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INDIANAPOLIS — The Michigan football team refers to the Ohio State game as its “Super Bowl,” it’s metaphorical pinnacle point of the Big Ten. But on Saturday, the Wolverines were still in pursuit of a championship trophy — of physical, tangible proof to mark them as the kings of the conference. 

No. 2 Michigan (13-0 overall, 10-0 Big Ten) raised the hardware it coveted, pulling away from Purdue (8-5, 6-4) in the second half for a 43-22 win. The Wolverines secured their second consecutive Big Ten Championship, the first time they’ve accomplished that feat since 2003-04. 

“It’s just a blessing,” graduate receiver Ronnie Bell said at the trophy presentation. “This team is battle tested and these guys learn from everyone in the program, everyone in the building.

Everyone has worked so hard and to see it all come full circle, it’s a beautiful thing, it’s a beautiful blessing.”

Championships are a culmination of season-long goals, but for Michigan, its performance against Purdue was a fitting final reminder of the approach that led them through a flawless season: dominating the second half.

In the first half, both teams traded blows, and the Wolverines walked to the locker only leading 14-13. The Boilermakers had one game-breaking weapon in receiver Charlie Jones and they weren’t going shy away from using him. Jones galvanized Purdue’s offense, racking up seven catches for 74 yards to keep them afloat. 

But when the teams returned to the field, Michigan only needed seven plays to forge its second half dominance yet again. 

The first was a 60-yard burst by sophomore running back Donovan Edwards. Four plays later, the Wolverines were in the end zone. After forcing a three-and-out on the Boilermakers’ subsequent drive, Michigan took even less time to stretch the lead. Sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy hit senior tight end Luke Schoonmaker for a 40-yard catch. Then, Edwards did the rest with a 27-yard touchdown run the following play, juking and carrying defenders with him the entire way. 

Seven plays. Two scores. And just like that, a tight game was blown open. Michigan had its lead, and now it could choke out its opponent. 

“We’ve been in that situation before, multiple times,” McCarthy said postgame. “There wasn’t really anything said (in the locker room) but the usual, ‘We got 30 minutes, give it our all.’ We’re the best second half team in the country and it showed again.”

Edwards in particular rose to the occasion, finishing with 185 rushing yards after gaining just 37 in the first half. His efforts earned him Championship Game MVP honors. 

Defensively, meanwhile, the Wolverines mucked the game up. Down two touchdowns, Purdue started to display some urgency and moved the ball into the red zone. But each time the Boilermakers threatened, Michigan had an answer — using an interception from freshman cornerback Will Johnson and timely sacks to hold Purdue to just three points in the quarter.

With ten minutes left in the game, Purdue down nine with the ball, it desperately needed a drive to keep the game competitive. Instead, Johnson snared his second interception, jumping a pass and immediately throwing up two fingers towards his teammates. 

“His skills are top of the charts,” McCarthy said. “I just can’t wait to see him keep growing into the great player that he is going to become.”

Three plays after Johnson’s pick, Michigan was in the end zone again. It could start to picture the confetti raining down. 

The entire second half, the Wolverines didn’t attempt anything extraordinary, they just controlled the game. They made it boring. They made it ugly. It was exactly how they had won all year.

In the waning moments, players embraced and fans danced in the stands — a second straight Big Ten trophy officially in Michigan’s grasp. 

Except unlike last year, celebrations were more subdued. There was no gatorade bath for Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Players walked off the field satisfied, but not euphoric. McCarthy’s mind wandered to last year’s Orange Bowl trophy celebration against Georgia, where he stood to the side and watched as the Bulldogs soaked in the win. 

“I feel like (that moment) drove me so much that this victory tonight doesn’t really feel like anything,” McCarthy said. “That’s something that’s really hard to come by. I mean, back-to-back Big Ten Championships is amazing, but just that feeling that we had last year, this is just in the way of making sure that feeling never happens again.”

The Big Ten trophy officially cements the Wolverines as the class of the Big Ten once again.

But, as McCarthy made clear, this year they don’t want that trophy to be the centerpiece.