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TCU pulls off largest upset in CFP history with win over Michigan in Fiesta Bowl

No. 3 TCU entered Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl at eight-point underdogs – they never trailed in the game.

The Horned Frogs are National Championship bound after taking down 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 victory is also the largest upset in CFP history, surpassing the 2014 semifinal when No. 4 Ohio State beat No. 1 Alabama as seven-point dogs.

Michigan failed twice in goal-to-go opportunities. 

The first play from scrimmage was 54-yard run by Donovan Edwards to get the Wolverines in striking distance. However, a Philly Special gone wrong on 4th and goal resulted in a turnover on downs. TCU’s first score was a Bud Clark pick six, and then Max Duggan ran one in to take a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Shortly after getting on the board with a field goal, Michigan had 1st and goal from the one, but Kalel Mullings lost a fumble, and it was a touchback for TCU, who remained up 11. After both teams exchanged 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 did drill a 59-yard field goal at the end of the half to cut the deficit to 15 points.

The third quarter, though, was a tremendous back-and-forth. TCU punted on their first drive of the second half, and although Michigan got inside the 10-yard line quickly, the Frogs held them to a field goal. On their next drive, Duggan threw a pick, and three plays later, the Wolverines scored on a flea flicker to make it 21-16. TCU made quick amends, going 75 yards in just two minutes and taking a 28-16 lead after Emari Demercado’s one-yard score. On a 3rd and 3, McCarthy threw his second pick-six of the day – this time, it was Dee Winters. 

Bud Clark #26 of the TCU Horned Frogs celebrates after returning an interception for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Michigan Wolverines in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium on December 31, 2022, in Glendale, Arizona.


After McCarthy answered 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, went 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 it was recovered by Michigan at the TCU 27. Once again, each time Michigan seemed dead, they were revived.

It took just two plays for Michigan to score, as Wilson took an end-around into the end zone. The ensuing two-point conversion was good, and it was a 41-38 game. Butin a game of quick scores Duggan dumped one off to Quentin Johnson who took it 76 yards for a touchdown, and TCU was up 10 with 13:07 to go. After forcing a three-and-out, Derius Davis returned the punt 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 made it a six-point game. Michigan forced a TCU punt and had one more chance, needing to go 75 yards in 52 seconds, but they were stuck in their tracks, and TCU held on to the victory.

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 went 20-for-34 for 343 yards and two touchdowns, but his two interceptions both were returned for scores. Edwards ran for 119 yards on 23 carries, while Ronnie Bell and Wilson combined for 239 receiving yards on 11 catches.

Emari Demercado #3 of the TCU Horned Frogs celebrates with teammates after rushing for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Michigan Wolverines in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium on December 31, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. 

TCU will now look to become the first Big 12 team to win the National Championship since Texas took down USC in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4, 2006. They await the winner of the Peach Bowl between No. 1 Georgia and No. 4 Ohio State.

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