It was a gut-wrenching loss for the Michigan Wolverines in the Fiesta Bowl. A game with an astounding final score of 51-45 in favor of the TCU Horned Frogs. Head coach Jim Harbaugh made it clear he’s proud of his team, even in defeat.
Here’s everything Harbaugh said at his postgame press conference.
Q. I’m sure it was a disappointing loss. I’m curious if you can speak to TCU’s level of play. They’re not a traditional power, but they look like it. So can you speak to their level of play today?
COACH HARBAUGH: Congratulations to TCU. I thought they played a great game. Very opportunistic team. Very resilient team. Really great team. Played a great football game, no doubt. There’s a winner. There’s a non-winner. But the winner was football. It was a great game by them. I’m really proud of our guys. Talked to our guys about you don’t quit, you don’t give up. You never let up. You never give in, you just keep playing one play at a time. I could have been easily standing in our locker room at the end of our ballgame and congratulating the whole locker room of heroes, because that’s what they are. That’s what they have been this entire season, and including this game. It was a great effort by both teams. Really proud of my team. One less big play, one more big play by us; one more opportunistic play by us, one less opportunistic play by them, and it would be a different situation. It was a great football game, and congratulations to TCU and Coach [Sonny] Dykes and the entire squad.
Q. Can you share with us some of what you told your team after this game?
COACH HARBAUGH: Just what I just said. Really proud of them. Really proud of the fight. They have been locker room of heroes the entire season. As I was standing there in front of them, that’s who they are. It’s what they are. I was super proud of them. That’s why you never give up. You never give in. You never let up. You just keep playing, keep playing the game one play at a time. I’m sure there’s a lot of analogies to life with that. But they’re real. Our team continues to do that, done it all year, and did it right up until the end. Great season that ends one week early.
Q. Can you describe what J.J. McCarthy did in this game?
COACH HARBAUGH: It was a titanic effort. Just a phenomenal effort by J.J, a titan of an effort. I am so proud of him just like he was my own son. What a competitor he is. The J.J. McCarthy that I know on a day-in, day-out basis, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, he’s a great player, great talented player, great athlete, great leader. And the best thing about him is he always puts the team above himself. Tremendous competitor. Just phenomenal. His first season as a starter, I don’t think there’s anybody that’s ever done anything quite like what he did this year. And that was true in this game. The throws that he was making, and the throws that Ronnie Bell and Roman Wilson and Colston Loveland and the guys were catching. I mean, it was at a very, very high level. No question about that. So it’s a tremendous testament to what they were able to do today and it wasn’t easy. It was tough to make underneath throws, so they were making the deep ones.
Q. Obviously you guys have a great defense and take a lot of pride in it. How surprised were you at how much TCU was able to have success on the ground against your defensive front?
COACH HARBAUGH: They did an outstanding job; cracked off some really big plays. We just didn’t get fitted right. That was disappointing. Like I said, there were big plays being made; mistakes being made. Both teams, we just had one less than we needed, and they had one more. And that ended up being the difference in the game.
Q. Coach, I want to touch on one of your guys’ brightest moments in the game, the flea-flicker touchdown. Was that something you were thinking about coming in, or was that more of an on-the-spot decision, and what did you make of the play?
COACH HARBAUGH: I thought it was really well-executed. It was something we had game-planned, and, yeah, it was a great call. The guys executed it as good as you can execute it.
Q. There were so many points you could go back to in a game like this, but you had two opportunities inside the five and came away with no points. How much will those moments stick with you coming out of this one?
COACH HARBAUGH: Like I said, we were one short of executing the touchdown, the turnover. They made their fair share of mistakes. We made ours. They made their big plays. We made our big plays. And we just had one fewer big play, one less misfire.
Q. I wanted to ask about one of those plays in particular, the first fourth down there on the goal line. That play-call, can you describe exactly what you were intending to go for there? You guys tend to do more dive plays down there. Why did you go for more of a trick play in that situation?
COACH HARBAUGH: Because we thought it would work. I take full responsibility for it not working, and should have had something different called. Put that one on me. They had it wired and they had it well-defended. Sitting here now, definitely wish I would have called a different one.
Q. Of all the things that happened, I wonder what you thought of some of the bizarre things? The last play when they reviewed the touchdown in the end zone that was overturned, and a few other things like that. How did that factor into the whole mix?
COACH HARBAUGH: I mean, I’ll take a closer look at it. Last play, they were looking at targeting and they ruled that it wasn’t targeting. The touchdown, Roman [Wilson’s], that they ruled it didn’t get in the end zone.
Q. Your team still bounced back from all of that. Is that where you feel good about — not good about a loss but —
COACH HARBAUGH: Obviously I feel so proud. Our team, they never quit, they never gave in. I feel really proud. I can’t say enough how many phenomenal plays were made in the game by our guys and I feel very proud of that, yes.