The Wolverine

January 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 16 of 67

JANUARY 2021 THE WOLVERINE 17 became a 48-42, triple-overtime U-M victory. McNamara soon succumbed to a shoulder injury, leaving Michigan's quarterback situation — and offense — seemingly untethered. Then CO- VID stepped in, bringing both per- spective and what some considered a merciful end. "We had a spike in numbers," Kemp offered. "This is people's lives. That's way more serious than any- thing, comparing it to playing a foot- ball game on a Saturday." It certainly left Michigan fans and pundits across the nation with more questions than answers. The biggest involved whether Harbaugh would even be at the helm in 2021. A second centered on what sort of squad he or someone else could cobble together for next fall. Those concerns are overblown, redshirt sophomore running back Hassan Haskins insisted. "There's hidden talent on this foot- ball team," Haskins assured. "We've got all types of talent, in every posi- tion group. We didn't always show that each game. We're getting it, though. We're getting our identity. We're going to keep working on that and keep getting better." It doesn't hurt that the Wolverines will see an immediate injection of talent via the nation's No. 11-ranked recruiting class, according to Rivals. com. The new crew features highly regarded quarterback J.J. McCarthy, in-state running back standout Dono- van Edwards, electric wideout Xavier Worthy and a host of others docu- mented throughout this magazine. PAIN OR PAIN RELIEF? Some called into question Michi- gan's truncated football season, Ohio State and Michigan State fans in par- ticular choosing to skeptically pile on. ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit made unfortunate comments about the Wolverines "waving the white flag" before the Ohio State game. He quickly thought better of the off- hand comment and apologized, but still absorbed plenty of criticism. Michi- gan director of athletics Warde Manuel labeled anyone thinking the Wolver- ines would duck an opponent "a fool." "For me and our medical staff, we looked at the numbers and percentage of players who were impacted, and it became apparent to us all no matter how much we wanted to play," Manuel said. "We started this all in March with the goal of the health and safety of our team and coaches as our first priority. "As numbers grow, we can't ignore them and put first how much we want to play this great game against Ohio State. Until we have control of that, there's no reason we should move forward without a good handle of the cases on our team right now." A host of Wolverines chimed in about how much they did, in fact, want to face the Buckeyes. "Obviously, I'm missing a lot," Kemp said. "I'll really understand, over time, as I get older, how I truly miss that game. Not being able to play it your senior year is something I never really imagined. "You think about everything your senior year as windup, making it your best year, in a lot of aspects. You want to play your best game against them." There's just no way he'd have skipped playing in that game if he could have helped it, Kemp assured. "That game, in this building, has always been on every player's mind," he said. "Just because the outcomes in the last few years have not been what we wanted or what we expected, that does not mean we go into that game thinking it's like any other game. "This is the game that you train for. This is the game you work for, since January, every single year. It's the game you think about every time you're in the weight room, every time you're practicing, every time you're training. That's been the standard." In a year in which nothing went ac- cording to plan, no Ohio State contest fit right in. Michigan then hoped to travel to 6-2 Iowa for a bizarre Big Ten Cham- pions Week crossover game, given both team's standing in their divi- sions. That, too, went by the COVID wayside. Manuel insisted Michigan's increas- ing COVID numbers, combined with the team's extensive injuries, were simply too much for the Wolverines to field a team against the Hawkeyes. "The number of positive tests over the past three weeks, which require a 21-day unavailability period, and the contact tracing requirements as- sociated with those numbers have pushed our current list of unavail- able student-athletes to over 50," he said. "This is a very unfortunate situ- ation, and we are disappointed that our program will not be able to finish the season against the Hawkeyes. "I am very proud of the way that our players worked to try and get back onto the field, but the numbers simply don't support us taking the field on Saturday. This has been a very Michigan was not able to record a win at The Big House this season, a first since the venue opened in 1927. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Fifth-year senior defensive lineman and team captain Carlo Kemp "Being able to go through all these ups and these downs with all your teammates is definitely a lot better than not playing."

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