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HOUSTON (AP) — Will Johnson, Mike Sainristil and the Michigan defense forced college football’s most dynamic deep passing game to dink and dunk its way down the field with a performance that left coach Jim Harbaugh gushing.

“That was a spectacular game by our defense,” Harbaugh said.

The top-ranked Wolverines held Heisman Trophy runner-up Michael Penix, All-America receiver Rome Odunze and No. 2 Washington’s prolific offense to one touchdown in a 34-13 victory Monday night in the College Football Playoff national championship game.

There were fair questions coming into the game about how Michigan’s defense, which came in first in yards allowed per game and points allowed per game, would hold up against the best offense it has faced this season.

“We knew we are the best defense in the country. We wanted to go out there and prove that,” linebacker Michael Barrett said.

There was nobody in the Big Ten this season like Penix and his trio of dynamic wide receivers: Odunze, Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk. Washington led the country this season in pass plays over 20 yards with 78. Only one came in the national title game against coordinator Jesse Minter’s defense.

Penix connected with Odunze on a 44-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Penix threw for 255 yards on 51 attempts and for just the second time this season threw more interceptions (two) than touchdown passes (one). There were also some misses Penix will regret, especially on a fourth down in the second half where he overthrew a wide-open Odunze.

“They did some good things,” Penix said. “I feel like on the offensive side of the ball, we just missed a lot of opportunities, opportunities where we needed to execute the most to help our team, put our team in a better position to come out with this win.”

He was only sacked once, but unlike in the Sugar Bowl semifinal against Texas, the pressure took the Huskies out of their game. The Huskies managed only 301 total yards, 172 below their season average.

Johnson, the defensive player of the game, came up with the first turnover on the first offensive play of the third quarter. The second-year cornerback broke up a sideline throw and cradled it before it hit the turf. That set up a field goal.

“This man, Will Johnson, talked at halftime we’ve got to get this momentum back,” Harbaugh said. “And darned if we don’t get it back the first play of the second half. Pull it down. That was phenomenal.”

The Wolverines had a huge first quarter offensively with 229 yards and finished strong with two touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the fourth.

In between, Michigan didn’t do much offensively, but time and time again the defense kept the Huskies at bay as the Wolverines nursed a 20-13 lead.

After finally putting together another touchdown drive to take a 27-13 lead on Blake Corum’s `12-yard run with 7:09 left, the defense sealed the deal on Michigan’s first national title since 1997.

Sainristil, one of the leaders of unit packed with veterans, picked off another Penix pass thrown under pressure deep in Michigan territory and returned it 81 yards to the Washington 8.

“Amazing stalwart of a player,” Harbaugh said of the versatile defensive back.

Two plays later, Corum scored again, the celebration was on and there were no more questions about Michigan’s defense.



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