Even in the ugliest of defeats on the biggest of stages, Michigan should walk away with its collective head held high. It wasn’t the ending the Wolverines hoped for, but they had a heck of a run.

While there wasn’t a ton for Michigan fans to be excited about in the loss to Georgia, there were a few positives. And Michigan’s young core was at the center of them.

For whatever reason, Michigan looked out of place against Georgia — a step slow and a tad tentative. But Michigan’s trio of freshmen looked unusually comfortable on such a big stage.

JJ McCarthy, who has played in spurts in relief of Cade McNamara all season, took over for good late in the third quarter and played well. He set career highs in completions (7), passing attempts (17) and passing yards (131) while also nearly setting one in rushing yards (24).

McCarthy’s best plays were to a couple of fellow true freshmen in Andrel Anthony and Donovan Edwards.

And while the play on the field is important, the way they carry themselves is equally important. Their mindset is unique.

It struck me that McCarthy, Anthony, Edwards and a few others, including RB Blake Corum, stuck around on the field to watch Georgia’s celebration instead of disappearing into the locker room. And that’s no knock on the rest of the team that left the field right away. Sticking around is something you have to consciously decide to do in the moment, it doesn’t happen by accident. It goes against every instinct to stick around and watch your opponent celebrate beating your butt.

But the intention is obvious. They want to remember how losing in the CFP feels; they want to know what it looks like to win.

And if the cynic in you says they did it for the clout, that they knew media or fans would snap pictures of them on the field, well, it doesn’t seem like they are those kinds of people.

Remember back in the first month of the season when Michigan won at Wisconsin? McCarthy threw a TD pass that day, a 56-yard beauty to Daylen Baldwin. When the team arrived back on campus that Saturday, the trio went out to the practice field to get some more work in, instead of celebrating. Jim Harbaugh snapped a picture because “It meant that much to me.”

The trio did the same thing after Michigan returned from a road win at Nebraska, and this time it was the middle of the night. Instead of going to bed after a win, they wanted to practice more. These are actually guys who are “built different.”

When Kirk Herbstreit talks about how today’s generation doesn’t love football, he’s not talking about them. He can’t be, because they obviously don’t fall into that category.

And here’s the thing: No one would know about any of this if Harbaugh didn’t out them. So with that context, it isn’t surprising that they were soaking in everything they could from that stage.

As they walked off the field together, Blake Corum said, “I promise you, we’ll be back.”


McCarthy and Edwards were both top-50 recruits in the 2021 class, but they are grinding and hustling as if they’re 2-star guys. Anthony has already had some success as a true freshman, mainly his 155-yard, 2-TD game against Michigan State, but he has the mentality of a guy who has never played. These are the things you love to see out of young players.

The disappointment won’t go away just because a couple young players performed well, but it’s more than that. It’s how they’re handling failure. These young kids have a lot to learn so they can harness all of their talent, and they have the right mentality to make sure this Michigan season wasn’t a fluke.

A lot of times on social media, athletes like to tell you how hungry they are. This young Michigan core is showing you, and that’s great news for Michigan fans.