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2021 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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56 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2021 FOOTBALL PREVIEW "I never questioned my decision on Mich- igan," McNamara said. "I love Michigan. I loved it back then, as well. It was just a part of my journey, a part of the ups and downs of being a quarterback. It helped me develop a lot, taking on the starting defense as the scout team quarterback every week. "Learning to deal with speed and chaos, especially at the quarterback position, can honestly make playing behind the starting O-line and throwing to the starting receivers a whole lot easier." He also never doubted heading into last season that he could be the team's starting quarterback. Depth chart aside, McNa- mara prepared to take over. W h e n t h e t i m e came, he proved the next man up could get the job done. "I don't think I would have played last year, if I didn't have the confidence that I was going to be put in that position," he offered. "I always believed it, even when I early enrolled. "Going into last season, my confidence was the reason I was on the field at the end of last season. Otherwise, I would have let two guys being ahead of me and everyone talking about that get to me." A Prime-Time Opportunity McNamara saw a few snaps in Michigan's 2020 opener at Minnesota. But it wasn't un- til the Wisconsin game — with McCaffrey having opted out of the season and Milton clearly struggling — that McNamara saw a significant chance to prove he belonged. The redshirt freshman did so, on an other- wise dismal afternoon at Michigan Stadium. Amid a 49-11 loss to Wisconsin's formi- dable Badgers, McNamara entered to con- nect on 4 of 7 throws for 74 yards, including a scoring pass to Mike Sainristil for U-M's only touchdown of the game. "After my performance against Wisconsin, I was confident that if I was even named starter that week, I would be able to execute," McNamara said. "Going into the Rutgers week, I prepared the same as I did every sin- gle week. No matter what, if Joe went down, I'd be prepared to play. That was my men- tal take going in. Me being able to perform against Wisconsin just gave me the extra boost — okay, that's what a game feels like." Rutgers felt like a loss early on, the Wol- verines falling behind 17-0 late in the first half. That's when U-M went to the bullpen, and everything changed. "I was extremely ready," McNamara said. "I was anticipating me going into the game. I just felt like the offense didn't have much momentum. Rutgers continued to score. "Us being down 17-0, I knew that there's definitely a chance of me going into the game. I anticipated it, at that point." The second-year QB got the call and delivered a stunning effort, connecting on 27 of 36 throws for 260 yards with four touchdowns, bring- ing the Wolverines all the way back in a 48-42 triple-overtime thriller. "As an offense, we just really executed," he said. "No matter what the score was, we just continued to plug away. We showed a different side of us offensively that night. "Our balance between pass and run, me being able to get the ball out of my hand fast to avoid sacks, to get the ball into playmakers' hands — we executed really well that night." As quickly as the window of opportunity opened for the redshirt freshman, it slammed shut. In his first career start, against Penn When McNamara got the call to come in off the bench against Rutgers, he delivered a stunning effort, connecting on 27 of 36 throws for 260 yards with four touchdowns while leading the Wolverines to a 48-42 win in triple overtime. PHOTO BY BRANDON BROWN "He's a guy that's going to end up playing 10 years in the NFL. … His accuracy and arm strength are more than enough to win with." U-M QUARTERBACKS COACH MATT WEISS ON MCNAMARA

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