Harbaugh and Michigan Not Focused On Past Failures in Rivalry Games

Harbaugh and Michigan Not Focused On Past Failures in Rivalry Games

Football

Harbaugh and Michigan Not Focused On Past Failures in Rivalry Games

CHICAGO — 1-5 against its rivals. That’s the thru-line that permeates anything regarding Michigan and head coach Jim Harbaugh.

But, despite that record, it isn’t that simple, truth be told.

WolverinesWire had an exclusive interview with Joel Klatt at Big Ten Media Days last week, and he explained that that is a narrative that needs to die, given what Harbaugh inherited, and how close Michigan has been in all but one of those rivalry games.

And, as far as the knowing where you’re coming from and how close you are part of his argument — he’s right.

Listen, the record is the record, and Michigan needs to turn that around sooner than later, otherwise it will continue to be a black eye on an otherwise emerging program. In order to achieve the greatness that Michigan has had historically and expect to return to, wins against Michigan State and Ohio State need to start coming — and fast.

But, truthfully, Michigan has been oh-so-close once Harbaugh arrived, and, for the most part, it hasn’t been coaching that has kept putting numbers in the loss column.

Looking back, it was a handful of plays that ended up being Michigan’s demise in four of those five games:

  • The fumbled snap at the end of the 2015 Michigan State game.
  • The pass interference call in the 4th quarter on an incomplete 3rd and long in the 2016 Ohio State game.
  • The Curtis Samuel run on 3rd down in 2OT and the 4th and 1 spot afterwards.
  • The playcalling and decision to pass the ball in the rain in the second half against Michigan State in 2017, which resulted directly in 3 turnovers.
  • The two fumbles against Michigan State in 2017.
  • The dropped interception against Ohio State in 2017.
  • The thrown interception with 2 minutes left against Ohio State in 2017.

That’s a lot of mistakes, all against Michigan. The only real controllable in all of that was the playcalling against MSU in 2017. Other than that — bad luck? Bad execution on the field?

2017 was a toss up with either rivalry game, as we can see by the outcome, but Michigan should have won the 2015 MSU game and the 2016 Ohio State game.

Asked last week if those plays remain on his mind, Harbaugh said it’s best to not dwell on the past.

“Can’t do anything about it, you know?” Harbaugh said. “I’ve mentioned the great game of football before – why it’s so great. Mention the All-American game. Builds physical and mental, emotional and spiritual toughness. You learn in football – if you get knocked down, you can’t cry about it. You’ve got to get back up. You’re going to get knocked down. Things aren’t going to go your way in football. The more you’re in it, the more you learn to get back up, dust yourself off, get back in there and do something about it going forward. So that’s the mindset.”

The players have similar mindsets.

Fifth-year defensive end Chase Winovich, like any of his teammates, has only experienced one win over any of his rivals, and given that he has one year left to prove his mettle, he doesn’t intend on playing Monday morning quarterback.

But he does dwell on it.

Not, however, for the sake of it being something of a woulda-coulda-shoulda, but more in the vein of learning from the mistakes and using them to fuel him and the team to not make them again.

Using an illustration from a popular Disney movie, Winovich says that winning those games requires an understanding of why they haven’t in the past, and not trying to bite off more they can chew in the future in attempt to get back into the winning side of things.

“You ever see The Lion King?” Winovich asked. “’Ow! What did you do that for?’ ‘It’s in the past! It’s in the past, the past may hurt…’ I’m butchering this quote here, but: ‘It’s in the past, the past may hurt. But you can either run from it or learn from it.’ We’re not shying away from the fact that we’ve really struggled against our rivals. Even though we’ve been in every game, we haven’t got the breaks I think we needed and found a way to win – and they have. It’s definitely at the forefront of our head, but at the same time, it’s not, because those games are great, but they’re down the road. We’ve got to worry about – it’s just the same way you eat an elephant is what we’re going to do. One bite at a time, that’s the only way you can do it.”

“I’d say the biggest lesson is that if you get a chance to make a play, you’ve got to capitalize,” “There’s plays in that game, which like – you guys are smart people, I’m sure you can go out and figure out which ones those were the last couple years – where you make those plays and it’s a different outcome in every game that we’ve lost. Especially in those rivalry games.”

Being an Ohio native, senior safety Tyree Kinnel has heard his fair share of ribbing from fans both locally and back home about his record against Ohio State and Michigan State.

Instead of letting it bother him, he’s also using it as fuel, knowing that if he and his teammates do their job, he can end his career in Ann Arbor on a high note.

But, he’s not placing the blame for the Wolverines not getting the job done thus far on anyone but himself and his compatriots also clad in maize and blue.

“It’s no one’s fault – it’s our fault we’re not winning the game,” Kinnel said. “That’s what happens in life. If you don’t do something, you get told about it. It can get annoying at times, and you’ll be like, ‘Yeah man, whatever,’ or something like that. But at the end of the day, if you don’t want to hear that, you’ve got to go out and win. And that’s what we’ll do. That’s what we want to do. It’s not your guys’ fault that you bring it up 24/7, we get beat and we’re 0-6 or whatever – we want to go out and beat them. And then we can start talking about them not beating Michigan. Hopefully we can get to that.”

Winovich has heard the detractors, too.

But it’s something he embraces now. It’s not just MSU and OSU fans that let him and his teammates have it when they don’t win — arguably, the bigger group that’s vocal about it are the Michigan fans themselves.

Those criticisms often become personal, and instead of falling victim and rolling over, Winovich says it puts something of a proverbial chip on his shoulder going forward: to quiet the haters, you have to do something about it — and that’s win those games.

“We’re driven,” Winovich said. “We’re plenty motivated. Every day I got on Twitter – the difference with high school and college is that, whenever you’re in high school and you’re going through the process – you’re going through your senior year and everyone shows a lot of love, this and that, it almost like – stops. Like the, ‘Oh, this kid can’t really play.’

“When you get to college, it’s different. Going through the process, although you do get love, people become more critical of you. ‘Can he do this?’ or ‘Can he do that?’ It’s just like, ‘Last season, he was a fluke!’ Or even as a team, we hear that or we hear this – ‘Can they actually put it together?’

“So, we embrace those challenges and those criticisms. It’s easy to shy away from that stuff. But, like I said, we look forward to the opportunity to proving the haters wrong. At the end of the day, it’s always been my teammates and I and my coaches. At the end of the day, that’s all that’s going to be there – and our families.”

Michigan will have a chance to first avenge Notre Dame, a team it hasn’t played since the 31-0 loss in 2014. Winovich was on the scout team for that game, and remembered what that was like to be embarrassed as such.

“That was one of my first experiences at Michigan: getting beat pretty bad by Notre Dame. I don’t intend for that to be one of my last experiences at Michigan. The other thing: Notre Dame was the first college camp I ever attended. I was going into ninth grade as a quarterback. I didn’t think their campus was very fun at all. It just seemed kind of boring to me. Best part of the whole trip was when it was 2am and somebody pulled the fire alarm, so we all went outside and were having fun. That was probably the best part of my visit there.”

The Wolverines take all three on the road, starting with the season opener at Notre Dame on September 1. They will play MSU in East Lansing on October 20 and close out the season at The Horseshoe the final weekend in November.

Contact/Follow @WolverinesWire@isaiahhole

Latest

More WolverinesWire
Home