PASADENA, Calif. – The longest-running bowl game hosted two of the most prolific teams in College Football history.
Coming into this exhilarating game, Michigan sits at not only number 1 in the country but number 1 in wins at 1,002. Michigan entered the Rose Bowl favored slightly over the Crimson Tide, but their road to the playoffs could be described as dominant. Alabama entered ‘The Granddaddy of Them All’ at number 4 in the country and sat number 2 in wins with 965, respectively.
With a loss to Texas early in the season, Alabama fought tooth and nail to get into the College Football Playoffs, and did they show up for this playoff game? Unfortunately for them, Michigan made the right calls in overtime, giving them the win at 27-20.
The start of the first quarter was rocky for both teams as Michigan’s first play was intercepted, but luckily for them, it was overturned. It ultimately ended with a three-and-out. Alabama started their opening drive with a 13-yard sack.
Michigan’s defense started setting the tone for how the game would go. Alabama was forced to punt the ball away, and luckily for them, Michigan’s Semaj Morgan missed the catch, and Alabama recovered the ball in great field position. Alabama would score with Jace McClellan running the ball up the middle for a 34-yard touchdown, putting them up 7-0 early. Michigan would respond with J.J. McCarthy passing to Blake Corum for an 8-yard touchdown, tying the game up at 7-7.
In the second quarter, we started to see both teams playing at the high level that we have known them both to play at. Both Alabama’s and Michigan’s defenses created big stops to force punts. The Michigan offense decided put a little trickery out on the field that would net them great field position and momentum when McCarthy connected with Colston Loveland for 11 yards. With just four minutes left in the first half, McCarthy would connect with Tyler Morris for a short pass, sending Morris down the sideline and hustling to the end zone, putting the Wolverines up. Although Michigan scored a touchdown, a botched snap prevented them from getting the extra point. Alabama would go on to respond with a beautiful drive down the field but ultimately would come up short after a huge sack from Michigan’s Derrick Moore, leaving Alabama with only 13 seconds left in the half. Alabama would settle for a field goal, making it 13-10, with Michigan leading going into halftime.
Alabama started the third quarter by fumbling the snap twice in a row, causing them to look at third and 29, which they ended up being forced to punt the ball away. For their first possession of the second half, Michigan would have a fairly decent drive but would be forced to punt it away as well. This would be the theme for the third quarter, as both teams’ defenses were unwilling to let either the offense score or get within striking distance of the end zone.
Alabama would start the fourth quarter strong with a huge run by quarterback Milroe for 18 yards, putting the Crimson Tide on the Michigan 3-yard line. McClellan would then rush for the 3 yards, giving Alabama the lead at 17-13. After a few short possessions for both Michigan and Alabama, Alabama was given another opportunity to score.
Thankfully for Michigan’s defense, they were able to stop Alabama and force a 52-yard field goal. This would put Alabama up 20-13 over Michigan with just under 5 minutes left in the game. Michigan’s McCarthy would later, in what looked to be their last drive of the night, connect with R Wilson for a huge 29 yard pass putting the Wolverines on the Alabama 5 yard line. Then another short pass from McCarthy to Wilson would make it into the end zone, tying up the game at 20-20. This late score would send this nail-biter of a bowl game into overtime.
Alabama won the coin toss in overtime and elected to go second, giving Michigan a chance to capitalize on their already-established momentum.
Michigan started on Alabama’s 25-yard line, and in just two short plays, Michigan was able to get into the end zone. On the second play, Corum took the ball right up the middle for 17 yards, putting Michigan up, and with the extra point being good, this gave them the lead at 27-20. Alabama was looking to tie it up and send it to double over time, which seemed plausible after a 15-yard rush by Milroe. Then tragedy struck the Alabama offense when Michigan’s M. Graham laid into McClellan for a loss of 5, forcing Alabama into a 4th down situation.
This Rose Bowl Playoff game was one for the books, with both teams fighting it out with all they had. Coach Harbaugh was asked after the game what it meant to him to have his team play in ‘The Granddaddy of Them All.’ He responded by saying, “Glorious. It was right where we wanted to be. It’s everything that we worked for, everything that we prepared for, everything we hoped for, everything we trained and strained for. The team was just not going to be denied.”
Although Alabama lost this game, it does not seem to have shaken Coach Nick Saban or the Crimson Tide football team. Coach Saban even said he thinks this is one of the best seasons of Alabama football. He elaborated by saying, “Well, I just think that I don’t look at it necessarily from winning and losing… As a coach, you’re always trying to get your team to improve and be the best they can be, and I think this team probably improved from the South Florida game and the Texas game early in the season as much as any team I’ve coached. That takes a lot of hard work”.
Written by Robert Henry