A Florida player puts a finishing move on Christian Turner
[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

View from the Sidelines: What could have been Comment Count

Ethan Sears December 30th, 2018 at 9:08 AM

ATLANTA — Sitting in the bowels of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, not even an hour after his college career ended in unceremonious fashion, Grant Perry had no interest in talking.

 

“How do I feel right now?” he asked sarcastically, eyes welled with tears. “How does it look like I feel?”

 

And, really, how else could he feel?

 

This was a team with so much potential. It could have shut down every rumor that Jim Harbaugh isn’t long for Michigan. It could have ended the national perception that the Wolverines aren’t near competing for a national title. It’s hard to put a ceiling on it.

 

[After THE JUMP: column]

 

And even after losing to Ohio State, Michigan still could have come out of the Peach Bowl with momentum. Next year still would have looked bright with Urban Meyer gone, Shea Patterson in year two and a New Year’s Six bowl victory to boot.

 

Instead, the Wolverines got ran out of the building, to the tune of 40-15. Florida out-prepared, out-executed and out-efforted Michigan — beating them up and down the field. Say the Wolverines didn’t get up for an exhibition after losing to the Buckeyes if you want, but that doesn’t change the scoreboard.

 

“We just gotta continue to execute and get better,” Tarik Black said. “That’s all it comes down to. Just executing the plays that are called. And doing our job. There’s maybe some missed assignments on the field that we need to correct. We gotta execute those plays. They came out and they played a better game today and that’s all it was.”

 

The same thing could be said about both other losses. That’s how a 10-win season — with arguably Harbaugh’s best team since he’s been in Ann Arbor — will come to be remembered for lost opportunity. Grant Perry knows it. So does the entire roster.

 

“I think going off last year you can say that it’s a success,” Jon Runyan Jr. said. “But for our golden standards, no, I don’t really think it was. We lost three really key games at times that we needed it.”

 

Even after four years of Harbaugh, two of them with the talent to win the Big Ten or more, the Wolverines still can’t get over the same hump. In the next nine months, we’ll hear some talk about who looks good in camp, how badly the team wants redemption and maybe even something about completing a revenge tour this time around.

 

It will be hard to buy any of it.

 

The answer is far from simple. This team had its flaws, and did a good job adjusting on the fly throughout the season. These weren’t three losses stemming from the same issue.

 

“I think they’re all different games,” Runyan said. “You can’t really lump them together. It’s not just a unit. It’s a family at a time. Whether it be Ohio State or this game, it’s the whole team.”

 

On Saturday, it certainly was. The defense allowed big plays at inopportune times. The run game, without Karan Higdon, failed to make headway. Shea Patterson was intercepted twice and sacked five times. The defensive line didn’t get nearly enough pressure. This loss can’t be blamed on any one person or group. Michigan didn’t play to the moment. As a group. Again.

 

Next year, still, could be the year. All those positive factors — Patterson returning, Meyer leaving, an elite recruiting class — are still at play.

 

“My feeling about the team is we’re right there at the top,” Jim Harbaugh said, “but we have to put it over the top. Especially in big games at the end of the year.”

 

Until the Wolverines actually do that though, it’s hard to believe they will.

 

Comments

Hail Harbo

December 30th, 2018 at 11:50 AM ^

Do you recall the very first play of the game?  Do you?  I'll remind you, it was the archaic zone read option with a QB pull.  After that it was passes that were dropped, poor blocking, poor route running, throwing behind the receiver, a FB that is noted for being brutally physical trying to leap 4 inches instead of just bulling his way to a first down.  And that was just the first Q.

JPC

December 30th, 2018 at 4:15 PM ^

It's like people forget how awful Hoke's 5-7 team looked. Harbaugh came in, coached up basically the same guys (minus the QB) and the team immediately looked functional again. That's good coaching.

Our team did not look functional in the last stretch of the season. That's a coaching failure and it's 100% Harbaugh's fault. 

Blue Sharpie

December 30th, 2018 at 2:00 PM ^

Watching Clemson last night, they couldn't run the ball in the first half, so they went with a vertical pass attack, freshman QB to freshman receiver.  Very effective.

This is an indictment against Harbaugh's offensive philosophy.   How can Clemson have a vertical passing attack with freshmen, and we limit our opportunities with seasoned WRs and QBs who have been in the system a while?  If you can't run the ball, you have to get the ball in the hands of playmakers more than 3 or 4 times a game.  Seems elementary.  

To add to that, how can Purdue get the ball to a freshman WR to the tune of 1000 yrd plus, while we haven't yet had any receiver get 1000 yds under Harbaugh?   I don't get it.  At least two of our receivers, Peoples Jones, Collins, ,Black, or Bell should be knocking on 1000 yds.  If not they are being underutilized.

Goggles Paisano

December 30th, 2018 at 10:16 AM ^

It wasn't that archaic when we were hammering everyone all year.  It needs an element of creativity, no doubt.  But I think this game came down to a case of who wanted it more.  And that begins back in early December when the bowl was announced.  From the coaches on down to the players and even the energy from the fans, we didn't have the hunger or desire to give it our best for this game.  Florida did and they kicked our ass.  It was the reverse of 2015 when we came in hungry with a 1st year Harbaugh and Florida was coming in disappointed about their season.  They come in with 1st year Mullen with things on the ascent and we come in off one of the biggest disappointments in school history.   

SeattleWolverine

December 30th, 2018 at 1:00 PM ^

Were we hammering everyone all year? We couldn't move the ball on OSU until we were down 3 TDs in the 3rd. Had 17 against Notre Dame. We put up 20 on NW after scuffling for most of the game. We put up 21 on MSU and ground it out even though their offense had nothing. Even in our two best wins against WI and PSU, we put up 124 and 144 yards of passing! Body Blows is a concept worthy of an eye roll, but the only time this offense was effective was when we bullied teams with the ground game and then we won games by locking it down on D. 

That formula didn't work against talented teams and this offense never showed a capacity to win games with prolific scoring or passing offense. Which isn't surprising since we don't get the needed repetitions in the passing game against the WMUs, SMU, Rutgers, Nebraska etc as we're content to just grind them down. Which works very well against those teams, but doesn't prepare us for situations where that strategy won't suffice. We're the #24 offense on S&P+ and that's before yesterday. It's not the 1980s anymore, scoring 20 points and passing for 150 or 200 yards won't get it done against good teams especially if they commit to stopping the running game and we stubbornly bang our heads into the line repeatedly.

Amaizing Blue

December 30th, 2018 at 10:33 AM ^

I don't even think the archaic offense is the problem, it is more there is no creativity within it.  Florida had so many cool little tweaks to plays that had our defense off balance, while we had none of that.  And the thing that sucks is we USED to do those things-who remembers The Train?  Makes me wonder if Jedd was behind all that.

Mongo

December 30th, 2018 at 11:12 AM ^

I recall the first Harbaugh game I watched in person - BYU - and said ... “wow, these guys are creative and bring the NFL play-calling that was void under Hoke”. That was clearly Jedd’s stamp on the Harbaugh system.  It was a good combination of coaching styles - JH is ball control maven but Jedd added flair for the dramatic.  JH and Pep are not a good mix as each is conservative by nature producing predictable game plans and situational response.  We need more creativity using our best athletes in certain situations to beat high caliber teams.  

Durham Blue

December 30th, 2018 at 11:53 AM ^

I don't think Turner is slow at all.  And it appears he has good power to get YAC.  What Turner lacked mostly in this game was experience, and add in a bit of OL run blocking ineptitude.  Lack of experience points back to coaching decisions to leave him sitting on the bench for the majority of the season.  And OL run blocking has been below average against good fronts.  Again, coaching.

Gulogulo37

December 30th, 2018 at 11:25 AM ^

"4 guys don’t solve our problems" Actually it kinda does, especially Bush. Not really surprised by the result. Bowl games aren't meaningless but it's clear not everyone gets up for them. Michigan was the team coming in after a disappointing loss and missing key players. We didn't learn anything from this game. It was basically the OSU game except against a worse opponent and with more Michigan players out. Florida is the team feeling a resurgence and where a good bowl showing looks important for getting better next year.

Still optimistic about next year even if we keep Pep, though I certainly wouldn't be sad to see him go. I agree with Harbaugh. Michigan is up there and just needs to get over the hump. Playcalling, more passing, whatever. Really still all about the OL to me. They were OK this year but that's about it.

Honk if Ufer M…

December 30th, 2018 at 6:51 PM ^

He is the problem and he doesn't see the problem he is or that he causes and he won't be questioned. 

 

Is it really possible that nobody on the staff sees when, where and how he's being stupid or detrimental to the team in training, in prep or in games? Of course not!

So do they speak out and are ignored or are they afraid to speak out?

Either way it's hopeless.

The thing I heard from one of the players in 2017 was, as 2 examples, one a film room question of the players on how they would want to block a certain play, the other was one of the trainers trying to advocate on the players behalf to stop destructive overwork of bodies, and in both cases were screamed at "It's MY fucking team and I'll run it MY FUCKING WAY!"

It was only one source, but I've heard enough other statements or tid bits from other players, different topics but also critical of the coaching, or other comments by the same (since departed) player in the presence of a few current starters who didn't refute him or seem to disagree, such that I don't have a hard time believing it.

It sure does fit with a lot of what we've seen in the program.

 

I wish I could say so many things I've heard but can't say from players or their friends or gf's who are in other sports.

Even what I heard from a big name since the Buckeye debacle about the feelings and thinking of the coaches and players going into The Game, in terms of strategic thinking, preparation and motivation or lack thereof would BLOW YOUR FUCKING MINDS!

 

schreibee

December 30th, 2018 at 12:12 PM ^

No, actually, it wouldn't. 

I wasn't interested in playing Florida again, still don't know WHO picks these matchups or what business sense they make?

I would have liked to see Florida play UCF for state supremacy. 

I would have liked to see Michigan play LSU for the 1st time, far as I'm aware. 

Not saying my viewing interest would've definitely made the team prepare & play better, but I suspect it might have!

JPC

December 30th, 2018 at 10:20 AM ^

Harbaugh did a great job taking the team from 5-7 to 10-3. If Harbaugh left tomorrow, this would a great landing spot for an elite up and coming coach. The real issue is these embarrassing WTF losses piling up year after year. Harbaugh's first team here looked tough and won more games than it should have. This year's team looked soft and got blown out twice while making ND's now benched QB look like Tom Brady in the other loss. 

We thought we were getting a "do more with less" coach, but instead, we got a "fuck it, I'm going to manball until I die" coach. 

 

JPC

December 30th, 2018 at 12:55 PM ^

Have you noticed that Brown's D only looks really good when Michigan ball controls the other team to death?

Brown's scheme sucks, but not as bad as the offense. He did well at BC where nobody paid him any attention. Now he's at Michigan and real analysts are spending real time looking at what he's doing. We've seen the result. 

snarling wolverine

December 30th, 2018 at 12:09 PM ^

 If Harbaugh left tomorrow, this would a great landing spot for an elite up and coming coach. 

You mean like a guy who made West Virginia a contender with a revolutionary new offense?

Odds are Harbaugh's the best coach we're going to get.  We've got to hope he can make the changes to get us to the next level.    

SeattleWolverine

December 30th, 2018 at 1:21 PM ^

I don't understand this point of view. So because we hired an offensive coach with a perceived cutting edge offense and it didn't work out that one time it means that it could never work out with other different better (or worse) coaches? It might, might not, but  RichRod's outcome is not the only possible outcome. I mean, I think Harbaugh deserves more time and there's still hope for progress, especially with Meyer leaving, but I don't understand the extrapolation from RichRod bombing to all modern offenses being probable failures at M. Even thought they are working fine at the majority of other schools. 

jmblue

December 30th, 2018 at 12:21 PM ^

This year's team looked soft 

What does it mean exactly to look "soft"?  Did we look "hard" during the 10-game winning streak but then soften the last two games?

We didn't play well the last two games, and that's worrisome, but let's avoid the feelingsball.

JPC

December 30th, 2018 at 12:52 PM ^

Soft looks like you're about to cry on the sidelines after fucking up a TD catch. Soft looks like running a five minute drill with 2:30 left on the clock and then fucking up your TOs while missing a FG. Soft looks like being down 7 points being the end of the competitive part of the game.

Harbaugh's first season team looked mentally tough in comparison to Hoke's last two years. People knew what they were supposed to do, and they did it precisely. Harbaugh's post PSU team this year looks nothing like that. 

 

njv5352

December 30th, 2018 at 9:24 AM ^

How bad is it when one of the top things this team gets to look forward to is the fact that Urban Meyer is no longer at Ohio St?  To be the best you gotta beat the best and if they think being able to beat Ohio St with a yet to be determined "lesser" coach will suddenly make this team competitive with Alabama or Clemson need to get their heads checked.  The Big Ten was not good this year and that is clear by the lack of dominance in bowl games.