The Wolverine

December 2021*

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2021 There's a new standard in this building that we've set. That's all we can do. We want to change for the better. This is just the beginning for this program. — Redshirt freshman quarterback Cade McNamara This feels like the beginning. — Head coach Jim Harbaugh I t can be the beginning. It should be the beginning. It must be the beginning. Michigan's 42-27 throttling of Ohio State shocked the world, but not the Wol- verines. They planned and prepped for this moment for 11 straight months, ig- noring every mocking, screeching voice that said it couldn't happen. They fueled themselves with the venom of doubters, including one who said he'd "hang 100" points on the Wol- verines. Ryan Day fulfilled 27 percent of his promise, and gets to watch Harbaugh and his crew battle for the Big Ten title and beyond. Junior defensive end Aidan Hutchin- son insisted many teams play Ohio State "scared," and vowed his squad wouldn't. The fear became clear in OSU eyes, with time running out, flurries floating down and a new sheriff in town. Harbaugh even invoked Bo Schem- bechler and Woody Hayes on game week, insisting the Ohio State-Michigan game would come down to "blocking and tack- ling." His team subsequently blocked and tackled the Buckeyes into oblivion. Hutchinson overwhelmed a pur- ported future NFL tackle, storming like an enraged rhino to three sacks and an unheard-of 15 quarterback pressures. Michigan's offensive line inspired no less than John Madden to text Harbaugh about paving the way for nearly 300 rush- ing yards. "John Madden said it was as good an offensive line performance as he's ever seen in a football game," Harbaugh mar- veled. "I texted that to Sherrone [Moore, U-M offensive line coach] and said, 'Keep that on your phone forever.'" Scared? They were as scared as Kurt Russell's Wyatt Earp in 'Tombstone': You tell 'em I'm comin', and hell's comin' with me, you hear! Hell's comin' with me! Michigan offensive linemen from the past — grizzled, ornery ones who reduced opponent to tears on the field — didn't like what they'd seen in years past. They'd watched opponents throw cheap shots at Michigan quarterbacks and others, taking liberties that went unchallenged as line- men walked away after the play. Not so, when Buckeye defensive back Cam Brown ripped freshman receiver Roman Wilson's helmet from his head and fired it behind him. Immediately, in came redshirt junior offensive tackle An- drew Stueber, redshirt freshman guard Trevor Keegan, redshirt sophomore tight end Luke Schoonmaker, fifth-year se- nior center Andrew Vastardis, even red- shirt sophomore running back Hassan Haskins. They walled up like a herd of angry elephants, backing down a young lion. They didn't do anything stupid, but they just kept coming. That moment proved a microcosm of the day: Michigan stood as one and advanced with a vengeance, while the Buckeyes caved. That moment, that day, that victory and how the Wolverines achieved it will be seared onto the memories of every player on Harbaugh's breakthrough crew. From the oldest veteran right down to the youngest true freshman, the Wolverines experienced what it takes in the greatest rivalry in sport. That's a game-changer. "We planned for Ohio State," Harbaugh said. "We understood and thought they'd be the best opponent on our schedule. Now, it's Iowa … you watch what they've done, week-in and week-out. You have a clear understanding of what they are and who they are. It's going to take the same kind of preparation. "How does this help us going for- ward? It's understanding, that's the level — mentally, physically, spiritually — you must have to prepare for a great team." It goes beyond the 2021 season, what- ever heights this one reaches. If the 2021 Wolverines weren't afraid of taking on the Buckeyes, you can bet the 2022 crew won't be cowed one bit, stepping into the Snakepit next Nov. 26. Michigan radio sideline reporter Doug Karsch knows what that means. "It's not like Ohio State came back to the pack, right?" Karsch mused. "This was still a team that people thought was a national championship contender, until they faced Michigan. "It was stepping up to their level, when it came to preparation, motivation, ex- ecution. They stepped up to Ohio State's level and actually surpassed it. The 'Michigan chickened out on the game last year' narrative bothered them. The 'Hang 100' comment clearly meant something to them. "They channeled it all. They changed the name of drills. And Charles Woodson called them out, very publicly, after the last loss to Ohio State, about how it's got to mean more. "Whether or not Jim Harbaugh heard that, I don't know. But he definitely changed the focus, and it paid dividends. That was your best players leaving their legacy in November." It also leaves a standard to meet in white-hot Novembers to come. ❑ WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON U-M Can Seize The Moment, And The Future H e a d c o a c h J i m H a r b a u g h a n d t h e Wolverines planned and prepped for this moment for 11 straight months, and it paid off with a 42-27 win over OSU. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at jborton@thewolverine.com and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

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