The Wolverine

December 2021*

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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22 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2021 BY JOHN BORTON C ade McNamara just completed an 11-win regular season, one that resurrected Michigan's fortunes from predicted disas- ter to elite hope. Along the way, he threw for 2,301 yards and 14 touchdowns, completing 64.4 percent of his passes and tossing a shockingly low three interceptions. McNamara fashioned himself into one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten, and thrust Michigan among the elite in the all-important category of protecting the football. Oh, and he helped beat Ohio State, put Michigan in position to win the Big Ten championship and make the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, he's operated under cen- ter in sight of the largest quarterback shadow at Michigan since Drew Henson lurked behind Tom Brady. Many fans treated the ascension of strong-armed freshman wunderkind J.J. McCarthy to starting quarterback a foregone conclusion, even through a 7-0 start. That talk quieted in the back half of the season, with McNamara continu- ing to produce. Michigan's leaders left no room for equivocation in their support of the starter. When McNamara shook off a devastating blindside hit and fumble at Penn State, then led the Wolverines to a crucial 21-17 victory, he and junior de- fensive end Aidan Hutchinson appeared together in the postgame press confer- ence. When it ended, Hutchinson got up, smacked McNamara on the shoulder and proclaimed: "That's my quarterback! Let's go!" Head coach Jim Harbaugh noted, regarding the game-winning drive: "I said, 'Hey Cade. You were born for this. BORN for drives like this!' Then he went out and did what he does. "Very cold-blooded. The [PSU de- fender] made a very good play with the sack-fumble, but [McNamara] didn't bat an eye. Just came back and took the team down the field for the winning drive." That didn't stop the questions. In a subsequent press conference back in Ann Arbor, a scribe tried to pin down Harbaugh about Michigan's quarterback situation for the future. The U-M coach didn't waste time at- tempting to answer the unanswerable. Instead, he stated the obvious. "As far as long-term, who's it going to be, that prediction?" Harbaugh mused. "Everybody rents that position. Nobody owns a position — any position on the field, even the head coach. "You lease, at best." McNamara didn't waste time fretting about his position on the depth chart (third) in 2020 spring practice. He just went about his business, working to be- come Michigan's starting quarterback. It happened, and the turn-around re- sults from that 2020 nadir became stun- ning. As for the competition, and any con- troversy? He's as shaken as a wolver- ine in a standoff with a bear. Been there, fought that off. Asked for the 1,000th time about competing, all the outside noise, etc., he delivered a couple cryptic comments. "That's something I actually have a good amount of reps at," McNamara said. "At the beginning of my high school ca- reer, I've dealt with outsider influence and [controversy] on our own team. The sce- narios I've been put in earlier in my career, I wasn't as prepared for as I am now. "Dealing with that at a young age was difficult. But it totally prepared me for the situation I am in now." UP FOR THE CHALLENGE Cade McNamara Isn't Backing Down From Anyone In his first full year as a starter for the Wolverines, McNamara com- pleted 64.4 percent of his passes, with 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions while leading U-M to an 11-1 regular-season record. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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