Indiana Postgame Presser: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on October 16th, 2017 at 9:16 AM



[Ed. A- I couldn’t make it to Indiana this past weekend but luckily Ace and David were willing and able. David pulled out the kind of move you’d expect from a wily veteran and got my recorder on the table right in front of the mic, which matters a ton to me and none to you. But hey, here’s a post for you to read with words that were said, then recorded with excellent clarity, and finally transcribed with… hands? Yes, hands and typing and such.]

Can you talk about Karan Higdon today, especially on those big plays?

“Yeah, he was phenomenal. I don’t know how many yards he got after contact but they were tough yards, and had some plays that looked like they were going to be a tackle for loss or a one-yard gain or no gain that he found a way to get four or five out of. More than a few. Lot of yards—I think more than 200 in the game—and cracked the big one for us and didn’t get trapped behind the line thought, I don’t know, if at all, maybe a couple times. But yeah, big boost from Karan Higdon today.”

Defense had been on the field a lot and when they faced goal-to-go from the two and had two negative plays and couldn’t come up much bigger. Talk about how those guys dug down deep were able to dig down deep.

“Yeah, I really thought our whole team did. Put our best people on it, our players and out coaches, and asked them to find a way and knew that we were going to have to dig down deep to do it. The goal-line stand was a great opportunity for us to keep them out of the end zone and win the ball game and responded with the tackle for loss and the incompletion, interception, and the quarterback option run up the middle so it was a great four plays for us.”

Was there a point in the game when you realized that Karan was going to be the guy to carry you through on offense or was that always the plan going in?

“Yeah, I mean, Karan started the game and we leaned on him heavy. I thought Chris [Evans] and Ty [Isaac] both added some good plays there. Nice to see Kareem Walker get a shot and produce; might be more carries for him in the future. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re very humble about this, and we’ll move on to a big road game next week, but this was a big game for our team. And mistakes were made but I think it’s something we can really grow from.”

[After THE JUMP: “We were grinding some meat out there today” is a way better phrase than “It was tough sledding”]

Can you talk about the level to which Lavert Hill elevated his game and his play today.

“It’s been pretty high all season. It really has. Lavert’s been a really good player for us; I was gonna say ‘steady’ but he’s been better than steady. He’s been playing at a really high level. Had some great defenses on the ball, pass breakups and interceptions and tight coverage. Really good, really good. That’s why we brought him here!”

And then the punt from Brad [Robbins], had you asked him to kick away from him on that last one or did you just decide to take a chance there?

“No, he was supposed to kick it to the opposite boundary that he did. Wound up in the middle of the field. You could see they had a wall set up. From my view, looked like he kicked the laces, too, which… there’s a lot of young guys out there and he’s one of them, and he’s doing a phenomenal job and the other guys are doing a phenomenal job.

“I mean, Donovan [Peoples-Jones] had some punt returns that… they’re close, you know. But he came through as well and is somebody that if you look up and down the roster, Aubrey Solomon and Michael Dwumfour getting in there when it was crunch time and doing a heck of a job and many others. Guys like Rashan and Chase Winovich and Mike McCray and Lavert, who’s really young too, those guys have been really steady. Playing with great effort. I think that’s where it all starts. You’re seeing that the effort is really there, and it was last week. There’s mistakes made and we’ve just got to grow from them and get them corrected.

“Knew what we were in for today. We really did. We knew we were in for a football fight; last time we were in here went to double overtime, this time it goes to overtime. Indiana’s got a veteran ball club and played very well, as they always do.”

Sixteen penalties today, some were costly. How concerning is that?

“Yeah, those are some of the things we’ve got to grow. We’ve got to grow and improve on. Just keep coaching it, just keep talking about it and learning from it. Been around young ball clubs before and that’s—it’s a process, and that’s one. We’ve got to become a more disciplined football team. We know it, we see it, we’re coaching it, we’re talking about it, and we’re going to keep taking strides. But when guys dig down, you feel like you’ve got a heck of a chance.”

Do you feel like that’s the way this team is going to have to win games throught the year, scrap out close games, rather than last year putting up 40, 50 points a game given how young you are and learning on the go?

“Well, I mean, when you’re—no it doesn’t have to be that way. We can grow and we can learn and you know that you will. I mean, I put myself back when I was a true freshman or a sophomore, redshirt freshman, or even a sophomore, redshirt sophomore, a junior, practically a junior in school, wasn’t a finished product by any means. I don’t think I even could have gone out there as a true freshman like some of these guys are.

“They’ve got something special. If you can dig down, dig deep, and stay in the moment, not look for a soft shoulder to cry on or an excuse to be made while you’re in the moment then that’s something special.”

Yeah, I guess that’s what I was asking, that at this present time they’re going to need that and not be able to--

“We can grow. We can grow, Dan. And our best people will be on it. We’re putting our best people on it, Dan. Our players and our coaches and we’ll forge ahead.”

What did you see from John this week in practice and his demeanor in the game today. Guessing he wasn’t maybe where you’d like him to be. What did you see from John overall?

“Well, I mean, we’ll have to really look at it, really look at the tape before I go into comment on that on how much was there. He had some opportunities, not a lot. We were grinding some meat out there today. It wasn’t the plan to throw it 25 times or 30 times or 20 times. But had some opportunities. Made some plays. Pulled off a Houdini play and overthrew an open go route to Donovan. Just got to look at it before I say anything.”

You’ve talked a little bit about the callous building. All these guys are young; is this a callous game?

“It’s a process. It’s a good one, though. They like being around each other, I can tell you that. They like practicing hard and they like playing hard. They like leaving it all out there on the field. Those are really good things to have, so we’ll keep forging on.”

You put Juwann Bushell-Beatty in at right tackle. What does he do to the chemistry of the offensive line?

“Again, got to look at the tape, really. Must have been good when we rushed the ball for as many yards as we did today. We’ll look. Had to be some really good play up front. So… good. They fight. I’ll tell you what they do: they fight. You really love that when you have a ball club that’s like that.”



October 16th, 2017 at 9:44 AM ^

I don't think that anybody will really have the answer, but I am just throwing it out there because it is something that I have thought about.  Can anybody really imagine Harbaugh giving a "rallying" speech in the locker room?  Pre-game, post-game, anytime? 

And let me clarify PLEASE because I don't want this to bring out rage, I AM NOT saying that this has anything to do with his effectiveness as a coach, love for the program, etc., nor am I saying it is even an important feature of what a coach does.

But for all of his admiration for Bo, and the huge part of Michigan tradition that he, himself, was part of, it is hard for me to really imagine him delivering a team speech or really delivering a message to his players in a pregame setting that kind of conjures up emotion, that makes a particular game or a particular circumstance mean something more than the sum of its parts. 

Even Lloyd Carr, for as monotone and stoic as he was and tried to be, he could chill you with post-game remarks that would make your hair raise and distinguish Michigan football from those other guys.  That does not seem to be part of Harbaugh's personality, and it is not a problem, just surprises me a little bit particularly given his propensity to seek to entertain with certain antics off the field. Perhaps it is different behind closed doors.

Just an observation.


October 16th, 2017 at 9:49 AM ^

I would be very reluctant to judge how Harbaugh talks to the team based on how he talks to the press. It seems clear that he has an inside vs outside view of some of this - like many coaches do.

We've certainly seen Harbaugh have angry pressers before, and silly ones too.

But to draw a conclusion about how he talks to the team at halftime based on bland comments to the press seems like a reach.

I completely understand the idea; I see where that would come from - especially THIS year where Harbaugh looks kinda fatgiued in talking to the press - but when you look at him with groups of students, ANY students, you see a lot more enthusiasm. I suspect that he just saves the emotion for the team.


October 16th, 2017 at 10:17 AM ^

seems completely possible.  I guess I just thought he would openly embrace the "idea" of Michigan more so than he does.  Has he said Go Blue one time since he has been our coach?  Like I said above, don't misconstrue this.  Perhaps he is simply all business as a coach, and that is fine.  That is how I would describe Nick Saban and he may be the best college football coach of all time.  Additionally, "this is Michigan" is all Brady Hoke did for four years and that was a tire fire, so this characteristic alone is worth very little.  Just given Harbaugh's connection to Michigan, I just expected something a little bit different. 


October 16th, 2017 at 11:56 AM ^

I get what you're saying (and don't necessarily disagree with it).  It's always nice to have a coach that openly shows school pride.  That being said, the last guy who had the job was very "This is Michigan!" and "Go Blue!" all the didn't work out so well.  Not saying that Hoke lost because of the rah, rah talk, but I'll take a coach who isn't a cheerleader and consistantly wins over one who claps 24/7 but takes Ls on the regular.


October 16th, 2017 at 2:26 PM ^

A Google search solves the first question:

Harbaugh: 'It’s not just Michigan and Go Blue, it’s Go Red, White and Blue'

And yes, posting that quote is supposed to be snarky because, of course he has said "Go Blue". 

The bigger question is if Jim is fully engaged wth Michigan. I don't see how the answer to this question is anything but yes.

A couple examples:

- He wears Michigan clothes darn near every day and every where.

- Taking the team to Europe is as Michigan as it gets undersrtanding the balance between sports and education

- Diving off the high dive at a school event (he wasn't just randomly at the swim and diving center)

- Attending other Michigan sporting events (which cameras have captured) to support the other teams.


The guy bleeds Maize and Blue. It's not measured in how many times you publicly say Go Blue.


October 16th, 2017 at 10:07 AM ^

Question - why do you think he has a "propensity to seek to entertain with certain antics off the field"?  Because I don't see that, at all.  I mean, everything he's done has been to benefit the football program in some manor, or because he was asked to do it (climbing the tree, the can-opener platform dive, jumping into the pool with Martin).  He doesn't call the press and tell them to print stories.  I really don't think he cares about entertaining anyone - he wants the best for his team, and responds with civility and honesty when queried.

What you said fits the press narrative to a tee.  But it's not true...

Michael Scarn

October 16th, 2017 at 10:28 AM ^

You can't image someone who: (1) smeared a player's blood on his face at Stanford; (2) prepares his quarterbacks pregame by beating them in the shoulderpads and helmet; (3) has shown he will "win with cruelty" against rivals/opponents who take shots at him (running it up on Pete Carroll, going for 2 at Rutgers up big); and (4) once broke an overhead projector banging on it with his fist screaming "I MUST WIN" at a coaching clinic giving a rallying speech in a locker room to his team?


October 16th, 2017 at 10:29 AM ^

I think his wife gave someone an interview and said the first time she saw him give a pre-game speech, she wasn't sure she knew who he was. I think he's probably got a different demeanor reserved for the team that we rarely see. He's obviously a passionate guy, so it's not like he can't get excited about things enough to deliver a speech. 

Also, not everyone needs to be a rah rah, chair throwing type guy. There are other ways to be motiviating and inspirational without yelling or jumping up and down.

The Mad Hatter

October 16th, 2017 at 11:36 AM ^

was funny.  But I can see it both ways.  Harbaugh does have a touch of autism, so I think he comes off as disconnected or odd a lot of times.

But on the other hand, he's hyper competitive and always seems to get the most out of his players, so he must be doing something right to motivate them.  I guess we'll have to wait to see the locker room speech after we win the Rose Bowl  / NC.


October 16th, 2017 at 1:13 PM ^

Last week (according to you) Harbaugh had lost his enthusiasm for the job, now he's not rah-rah enough for you.  Or, that is, you're not *saying* he is or isn't, you're just *asking*, right?  But the fault lies with the rest of us for not engaging in the "nuanced discussion" you were hoping for?

This is concern trolling, plain and simple, and it's getting (or gotten) really tiring.


October 16th, 2017 at 1:31 PM ^

loss to Michigan State, I was frustrated and was looking for a simple answer.  I did not expect that loss, and my reaction about Harbaugh was in all likelihood misguided.  I do think the team, as a whole, has seemed really distracted this year and very mistake prone.  This, in addition to very subdued reactions from Harbaugh, made me question whether this team had his full attention.  I think everybody is starting to think that it is rather odd that Peters is not playing.  However, aside from that, most of what I said last week was not supportable.  I agree with you.

This, on the other hand, is something that I have noticed the entire time he has been here.  It does not "concern" me, so I am not concern trolling.  I remember when Harbaugh was introduced as the 49ers head coach, his introductory presser was very engaging, he laid out his plan for what he expected the team to do, he spoke of the history of the franchise.  Last year, he knew the breed of the horse that FSU used and spoke of all of the tradition at Florida State.  He seems to really value history and legacy when it comes to football.  I have just not seen that kind of rhetoric about Michigan, and given Harbaugh's connection to Bo and the numerous speeches and clips used of Bo throughout the years as they relate to Michigan, I thought he would be a little bit more like that.  It really is not a criticism, nor a concern.


October 16th, 2017 at 9:50 AM ^

Our team is one of the youngest in the nation. Who else would you want as a coach?

We are not a Bama/OSU machine for a variety of reasons.  Would I like the wins? Yes.  Would I like their programs? No.

yossarians tree

October 16th, 2017 at 1:10 PM ^

I think what he means is that those schools have a history of paying for (some) recruits, recruiting (some) players who have zero academic qualitifications, pushing kids out of the program early when they appear to not be good, and placing zero academic expectations on their players. Michigan's program values wins. We all do. But it does and should also stand for other values that may restrain a win-at-all-costs program.


October 16th, 2017 at 9:51 AM ^

Hearing JH list out so many of the young guys that are not only playing, but starting and playing key roles for this team, it really should make any rational fan step back and recognize that while frustrating - especially the losses to our main rivals - this year was always going to be a rebuilding year on offense and special teams.  We just have so many young guys either starting or in the rotation.  Our entire receiving grop, most of our TE, many of our linemen, even some of our RB.  That level of youth will lead to drive-killing penalties, turnovers, missed routes, miscommunication, etc. and is the reason that our offense generally looks like such a tire fire.  

I know that many will call this the "youth excuse," but it's not an excuse, just a fair explanation.


October 16th, 2017 at 10:09 AM ^

Yes.  This has become far more obvious as the season has progressed.  We've seen some improvement the last couple of weeks as the coaches identify what's working, and strive to improve it more.  I'm sure that will continue, too.  But I think we all under-valued the young aspects of this team earlier in the season.