Michigan lost to Ohio State, 62-39, on Saturday

View from the Sidelines: The aftermath of a tipping point Comment Count

Ethan Sears November 25th, 2018 at 12:45 AM

COLUMBUS — “Wish I could have got a couple wins in it,” Tyree Kinnel said, four minutes into the most excruciating press conference of his life. “That’s the toughest part, I guess. I’m gonna have to sleep on it for the rest of my life, that I did not get a win in this game.”


Then his voice cracked.


“Other than that,” he continued, ultimately keeping composure, “I’m blessed to be here.”


It’s not easy to lose this game under any circumstance. In this specific circumstance, it couldn’t have been any harder.


[After THE JUMP: column]


Michigan came into Columbus favored on Saturday — and with good reason. It had the better roster. It had the better team.


Ohio State gave up 51 points to Maryland last week, looking out of focus. The Buckeyes’ linebackers — and really, their entire defense, has struggled at various points all year. Their offense has been one-dimensional.


This was the Wolverines’ best roster since Jim Harbaugh has been in Ann Arbor — really, since a whole lot longer than that. They came out of a gauntlet of a schedule relatively unscathed, winners of 10 straight headed into Saturday. Ohio State is still Ohio State, but winning this game felt a whole lot more realistic than it did in recent years.


And if they had won, a trip to Indianapolis that doubled as a formality awaited. So did the College Football Playoff. So did the allure of becoming a national contender year-in and year-out — dominating the Big Ten under Jim Harbaugh, with Ohio State fading into the background.


This game, make no mistake, was a tipping point.


Sixty-two points later, Michigan was right back where it started, and Kinnel was on the podium, trying to put into words a stunning loss, and the wave of disappointment that came with it.


Dwayne Haskins and Ryan Day shredded the Wolverines’ defense with crossing route after crossing route. Michigan’s defensive line failed to get pressure in a sense more complete than you would have thought possible. The offense left points on the field in the first half and failed to do much of anything in the third quarter. By the time it started moving again in the fourth, the blowout was on.


What started as a day of promise ended with Ohio State students storming the field, the Wolverines walking into the tunnel single-file, heads down, having lost, 62-39.


And then there was the aftermath. A parade of players with an interlude from Harbaugh, volleying away questions about why and how things could have gone so awry.


“What went wrong for you guys today?” one reporter asked Chris Evans.


“The score,” he replied.


“The progress you guys made this year — do you feel like today was a step backwards for you and your team?” another asked Jim Harbaugh.


“Like I said, it didn't go good,” Harbaugh said. “Didn’t end up good. And I would say — and we take responsibility for us.”


In the end, it was Kinnel who provided blunt, unyielding clarity.


“They completely beat us everywhere,” he said. “Run game, pass game. Everyone to blame.”


That’s the truth of it. This game came down to more than three ill-timed drops from Zach Gentry, or a handful of coverage mishaps from Brandon Watson.


It came down to poor red zone offense. Killing a drive with a false start on fourth-and-2. A failure to defend crossing routes. And, according to Kinnel, a confidence that got Michigan ahead of itself.


Those small things compounded, and when the Buckeyes pounced, the Wolverines simply had no answer.


Kinnel will leave Ann Arbor with three close calls against Ohio State, but no wins. That’s becoming a commonality for departing seniors. This year was Michigan’s best chance to reverse the trend — a program defining moment — and Michigan failed to capitalize on it.


Just as in the past, that failure will define the program.




Goldenrod Mandude

November 25th, 2018 at 5:07 PM ^

I’m  as disappointed as the next guy, and this may or may not be perspective.  I’m 50.  Grew up in SE Michigan and was in HS when Harbaugh was at UM. Didn’t go to UM but grew up in Ann Arbor. I use to wonder why there was so much emphasis on Big 10 championships and not so much on National championships with Bo, Moeller, and Carr.  I’ve seen the last two years of Lloyd and then the total unnecessary gutting of the program with Rich Rod, and the “in over his head” years of Hoke. That was a significant 10 year downward trend.  This is none of those times.  Harbaugh is the guy to get this thing done. God help UM if he leaves.  UM is really good again, but not great yet.  We all need to understand Ann Arbor is a great place but it is not the Mecca of college football anymore. It gets cold, it snows etc. other places are warmer, (see Alabama & Clemson) have less rigorous expectations and have no other agenda than winning Football games (see OSU).  Admittedly how Notre Dame keeps doing it is a mystery I do not understand.  

Hopefully Harbaugh continues ascending, evolves and delivers greatness.  If you build it they will come.  It’s just being “re”built slower than anyone wants.  


November 25th, 2018 at 9:26 PM ^

Very true, to win year after year and be elite u have to recruit elite, Michigan is not a great recruiting state and it’s tough to pull southern kids here. Osu does it because they win and maybe there’s some other things that go on...but beat osu win big ten I would be happy, screw the playoff, it took Clemson 6-7 years before dabo turned it around, time


November 26th, 2018 at 12:28 AM ^

How Notre Dame keeps doing what?

Their last national title was in 1988, almost a decade before Michigan's last national title.

They've only had six (six!!) seasons with 10+ wins since Lou Holtz left 23 years ago.

That they made one BCS title game and now will make the CFP this year are more luck than any indicator their program is better or has had better recent success (and that 2012 team was way overmatched as expected and got crushed - they weren't even close to the second best team).  Those teams weren't/aren't any better than Michigan's 2006, 2016 or 2018 team, it's just that Michigan missed the playoffs/BCS title games in those seasons by inches (the spot) or by insane penalties (Crable).

The Notre Dame and Michigan programs are essentially identical right now.  Storied programs, huge fan bases, tons of money, but no natural recruiting advantage and relatively tough academic standards so kind of meh results for 20 years.  Both currently have the best coaches they've had since legendary coaches retired/left in 89 and 96, respectively, and are experiencing a resurgence but for reasons stated above, they'll probably never have the sustained dominance of Bama or OSU.


November 26th, 2018 at 4:38 AM ^

have less rigorous expectations and have no other agenda than winning Football games (see OSU)

I always have to laugh at the persistent smug attitude of the Michigan Man towards OSU. Check the bios...half of UM's seniors(!) are either General Studies majors or are undeclared. Then tell me again about how only other schools have no other agenda.  

Honk if Ufer M…

November 27th, 2018 at 3:04 AM ^

You’re prattling on about education as if you give a shit but are uneducated about what a general studies degree at Michigan even means and an incorrect condescending attitude about it. Now if you looked at each player’s GS program individually I’m sure a lot of them do have weak ones but you’re not basing your comments on any specific knowledge like that, just dumb bigotry.

The whole fucking thing is a dirty scam, a lie and a ripoff in general.

You must be insane if you think you’re getting a “good” education at almost any US college unless you’re specifically going out of your way to learn important things, which you can’t do without already being aware enough you can make such choices. Or you can get lucky and stumble onto some truth telling enough to lead you on a good path. Otherwise you’re just being brainwashed or brainwasted and have probably been turned into a blind cog in or blind non observer of the death machine we’re in.


November 26th, 2018 at 6:23 AM ^

Notre Dame does it by playing stalwarts like the academies, Syracuse and Boston College. Mix in an occasional ACC team with a true heart beat and they can focus on Michigan four times a decade and USC. As it has been said, everyone sees Michigan as their rival and play them nasty (see: Indiana) to try to elevate their season. I don’t care about the playoffs as compared to the B1G Ten Championship and keeping Paul Bunyan in Ann Arbor. Unless Michigan is willing, as an institution, to win at all costs, these near misses will be the truth versus the exception.


November 25th, 2018 at 2:24 PM ^

Still waiting...and I believe we will get it sometime with JH...for that defining win.  The win that finally changes the narrative of our program for the last 15 years.  

Also, don't forget we still have a Bowl Game.  How the team plays in the Bowl Game will really be an indicator as to how good this Coaching Staff is.  Last years loss to South Carolina was close to an atrocity.  We cannot afford another performance like that after getting dominated by OSU.

The Oracle 2

November 25th, 2018 at 2:52 PM ^

The narrative has changed, from 5-7 the year before Harbaugh arrived and 46-42 and one 10 win season over the previous eight to 38-13 and three 10 win seasons over the last four. Meanwhile, Urban Meyer has built a program that has gone 84-9 since he’s been there. If you’re actually angry that Harbaugh hasn’t been able to surpass that in just four years, you’re not being realistic. Michigan fans like to talk about the program’s now distant past, as if that somehow entitles them to present greatness, but Harbaugh took on a major rebuilding project, which continues. Fielding Yost and Bo Schembechler can’t help him.


November 25th, 2018 at 8:33 PM ^

Well said. Urban Meyer went 12-0 his first season at OSU. That speaks volumes to what he inherited and he’s only made it better. 

Let’s not forget how focused on us they are - as Urban said, they practice for Michigan every week. They get gold pants for beating us.

Frankly, as much as this loss sucked, I’m appreciative of the reality check. I’m sure Harbaugh does too. I want our lunch money back.


November 28th, 2018 at 1:40 AM ^

I care.

I want Michigan to win bowl games.

In the Bo era (which I largely lived through, being a BS '85), Michigan would do well in the Big 10, then lose its bowl game.

It happened so frequently that we just assumed Michigan would lose its bowl game and once again prove that the Big 10 sucked compared to other conferences.

I don't want those days back.

Talk of bowls not mattering seems like talk from people who, if they can't get everything they want, give up and fold.

Screw that.

We are Wolverines.  Let's pick our damn selves up and get motivated to win the next one and show that Michigan is good relative to teams in other conferences as well.


November 25th, 2018 at 1:53 PM ^

I find it interesting about the “looking ahead” that may have been going on. Could these coaches have failed so miserably that the players actually thought because osu looked bad and um was on a rolll this game was just a formality? 

Holly shit if that is the case. A team that has beat Michigan 16 of 18 times came into the game hungrier. That is quite concerning. 


November 25th, 2018 at 2:02 PM ^

Its unfortunate that such a narrative will probably be advanced. If you listen to Kinnel's press conference, he really didn't say that at all. He said they were high on confidence since the Wisconsin game. That's a long leap from "yeah we didn't really take this game too seriously," which is what some people want to spin it as. 

Perhaps its true that we didn't spend much time preparing for OSU - but I want to give the players the benefit of the doubt on this one. They all knew how big this game was. They got smoked because they were too slow, couldn't hang on to passes, couldn't block, couldn't pressure, etc. I don't think its because they thought this game was "just a formality," as you imply.

It's probably a disservice to the team to even accuse them of having that mindset. 


November 25th, 2018 at 2:45 PM ^

There were some individual shit performances in that game (Gentry leading the list), but this loss is 100% on the coaches. It's not Watson's fault that he can't cover an elite WR one on one for fifteen seconds. The coaches should have foreseen that and done something to help him out - and no, "aggression" isn't what that something should have been. 


November 25th, 2018 at 5:59 PM ^

I don't get this.  Yeah, Watson was getting burned all day.  But Ambry Thomas has barely made garbage time snaps at corner all year.  If he was good enough to replace Watson, we would have seen him more during the year - not just in a handful of garbage time snaps against nobody.  But we didn't - he wasn't the 4th CB in, wasn't the 5th.  He NEVER saw the field accept to return kickoffs!

You can't just throw him in there against the 2nd best offense in the country.  Not anymore than J'Marick Woods should have replaced Mettelus earlier in the season (something else all of MGoBlog was calling for).

Honestly, if Long and Hill leave for the NFL, I fear for the corner position...


November 25th, 2018 at 2:03 PM ^

Maybe the players were looking ahead, though I doubt it.  The coaches are always looking ahead in some context as their calendar including recruiting (visits, offers,etc.) is mapped out.  It’s still difficult for me to understand how the game plan varied from any other during the season and how the coaching staff anticipated and planned for the game.


November 25th, 2018 at 2:17 PM ^

The psychological part of the game intrigued me. It’s a big reason why Saban is the way he is and he’s talked about the psychology of not getting ahead of yourself and how it can absolutely sabatoge a game week. 

That may not have been the case it’s just a topic of interest to me and I think it is one of the biggest challenges of managing 18-22 years olds when you are the shoes of a HC in major cfb. 


November 25th, 2018 at 3:06 PM ^

Psychologically, Ohio State really benefited from the Purdue loss and the subsequent struggles against Nebraska and Maryland. I think had they won those games relatively comfortably, the issues the team had would have been minimized and their mindset may have been one of overconfidence that we could have exploited. Instead, the problems the team had were exposed, and they worked to fix them. 


November 25th, 2018 at 3:31 PM ^

I don't think we overlooked an opponent that no one on the team had ever beaten.

 We knew what was at stake.  Problem was, OSU had the same stakes, was playing at home, and - contrary to what the article suggests - was more talented than us, at least on the lines which is where this game was functionally decided.  

It would have been nice if Maryland could have completed the upset a week earlier and left OSU with nothing to play for, but that wasn't to be.


November 25th, 2018 at 5:32 PM ^


Team rankings from 247


UM: 20th

OSU: 3rd


UM: 37th (!)

OSU: 7th


UM: 8th

OSU: 4th


UM: 5th

OSU: 2nd


UM: 22nd

OSU: 2nd

While Harbaugh has recruiting back on track this year, he is pulling from roughly half the talent pool that Meyer is right now. Most of that has nothing to do with him because of the 2014 and 2015 classes. 

Oh and OSU had a higher average each year as well. 


November 25th, 2018 at 7:46 PM ^

Yeah, there are two extremes. 

I'm guessing you're a part of the group that is entirely dependent on stargazing (annoying) and then there is the "trust the coaches no matter what" (equally as annoying) group. 

The truth is, Michigan needs to have a mix of both because they probably aren't going to recruit at Ohio State's level. They will be just behind. So they have to hit on some of those 3/3.5 star guys to make up the difference. 


November 25th, 2018 at 3:34 PM ^

This is totally unfair and unreasonable. These are impressionable young men and with the 24/7 news and social media its damn near impossible to ignore the hype. And...IT..WAS...EVERYWHERE...UM no. 4, favored in CBus, Best D since...Heberstreit said, the stats say...UM was so close the last two games and this team is better than those so.....On and on...and the fans here and elsewhere were already dancing on OSU's grave.

How could that not affect the mindset of men of that age? And the coaches can't completely block out the outside world to them..not in this day and age. And on the flipside...you are talking about playing OSU, in CBus..they heard the hype too. 

When Higdon got backed into making his 'guarantee' I felt sick. It was an awful question and a half answer that grabbed headlines. But, it was a sign that maybe a bit of overconfidence was slipping in post 'Revenge Tour' and it absolutely had to motivate OSU. 

Chris S

November 25th, 2018 at 8:39 PM ^

I'm not an insider. I have no idea about practices and preparation. I just know there is no possible way it was from us "overlooking" them, or having too much confidence.

They played their best game of the year by far. We played an average game. It happens and it blows. Last year they played an average game and we were also average, maybe a bit below. Year before was average for both teams. When a team as talented as OSU plays their best game of the year, they put up 60 points, and we still put up almost 40 on them. The program will be fine. The fans (myself included) will not until we finally win one.

We win 5 out of 10 this year against them. Sucks this wasn't one of them.