The Wolverine

January 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JANUARY 2022 THE WOLVERINE 23 scored a major difference for this crew, Skene insisted. "It's an indicator," he offered. "You can watch any football game, with any team, and you can see it like you could see it with this year's Michigan team. When one of your teammates is on the ground, is there someone there to help him get up? Are there two guys there to help him get up? "Is there someone down around the pile, helping each other up, slapping high fives, saying, 'Let's go do this again?' Those are indicators of a group of guys who like each other, who enjoy each other, who want to win for each other. "We didn't see that last year — not nearly enough of it. That moment right there. I think it was Stueber and Keegan who were up in that dude's face. It was just a great image. It personified the Michigan-Ohio State thing." It sends a message, the former Wolver- ine noted. "It's like, 'We are no longer backing down to you people. We are tired of this s---, and we are not taking it anymore. It ends today! We are going to cram this football down your throat, and we're go- ing to do it again, and again, and again!'" Skene said. "That's the kind of stuff that makes me tear up. THAT is Michigan football. It still IS Michigan football, with new for- mations and an ability for an offense to spread out. They can do things we never did all those years ago, because football was much different then. "But this team had elements of that butt-kicking attitude, with the ability to go modern offense." HOISTING A TROPHY The championship game simply fin- ished everything off, regarding the Big Ten breakthrough. Michigan's 42-3 romp past Iowa featured eye-popping big plays, a steady wearing down of a solid Iowa de- fense and a smothering U-M defensive effort that reminded everyone that the king of the East Division becomes king of the Big Ten. All that remained involved the celebra- tion — wild and raucous at times, and for a moment intense and reflective. The Wolverines dedicated the game to slain Oxford High School football player Tate Myre, Harbaugh telling the team Myre could have worn their uniform one day. For Skene and so many others, the last- ing feeling remains one of joy for those who went through plenty at Michigan, and overcame. "I was so happy for the players — the guys who stuck around," Skene said. "Hutchinson and [redshirt junior line- backer Josh] Ross and the other seniors, Stueber and [sixth-year senior center An- drew] Vastardis — that kid had a helluva year. These guys, all the way back to Janu- ary, they got together, looked each other in the eye, and said 'No more! We're not going out like this! This is not going to be us!'" There's a closeness suffering together brings. But there's an even deeper sense of togetherness coming from laboring together and ultimately winning, Skene assured. "Knowing what it feels like, that team camaraderie, and what the class of 1988 still feels — we still stay together, we still talk together, we're a very close group of guys," he said. "The satisfaction of watch- ing this group of young men in that mo- ment, holding up that trophy, in the hours after that game … "They may not know it yet, but that galvanized this group of guys for the rest of their lives. I guarantee you, this 2021 Michigan football roster, 25-30 years from now, will still be talking to one another, still be chatting, still be going golfing to- gether and having fun together — because of this team's accomplishments. "That's the most satisfactory thing for me. Obviously, with Chris and Melissa Hutchinson there, and the personal con- nection with Aidan, there's a personal slant to it, which makes it even better. "The joy of hoisting up a trophy, know- ing that you are the outright Big Ten champion, the way that this team did it? Put their faces on the wall at Schem- bechler Hall. They're right up there with all the other great Michigan teams that did the same thing. They're right there with any of them." ❏ Championship Numbers Cascade From 2021 Season Michigan's 2021 effort produced not only the Wolverines' first Big Ten champion- ship since assistant coach Mike Hart's freshman season, but also the first College Football Playoff appearance by a crew unranked in the preseason. It also fashioned other numbers of huge import, such as: 4 Interceptions tossed by redshirt freshman quarterback Cade McNamara through 13 games. That's two fewer than quarterback Brian Griese threw in the 12-game 1997 national championship season. 15 Pressures recorded by junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson in Michigan's win over Ohio State. That's the most for any player in a game since Pro Football Focus first tracked the statistic in college back in 2014. Hutchinson's 14 sacks also established a single-season record for the Wolverines. 16.1 Points allowed per game by Michigan. It not only shaved a healthy 18.4 points per game off last season's defensive average, but took the top spot in the Big Ten and was the No. 4 clip nationally. All this in defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald's first season at Michigan. 17 Plays by U-M that gained 50 or more yards on the year. That number led the nation, and such explosiveness no doubt contributed to offensive coordinator Josh Gattis earning the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the nation. 27 Tackles for loss allowed by Michigan on the campaign. The Wolverines led the nation in fewest negative plays. U-M surrendered 10 sacks in 13 games, good for No. 3 in the country. 42 Points scored against Ohio State, a number that sent statisticians scrambling to the record books. Michigan hadn't put that many points on an OSU crew since 1946, when the Wolverines scored 58. No Michigan team beat the Buckeyes by as many as this year's 15 points since U-M's 28-0 win in 1993. 64 Rushing yards for Ohio State against Michigan, marking the Buckeyes' lowest total on the ground since the 2011 season. Not coincidentally, that was the last time Michigan took down the Buckeyes. Meanwhile, the Wolverines were rack- ing up 297 yards on the ground, with redshirt sophomore running back Hassan Haskins piling up five rushing touchdowns. — John Borton and Clayton Sayfie

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