‘Defense still does win championships’
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates with the CFP championship trophy after beating the Washington Huskies in the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game at NRG Stadium. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
It seemed apparent going into the College Football national championship game that Michigan’s offense — specifically the Wolverines’ rushing attack — would have its fair share of success, Andrew Kulha reports for Yardbarker.
Michigan entered the CFP final, averaging 159 yards per game on the ground, and it featured arguably the best running back in college football in Blake Corum. Heading into Monday night, Corum boasted 25 rushing touchdowns on the season.
As the confetti fell to commemorate Michigan’s 34-13 championship win, one of the main takeaways was that the Wolverines’ rushing attack indeed dominated Washington.
Thanks to 134 yards, two touchdowns from Corum and 104 yards, and two explosive first-quarter touchdowns by his “backup,” Donovan Edwards.
Those two will garner many of the headlines after Michigan secured its first national championship since 1997, and those headlines are deserved, but Michigan’s defense won the day in Houston.
Heading into the contest, Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. averaged 332 yards and 2.5 touchdown passes per game. He was the Heisman Trophy runner-up to LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, and one could have easily argued that he could have won college football’s most prestigious individual honor.
Penix threw 32 touchdowns in the regular season. He notched 319 yards and a touchdown against Oregon in the last-ever Pac-12 Championship game. He followed that up by going for 430 yards and two touchdowns against Texas in the Sugar Bowl.
That’s quite a resume.
Penix was a superstar all season, but against Jesse Minter’s Michigan defense in the championship game, Penix was pedestrian — at best.
He completed just 27 of 51 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown. Michigan picked him off twice and allowed him to notch just five yards per completion. That fact alone clearly had the Huskies shell-shocked for an ordinarily explosive Washington offense.
Michigan didn’t do anything special, but the combination of solid fundamentals, strong tackling, and a clamp-down secondary made Penix’s life miserable.
Speaking of clamps, superstar wideout Rome Odunze was held to just 87 yards on five catches. Before Michigan, he averaged over 100 yards per game and boasted five multi-touchdown games.
Jalen McMillan, one of the best slot receivers in the country, did find the end zone in the second quarter. With that said, he was held to just 33 total yards on six catches.
It was a masterclass in defense from Minter and his unit.
There have been a lot of big names creating big headlines for Michigan this season. From Jim Harbaugh to quarterback J.J. McCarthy … to the double-headed monster of Corum and Edwards.
In the end, though, the defense did win a championship for the Wolverines.