwards, still healing from a broken hand, contributed 127 yards.

And now TCU is being billed as the ultimate Cinderella. This is a team that survived a 14 and 18 point drop to win mid-season. This is a team that staged a scramble to kick a field goal — with guns with no downtime — to win at Baylor.

This is a team that has continuously lifted their chins in a series of heavyweight fights. No one has yet logged in with a finisher.

“At first we were told how bad we were,” Dykes said. “As we got a bit better, we were told we could be good enough. And all of a sudden we were told how good we were. Our guys never changed.”

“Teams that play for a national championship,” the coach added, “are usually not picked seventh in their conference.”

TCU has been in shootouts all season, but nothing like this. It was different, and it was almost as if it had no form. Look, the disrespect card has been played since Rutgers laid it down on Princeton (6-4!) in the first college game ever played. This time, Michigan was an eight-point favorite. Regardless of the outcome, TCU wasn’t going to be intimidated.

It’s hard to say when Michigan has the most points this season on TCU. But the Frogs have scored more points against the Wolverines than any other team in three years.

The difference? Well, you can talk about those two picks of six thrown by Michigan QB JJ McCarthy. But the second almost put the Wolverines on his back by throwing for 194 yards and two scores in the second half.

You can credit Duggan and his four total touchdowns (two rushing, two passing), but the Heisman Trophy finalist also threw two picks and wasn’t as effective as usual (14 of 29 passes).

In the end, it looked like the two QBs were fighting with 20-pitch pistols. Not all projectiles found their marks, but damn it was fun. At some point between the third and fourth quarters, the teams combined for 58 points in 8.5 minutes. Do the math. That’s one point every 8.7 seconds.

“When we could tire them out, when we were getting first downs and we could play with the pace, they were a different defense,” TCU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley said.

Yes, one that drags its tongue. In the end, maybe it was a Big 12 type game that the Wolverines didn’t feel comfortable in.

“I didn’t see that we would let a team rush for 244 on us [actually 263 yards]”Said Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith. “We know how to win games. You win games by stopping the race. We know what to do. Kind of surprised we didn’t.”

Retrained linebacker Kalel Mullings of Michigan sat by his locker in his team’s dark locker room. It wasn’t until November that he switched to running back for depth purposes. In the Ohio State game, he was inserted and threw an awesome option pass for 15 yards.

Against TCU in the first half, he fumbled a transfer in the end zone from 1 yard. It came one play after McCarthy connected with wide receiver Roman Wilson for what appeared to be a 50-yard touchdown. (It was overturned on review.) Mullings’ fumble was one of three turnovers for Michigan, which had committed only seven all season entering the game.

“It’s something we weren’t really used to,” Mullings said. “Normally we dictate the games.”

As the clock drew to a close, the Frogs fleet transformed into something new. They lined up and muscled in with 3:18 to go, bleeding time off the clock. Wolverines won the ball with 52 seconds left.

The last desperate gasp came when — with the game on the line at Michigan’s fourth-and-10 25 — McCarthy somehow wasn’t ready for the snap of the fingers. The release of All-American center Olu Oluwatimi, two-time offensive line player of the year, hit McCarthy’s knee only to be picked up by Edwards, who completed a desperate pass to tight end Colston Loveland for a loss of 1 meter.

It was finished. Confetti. A purple reign.

Dykes knows he is a marked man now, at least at the local Starbucks where he was only recently recognized. As a joke now, when a barista asks his name, he answers “Bob”.

It never bothered him. Why should anything bother him now?

“At some point you have to stop listening to what everyone else is saying,” Dykes remarked on Saturday night.

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