Just thirty days to go until Harbaugh Year Two.
Thirty years ago, prior to the conference season finale of Michigan’s 1986 campaign, senior quarterback Jim Harbaugh had some words for Ohio State. That year, Ohio State was not the final regular season game. Michigan had scheduled a non-conference game against a now-familiar opponent. More on that later.
Harbaugh sat down for a television interview a few days before the game and drew a line in the sand:
The man guaranteed the Wolverines would beat the Buckeyes and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Both teams were very, very good. Michigan was ranked sixth, Ohio State seventh. Harbaugh was just one piece of a veteran team. Jamie Morris, John Kolesar, MIke Gillette. The Buckeyes had guys like Chris Spielman and Kris Carter. On the sidelines, Earl Bruce and Bo Schembechler. Ohio State’s best coach of that decade pitted against Michigan’s best coach of the last two decades.
Harbaugh kept his word, and Michigan won by two points in Columbus:
It was a bit of an anomaly for a Michigan-Ohio State contest to have over 40 points between the teams. Jamie Morris rushed for over 200 yards, which is itself a statistical rarity. Ohio State closed the gap late in the game with a blocked field goal, followed by a touchdown drive that cut Michigan’s lead to two points. During what would be Ohio State’s last possession, quarterback Jim Karsatos threw a long pass aimed at Carter in the back of the endzone. Ivan Hicks, Michigan’s safety, stuck his arm out and knocked away the go-ahead score. After stalling on the drive, the Buckeyes still had a chance at a game-winning field goal and sent Matt Frantz out to line it up in the closing minute of play.
It skirted outside the left goalpost, and Michigan took possession to run out the clock, preserving the guarantee.
With the win, Schembechler moved into the top spot of Michigan’s record books to surpass Fielding Yost’s 165 career wins as coach. Bo still has that record, finishing at 194 career victories, and the next-closest coach from the modern era is Lloyd Carr at 122 wins. 194 wins is a Herculean feat in modern college football. Even Nick Saban just surpassed that number this past season.
Bonus Anniversary: That non conference opponent Michigan had to go play after a close call in Columbus? Hawaii. And there’s video evidence:
*Fun fact from that game: Monte Robbins set a Michigan record for longest punt with an 82-yard kick.
Harbaugh may have gotten out of the practice of guaranteeing victories since becoming a head coach, but his tendencies as a coach mirror his personality as a player. The man expects to win, hates it when he doesn’t, and delivers on what he says. It wasn’t some whim of his to go out there thirty years ago and not back it up. He meant it, and would’ve offered zero excuses had it gone the other way. Wouldn’t expect any less from a man who drinks gallons of whole milk and shows up in rap videos.