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TCU holds off Michigan for College Football Playoff semifinal win

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The College Football Playoff has delivered so many duds, year after year, that it makes you forget it can deliver something like this.

The first of two semifinals on Saturday delivered a staggering, stupendous show that looked over at the half, then looked over in the third quarter, then looked over in the fourth, but never quite seemed to be. Again and again, Michigan fought back. And again and again, TCU kept the Wolverines at arm’s length. 

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Quentin Johnston #1 of the TCU Horned Frogs runs for a touchdown after a catch during the fourth quarter against the Michigan Wolverines in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl.
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At the end of it all, purple confetti rained down on State Farm Stadium with No. 3 TCU scoring a monumental upset, 51-45 over No. 2 Michigan in an utterly mad, completely drunk and wildly brilliant Fiesta Bowl. The Horned Frogs will play a week from Monday for a chance at their third ever national championship, and the program’s first since an 11-0 season back in 1938.

The Horned Frogs dominated the first half, going up 21-6, but victory would not come so easy as that. Starting in the third quarter, the game turned into a roaring festival of points, with TCU successfully holding comeback attempt after comeback attempt at bay via its own offensive prowess and the brilliance of quarterback Max Duggan. All hell broke loose, again and again and again.

TCU Horned Frogs linebacker Dee Winters (13) runs to score on a pick six in the third quarter against the Michigan Wolverines.
USA TODAY Sports

Previously undefeated Michigan pulled within three points two plays into the fourth quarter after Emori Demercado’s fumble set up a Roman Wilson score and a Ronnie Bell two-point conversion made it 41-38. The Horned Frogs punched right back, though, with Quinton Johnson taking a crossing route 76 yards to the house to extend the lead to 10.

It got as high as 13, after another TCU field goal, before Michigan mounted its last scrambling attempt at a comeback. J.J. McCarthy led the Wolverines on a nine-play, 56-yard drive ending in a Wilson touchdown that brought the score to 51-45.

Roman Wilson #14 of the Michigan Wolverines reacts after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl.
Getty Images

TCU got the ball back needing to kill the clock, and ended up doing so successfully, with Duggan converting on third-and-one at the Horned Frogs’ 20-yard line to force the Wolverines to use up their three timeouts before they got the ball back with 52 seconds to go at their own 25.

McCarthy, so brilliant in getting Michigan back with a chance, fell short, as the Wolverines failed to even pick up a first down.

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