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Michigan beats Alabama 27-20 in overtime on Blake Corum's TD run to reach national title game

APTOPIX CFP Rose Bowl Football
Posted at 10:09 PM, Jan 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-01 22:09:23-05

PASADENA, Calif. — Blake Corum rushed for a 17-yard touchdown on the second snap of overtime, and top-seeded Michigan advanced to its first College Football Playoff championship game with a 27-20 victory over fourth-seeded Alabama in the Rose Bowl on Monday.

Michigan's defense ended only the second overtime game in the 110 editions of the Rose Bowl when Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe was emphatically stopped as he attempted to sneak up the middle on fourth down from the Michigan 3.

Coach Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines (14-0) will play for their school's first national title since 1997 against Washington or Texas on Jan. 8 in Houston, but only after a late comeback and a hair-raising finish to the Granddaddy of Them All.

Roman Wilson made a 4-yard TD catch with 1:34 left in regulation for the Wolverines, who hadn't scored in the second half until that gritty 75-yard drive led by J.J. McCarthy.

Corum then needed only two snaps to score in the first overtime period, breaking tackles and spinning wildly on his second carry into the end zone.

Milroe connected with Jermaine Burton at the Michigan 3 on third-and-goal in overtime, and Alabama leaned on its quarterback's athleticism on the final play call — but Milroe ran straight into a Michigan defense that was waiting for him. He was stopped 2 yards short of the goal line.

Jase McClellan rushed for 87 yards and two touchdowns for Alabama (12-2), which fell heartbreakingly short of the chance to play for Nick Saban's seventh national title at the school. The Tide led 20-13 on Will Reichard's 52-yard field goal with 4:41 to play, but their defense couldn't preserve the lead.

The Alabama defense also couldn't step up at key moments to stop Corum, who caught an early TD pass and then rushed for 83 yards, capped by his overtime heroics. Corum has been at Michigan for three straight appearances in the CFP, but he barely played two years ago when the Wolverines were routed by Georgia, and he was injured when they were upset by TCU last year.

McCarthy passed for 221 yards and three touchdowns for Michigan, earning the Offensive Player of the Game award. Milroe passed for 116 yards and rushed for 63 for the Tide, whose 11-game winning streak ended.

The Wolverines also survived a handful of potentially disastrous mistakes that undercut their long stretches of superiority in this matchup — including a muffed punt by Jake Thaw, who was tackled at the Michigan 1 with 43 seconds left in regulation and barely avoided what would have been one of the most spectacular safeties in football history.

Michigan is the sixth straight No. 1 seed to win its semifinal game in the CFP's 10 years of existence — but not many have been tested the way Alabama tested the Wolverines.

Michigan is one win away from reaching the primary goal set by Harbaugh when he returned to his alma mater in 2015 after his meteoric coaching career flamed out with the 49ers. The former Wolverines quarterback was determined to restore his school to national prominence and dominance, but he won no Big Ten titles in his first six seasons amid frustration from a fan base that expected things to happen sooner.

Michigan has been elite since 2021, winning three straight conference titles and advancing to three Playoffs. The Wolverines have finally reached their sport's biggest stage after their second consecutive unbeaten regular season.

The Wolverines' pristine record masked a profoundly messy season bookended by two three-game suspensions for Harbaugh — the first issued preemptively by the school amid an investigation of possible recruiting violations, and the second mandated by the Big Ten over allegations of sign-stealing and in-game scouting.

Harbaugh's players said the turmoil actually made them a better, more cohesive team. They needed every bit of that cohesion against the Tide, who were a couple of defensive stops away from their seventh trip to the Playoff final.

Michigan was the dominant team for long stretches of the first three quarters of the Rose Bowl, yet Alabama hung in impressively with big plays and just enough defensive stops.

McClellan made an untouched 34-yard TD run in the first quarter for the game's first points. Michigan answered with a statement 75-yard drive capped by Corum's 8-yard catch for his FBS-leading 25th TD — his first on a reception.

The Wolverines went ahead 3:49 before halftime when Tyler Morris made a catch on a short crossing route and sprinted 38 yards through Alabama's vaunted secondary for a score — but Michigan botched the extra point snap.

Michigan's defense recorded five sacks of Milroe and seven tackles for loss in the first half alone, but Alabama trailed just 13-10 at halftime.

McClellan put the Tide ahead 17-13 with a 3-yard TD run on the second snap of the fourth quarter. Michigan's James Turner missed a 49-yard field goal attempt after Milroe fumbled near midfield on Alabama's next drive, and the Tide went up by seven on Reichard's second field goal.

Michigan finally got moving with its season on the line, starting when Corum took a 27-yard reception to midfield with 3:10 left. After Wilson moved the Wolverines to the Alabama 5 with a clutch 29-yard reception, he got wide-open for his 4-yard TD catch with 1:34 to play.

THE TAKEAWAY

Alabama: The Tide will go three straight seasons without a national title for the first time in Saban's tenure, but there's no reason to be embarrassed about this well-played game against an elite opponent. Saban's program remains a gold-standard powerhouse, and it'll likely stay that way for as long as he wants to keep coaching.

Michigan: The Wolverines have broken through the penultimate barrier in Harbaugh's tenure with a victory that emphasized the upside of everything their coach teaches. Michigan's infamous, hard-hitting 9-on-7 drills must have prepared it for the final defensive stand. One more step remains, but the Wolverines will be favored to win it all.

UP NEXT

Alabama: Hosts Western Kentucky on Aug. 31.

Michigan: The College Football Playoff championship game in Houston on Jan. 8.