The Wolverine

December 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 65 of 67

66 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2022 B ack in the late 1990s, Michigan talk radio was — in the words of a former colleague and huge Wolverines fan — all about how, "we don't win right." Lloyd Carr's program was humming along, having won a national championship, and then a Big Ten title in quarterback Tom Brady's first year in 1998 (though the offense, admittedly, should have been a bit better). Michigan finished top 5 with an Orange Bowl win in 1999 and shared a title again in 2000. None of it was good enough for a segment of the fan base. Two decades later, Michigan fans are singing a similar tune, but with a twist. It's still, "we don't win right." However, now it's "boring" the way the Wol- verines are taking business … this at 10-0 and on the cusp of playing Ohio State for a Big Ten East ti- tle and potential College Football Play- off berth. They have the nation's No. 1 defense in several categories, and the offensive line is pulverizing teams into submis- sion on the ground, led by an elite run- ning back in Blake Corum. Teams are literally quitting in the fourth quarter, having had enough. If that's boring … well, sign us up for more, please. It's the 1970s all over again, including the crescendo to the winner-take-all contest in Columbus. After a 34-3 win over Nebraska in which Jim Harbaugh admitted it was "valid" that a quarter- back might struggle to get in rhythm when his team runs so much, he wasn't in the mood for apologies. Nor should he have been. "You balance it," Harbaugh said after his team ran for 264 yards, Corum 162 of them, in the win. "When you're getting 5 yards a carry, 6 yards a carry it's tough to just say, 'let's throw it.' "Put it on me. I'll take accountability that the pass stats weren't higher than they were and be happy to be 10-0 and move on to Illinois." DEFENSE AND GROUND DOMINANCE ARE THIS TEAM'S IDENTITY If you sensed a little sarcasm and push- back there, then you got Harbaugh's mes- sage. Some continue to be enamored with Ohio State's shiny offense, running up scores in the fourth quarter on lowly In- diana, etc. And yeah — it can be fun to watch. But many have short memories. Last year, the Wolverines pulverized the Buck- eyes on both lines in a 42-27 win that, had it not been for some fortunate bounces for OSU, would have been even worse. Running back Hassan Haskins and the line dominated up front. The Buckeyes were gasping for air in the fourth quarter, beaten down. Now, Michigan might have to throw a bit more to beat OSU in Columbus. Head coach Ryan Day hired a new defensive co- ordinator in the offseason, and they've made it clear they spend all year preparing for this game. There's no guarantee they'll be able to handle the Wolverines, though. And like Bo Schembechler, whose 1970s teams essentially told de- fenders what was coming and dared them to try to stop it, Har- baugh has the personnel to do just that, too. Sometimes, "winning right" means doing what's right to win. "We'll see," the coach continued when asked if he'd expand the of- fense. "We're going to do what we think is — when we're in game — the best chance for winning the game. So …" So … draw your own conclu- sions. But don't expect "Air Har- baugh" anytime soon. "We've had these conversations before," he added. "There are two ways to go. You can go by air, or you can go by the ground. Today was a day we chose to go more on the ground. George Patton would be proud." So would Schembechler. And yes, it's a bit ironic that the guy who signed a picture of himself in his quarterback days with his coach, "Bo — let's go for the bomb" — would emulate his mentor by choosing to emasculate opponents by mauling them with the run game. If that's not fun for you, then perhaps you need to live the Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke eras over again. Ask any knowledgeable fan and they'll tell you there's nothing more demoralizing than sitting through a contest in which the opponent controls the game with run after run. Stacking the box? Don't care. We're go- ing to do it again. The message here — Harbaugh's Wol- verines are on an historic run, and these don't happen often. Enjoy each win while you can because they don't come easy. And as we know all too well after the last few decades, success — even at a program like Michigan — is never guaranteed. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS That '70s Show Following the 34-3 win over Nebraska, Jim Harbaugh sarcasti- cally replied to a question about Michigan's offense not passing enough: "Put it on me. I'll take accountability that the pass stats weren't higher than they were and be happy to be 10-0 and move on to Illinois." PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - December 2022