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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Zach Koons

Photo of Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy Watching TCU Celebrate Goes Viral

There’s perhaps no greater insight into an athlete’s psyche than seeing how they act following a crushing loss. Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy gave fans a small glimpse into his mindset after the Wolverines’ devastating 51–45 defeat in Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl.

Playing in the College Football Playoff for the second straight year, Michigan (13-1) was unable to overcome a handful of missed opportunities and came up just short in the national semifinal against the Horned Frogs. Instead, TCU (13-1) got the opportunity to hoist the Fiesta Bowl trophy and celebrate on the field at State Farm Stadium, while the Wolverines were sent home one game short of the national championship again. 

While the Horned Frogs were basking in the confetti, McCarthy remained on the field and watched TCU players and coaches celebrate. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports captured the moment, when the Michigan quarterback seemed frozen in observation of TCU’s celebration, with a photo that went viral following the game.

The image of McCarthy looking on after a difficult loss was remarkably similar to a photo of Bills receiver Stefon Diggs watching the Chiefs celebrate a victory in the AFC championship game two years ago. A dejected Diggs stood with his hands on his hips after Kansas City locked up a trip to the Super Bowl, a scene that McCarthy evoked Saturday.

McCarthy finished the game completing 20 of 34 passes for a career-high 343 yards. He threw two touchdowns and ran for a touchdown as well, but also threw two interceptions—both of which were returned for TCU touchdowns. 

McCarthy, who wasn’t the starter for last year’s team that reached the CFP, still has a long college career ahead of him after wrapping up his sophomore season. After the game, he answered just one question in his press conference, vowing to be back in the national semifinals soon enough.

“There’s a lot of things that we could have done better,” McCarthy said. Can’t wait to watch the tape, but we’ll be back. And I promise that.”

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