TCU wins Vrbo Fiesta Bowl 51-45 in a second half shootout, advances to National Championship
GLENDALE, Ariz., (KYMA, KECY) - In the program's first ever trip to the College Football Playoff, the TCU Horned Frogs journey on to Los Angeles for the national title.
It's one of the oldest tales you could tell in sports: the tale of two halves.
The 2022 Vrbo Fiesta Bowl featuring a shocking first half from TCU and an even more shocking 69 combined in the second half. One team taking advantage of more opportunity than the other.
This opportunity though, unlike the rest. A game worth so much more, at the hands of the College Football Playoff with a shot at the national title within reach.
Neither team has reached such a feat in the nine years of the playoff format - and Saturday night that changed, just in time to ring in the new year.
And what a way it was to end 2022. One of the greatest college bowl games in one of the brightest moments - all capped off by a firework show of scoring in the second half.
For the sixth time in the Jim Harbaugh era, Michigan's season has come to a close with a bowl game loss. This loss defined by missed opportunities in crucial moments - making one less play in a game that needed one more big one.
"We both made our mistakes. We both had our big plays. They just made one more, we made one less," said Jim Harbaugh after the game.
The Wolverines and Harbaugh now 1-6 in their last seven bowl games, and this time at the hands of the Horned Frogs and their first year head coach, Sonny Dykes.
The Wolverines, making their second straight CFP appearance, started the game off with a bang - a Donavan Edwards 54 yard run to set up the big blue in position to strike first.
Fast forward eight plays, the Horned Frogs defense stepped up and made a fourth down stand.
On Michigan's next drive, J.J. McCarthy's first down pass was picked off by Bud Clark for a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown, opening the scoring.
After a Max Duggan one-yard rush for the Horned Frogs, the Wolverines caught a tough break in the second quarter when Roman Wilson was called down at the half-yard line on a reception that appeared to be a touchdown.
On the ensuing play, a fumble on the exchange left Michigan without points on two drives that landed inside the five-yard line.
Another TCU score put the Horned Frogs in full control, up 21-3.
In a desperate need for points, Jim Harbaugh called on kicker Jake Moody for a 59 yard field goal as time expired in the first half. Moody nailed it, making it the second-longest field goal in college bowl game history to send the Wolverines to the break down by two scores.
That momentum carried into the second half for Michigan, getting a three-and-out stop and nabbing another three points to close the gap to 12.
After another stop, the Wolverines pulled out the bag of tricks with a flea-flicker pass that left Ronnie Bell wide open in the end zone for a 34 yard score. All of the sudden, Michigan was in control with 13 unanswered points.
But the Horned Frogs would eventually pull out their second half horns and storm their way back out to a big lead after a six play, 75-yard drive and another pick-6 off McCarthy to go up 34-16.
In the final 6:32 of the third quarter, 41 points were scored between the two teams, turning the Fiesta Bowl into a scoring fiesta - with the Horned Frogs having the edge after their impressive first half.
But then enter the fourth quarter. Enter more fireworks.
After a TCU fumble, Michigan capitalized with a touchdown and two-point conversion to pull Michigan to their lowest deficit in a 41-38 game.
Three plays later, Max Duggan connected with Quentin Johnston who shook a tackle and took it the distance for a 76-yard touchdown to bring the roof down. 48-38 TCU.
After another TCU field goal, a late Michigan touchdown would make it a six-point game.
And they would get one final chance, bringing the offense out to their own 25 yard line, needing to go 75 yards with no timeouts and under one-minute left.
But the optimistic magic ran out, failing to pickup a first down and ending on a fumbled snap.
TCU continuing their incredible season with a 51-45 win to advance to the National Championship game next Monday, January 9th at Sofi Stadium.
For Michigan and Him Harbaugh, it's another year and another shortcoming - yet that doesn't take away what was accomplished and the effort put forth.
"I'm proud of my guys. They don't give up, they don't give in. They just keep playing one play at a time," said Harbaugh. "I could've easily been standing in the locker room congratulating a whole locker room of heroes because that's what they are. That's what they have been the entire season, including this game."
Harbaugh applauding the game as a whole, as well.
"TCU is a great team. They're a very opportunistic team, they're a resilient team," said Harbaugh. "There was a winner, there was a non-winner. But the winner was football today. It was a great game."