5 plays that led to Michigan football's epic Rose Bowl comeback

Michigan football was in trouble in the fourth quarter and here are the five plays that kept the national title dream alive.
Jan 1, 2024; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Roman Wilson (1) makes a catch as
Jan 1, 2024; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Roman Wilson (1) makes a catch as / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There were times in the Rose Bowl Game when it felt like it wasn't going to be Michigan's night.

Over the years, Michigan football fans, hell, Michigan fans in general have had plenty of experiences with heartbreak and it seemed like the Rose Bowl would be another.

But then, Michigan football flipped the script. The Wolverines kept believing and kept fighting. They rallied from a seven-point deficit to survive and advance. Here are five key plays that got them there.

5. Braiden McGregor sack with 5:34 left (Michigan down 17-13)

With Alabama facing a third-and-9 at the Michigan 29, this was a massive play in the game. If the Wolverines allowed a touchdown, the game would have been all but over, save a miracle. Michigan football was aggressive on defense all night and Braiden McGregor forced a field goal with his second sack of the game. The quarterbacks and offense will be remembered, but the defense started the comeback in a very real way.

4. J.J. McCarthy to Blake Corum on fourth-and-two with 3:19 left (Michigan down 20-13)

Jim Harbaugh didn't hesitate to go for it on fourth down and just like they have been all season, the Wolverines were money on fourth down. They converted three against Ohio State and two in the Rose Bowl. Both of those drives ended in touchdowns.

Michigan needed two yards when McCarthy hit Corum for a first down into Alabama territory. It sparked the final drive. McCarthy ran for a first down on the next play but it can all be traced back to that fourth-down, do-or-die conversion.

3. Roman Wilson's epic catch with 2:20 left (Michigan down 20-13)

The play that turned the tide came with 2:20 left on the clock. One play after McCarthy's first down run and two after the fourth down conversion, McCarthy had a passed tipped, which could have easily led to an interception. Instead, Roman Wilson made the catch of his life, gaining 29 yards and setting up a first-and-goal. Wilson caught a touchdown pass two plays later, sending the game to overtime.

2. Blake Corum's touchdown run in overtime

Blake Corum has had some great runs in his Michigan football career, but the 17-yarder in overtime -- the Rose Bowl Game winner -- will be hard to beat.

Corum rushed for 84 yards in the game. He also had two receptions for 35 yards. But his cut on the overtime touchdown reminded me of his touchdown against Ohio State. It was the stuff of legend. The blocking was great but Corum had the vision to see the hole, plus the will to get the thing in the end zone.

It's a game of inches and those last couple of yards when he dragged Alabama defenders into the end zone proved to be the difference.

1. The Mason Graham tackle for loss

There's a reason Mason Graham got Defensive MVP. He came up with the biggest defensive play of the game. After a Jalen Milroe run gave Alabama a first-and-goal, Graham forced a five-yard tackle for loss tackling Jase McClellan back at the 14.

Alabama was able to get the ball to the three-yard line, but with the way the Wolverines covered all game, it didn't seem likely that Alabama was going to pass. Jalen Milroe running the ball was the Tide's best play. It made sense to go back to the well. However, Michigan won up front and ended the game.

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But if Graham doesn't force that negative play, that final sequence could have gone much differently.