Once again, though, Michigan could not stop T.C.U. when it mattered most.
On third-and-7, Duggan hit Quentin Johnston on a short crossing route and the star receiver busted through a tackle and bolted 76 yards for a touchdown and the Horned Frogs had some much needed breathing room.
It was barely enough.
When T.C.U. was stonewalled on back-to-back cracks from inside the 1-yard line in overtime of its loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, Dykes immediately pledged to be better there if his team got into the playoff. Earlier this week, he said the Horned Frogs would have to be stronger up front, but also more creative.
“We’ve put a lot of work into, a lot of attention to it,” Dykes said. “When you look at college football these days, teams are so evenly matched, typically what the game comes down to is being able to convert third downs and, especially, fourth downs and scoring situations.”
Dykes proved prescient.
After Duggan — who was pushed from behind by a couple of teammates — was stopped on a sneak on third-and-goal at the 1, he rolled to his left before turning up field and bulled over Michigan safety Rod Moore, who had rushed up to meet him at the goal line, putting the Horned Frogs ahead, 14-0.
The next time T.C.U. was in striking distance, Duggan rolled out on second-and-goal at the Michigan 6, evaded blitzing nickel back Mike Sainristil and hit receiver Taye Barber, who had raced across the formation, stepped out of a shoestring tackle by cornerback D.J. Turner and bounded into the end zone.
Shockingly, the upstarts were up by a startling 21-3.
Meanwhile, Michigan floundered when it sniffed the end zone, mostly by being too clever for its own good — as if Rich Rodriguez had hijacked Harbaugh’s headset.
The Wolverines, on fourth-and-goal at the 2, ran their version of the Philly Special, the reverse and throw back to the quarterback that the Philadelphia Eagles used to great acclaim to bamboozle the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2018.