The University of Michigan won its first national championship since 1997 on Monday night against Washington University.

Both teams had led undefeated seasons with perfect 14-0 records heading into the national championship. No. 1 Michigan was a slight favorite against No. 2 Washington.

Two early touchdowns from junior running back Donovan Edwards gave the Wolverines a 14-3 lead at the end of the first quarter, and they took a 17-10 lead into halftime. They never trailed in the game. Michigan took a substantial lead with two more touchdowns in the second half from senior running back Blake Corum and was able to hold off Washington’s star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to 13 total points.

The game ended 34-13, and Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy reflected on the season.

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“I’d say we came a long way, but in order to accomplish things like this, you’ve got to go to those dark places where everything’s not great. And just the response, the urgency right after that last game last year, it was different. I knew it. Just from being on the podium last year and saying we would be back. I knew the guys were coming back. I had this feeling that it was going to be where we are right now.”

Perhaps the semifinal loss to TCU in the 2022-23 season was one of the “dark places” McCarthy referred to. It could also be a reference to the final three games of the regular season without Coach Jim Harbaugh this year. Harbaugh served a three-game suspension amid an investigation in which the Big Ten announced Michigan’s “impermissible, in-person scouting operation, over multiple years, resulting in an unfair competitive advantage.” The sign-stealing scheme was allegedly conducted for multiple years and a large part of the media thought the suspension was unjust and insufficient.

This was Harbaugh’s second suspension of the season, the first being a self-imposed violation of Covid-19 recruiting protocols.

It’s tough to determine what “dark places” McCarthy is talking about after a perfect 15-0 season but despite the allegations, suspensions, and the “Michigan vs. everybody” mantra that they faced all season long, McCarthy, Edwards, Corum, Harbaugh and the rest of the Michigan Wolverines overcame it all.

“If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” said the Wolverines offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore.

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