No. 3 TCU entered Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl trailing by eight points—they never trailed in the game.
The Horned Frogs are destined for the National Championship after defeating No. 2 Michigan, 51-45.
It was Michigan’s first loss of the season, and TCU is now the first Big 12 team to win a college football playoff game.
Their win is also the biggest upset in CFP history, surpassing the 2014 semifinal when No. 4 Ohio State beat No. 1 Alabama as seven-point dogs.
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Michigan twice missed scoring chances to go.
The first play from scrimmage was a 54-yard run by Donovan Edwards to put the Wolverines within striking distance. However, a Philly Special went awry in the 4th and the goal resulted in a turnover on tries. TCU’s first score was a pick six by Bud Clark, and then Max Duggan scored one to take a 14-0 first quarter lead.
Shortly after getting on the board with a field goal, Michigan had first and one goal, but Kalel Mullings lost a fumble and it was a touchback for TCU, which stayed up 11. After both teams traded punts, Duggan led a 10-play, 83-yard touchdown drive to put TCU up 21-3 with 4:56 to go in the half, but Jake Moody drilled a 59-yard field goal. yards late in the half to cut the deficit to 15 points.
The third quarter, however, was a tremendous swing. TCU punted on their first drive of the second half, and though Michigan rushed to the 10-yard line, the Frogs held them to a field goal. On their next drive, Duggan threw an interception, and three plays later, the Wolverines scored on a flea-flicker to make it 21-16. TCU quickly made amends, rushing for 75 yards in just two minutes and taking a 28-16 lead after Emari Demercado’s one-yard touchdown. On a 3 and 3, McCarthy threw his second pick-six of the day, this time, it was Dee Winters.
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After McCarthy responded with a rushing touchdown, the Frogs scored again just 58 seconds later, taking a 41-22 lead with 49 seconds left in the third quarter, but Michigan found the end zone before the end of the frame, it was for two and trailed 41-30 through three.
In all, there were 44 points scored in the third quarter: 24 by the Wolverines and 20 by TCU. But a wild quarter needed one more wild play: TCU fumbled on the final play of the period and Michigan got it back at the TCU 27. Once again, whenever Michigan looked dead, they came alive.
Michigan took just two plays to score as Wilson took an end around the end zone. The two-point conversion that followed was good, and it was a 41-38 game. But in a game of quick scores, Duggan passed one to Quentin Johnson, who carried it 76 yards for a touchdown, and TCU was up 10 with 13:07 to go. After forcing a 3-and-out, Derius Davis punted back to the Wolverine 16. TCU was held to a field goal and extended their lead to 51-38.
Michigan wasn’t dead yet, as Wilson scored another touchdown with 3:18 to go and turned the game into six points. Michigan forced a TCU punt and had one more chance, needing to drive 75 yards in 52 seconds, but they got bogged down and TCU held on for the win.
Duggan completed 14 of his 29 passes for 225 yards and two scores while also rushing for two more touchdowns. Demercado ran for 150 yards on 17 carries, one of which was a touchdown, and Johnson had six catches for 163 yards and a touchdown.
As for Michigan, McCarthy was 20 of 34 for 343 yards and two touchdowns, but both of his interceptions were returned for scores. Edwards rushed for 119 yards on 23 carries, while Ronnie Bell and Wilson combined for 239 receiving yards on 11 catches.
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TCU will now look to become the first Big 12 team to win the National Championship since Texas defeated USC in the Rose Bowl on January 4, 2006. They await the Peach Bowl winner between No. 1 Georgia and No. 4 Ohio Express.