SOUTH BEND, Ind. — If you’re a Michigan fan, and you haven’t already freaked out after the Wolverines season opening loss to Notre Dame, then don’t just yet. If you have already gone off the deep end, wait — come back.
It was just one game, and while it didn’t look good in many ways, it only counts as one in the loss column.
Saturday’s loss to the Fighting Irish was perplexing in many ways. First, the defense struggled mightily to begin the game, allowing Notre Dame to seemingly convert third downs at will — either by penalty or other. The containment of Brandon Wimbush wasn’t spectacular first off, and 50/50 balls seemed to always end up in the arms of Irish receivers.
But those problems sorted themselves out as the game wore on.
The defense clamped down after the half, allowing only a field goal. But the offense, while it was able to move the ball — Michigan actually out-gained Notre Dame 307 yards to 302 — it couldn’t finish.
Michigan only got the one touchdown late in the fourth quarter from offense. The other was by a spectacular kickoff return by sophomore Ambry Thomas.
After the game, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh took culpability of the loss, and didn’t shy away from the ramifications of it. He noted that his players had done the work he had asked, but they cannot let one loss derail the season.
“Not the outcome we anticipated or wanted,” Harbaugh said. “Just gotta dig deep. Got no excuses. Give credit to Notre Dame and move on to next week.”
So, even from the ledge, there are silver linings. Things looked bleak early, but Michigan settled in. It took a comeback try, but the team made a go of it. The Wolverines got possession of the ball with just under 2 minutes to go with a chance to tie it.
While they may not have succeeded, it’s something. As Harbaugh said, the team moves “onward (with) good, old fashioned resolve.” But he’s not throwing away the good with the bad.
And with that in mind, there’s still a lot of season left.
“There was good play to be pointed out throughout the team,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got a lot of good things to build on. But, it didn’t come out the way we wanted it. It’s not the end, it’s the beginning for us. That’s the way we’re approaching it.”
As far as where the offense is, Harbaugh says it’s at the beginning.
How far does this team have to go before everything clicks? It’s still at the beginning.
There’s a lot to work on, a lot to improve, and the bear of a schedule gets a little easier for a month or so. But, as far as where everything is, now with Notre Dame in the rear view — well — where is it?
“Where are we at? We’re at the beginning.” Harbaugh said. He later continued: “It’s the beginning for us. Not treating it like the end.”
And while the perception of Michigan football for the time being will center on yet another loss to a rival, it is true — there’s a bigger season at large. So long as the Wolverines learn where they went wrong and move forward from there.
Only time will tell if they do.