For the first time since Jan. 1, 1998, Michigan celebrated a Rose Bowl victory after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in overtime, 27-20. This was as hard fought a victory as anyone could imagine, and at certain points looked like might not come.
The Wolverines led the game, 13-10, at the half, but a litany of unforced errors — mainly on special teams — made it seem like Michigan’s lead should have been much bigger. After falling behind 17-13 in the fourth quarter with the offense sputtering, it looked like Michigan would soon be 0-3 in the College Football Playoff.
Like we’ve seen for much of this season, though, this Michigan team is resilient and is capable of coming through when things are looking grim.
“We just know we’re gonna overcome it,” said Jim Harbaugh after the game on his team’s ability to overcome struggles and adversity.
Adversity has been a real sticking point for Michigan for much of the season, namely in the wake of the infamous sign-stealing investigation. However, Michigan faced more in-game adversity than it had been used to, mostly as the result of seemingly a season’s amount of unforced errors and mishaps.
However, as Harbaugh would note after the game, his team has built a strong foundation for itself and an ability to band together when things were getting rough.
“It’s unanimous support for each and every guy,” said Harbaugh of his team’s ability to support itself. It’s a real testament to the veteran leadership that’s been talked about all season and displayed by players like Mike Sainristil and Mike Barrett. Harbaugh also mentioned each player possesses plenty of “individual toughness,” but it’s the support they get from one another that helps spur them on.
Additionally, Harbaugh mentioned the togetherness of the group is something that really seems to stand out.
“There’s just nothing that could separate these guys,” said Harbaugh, and went further saying players like J.J. McCarthy, Junior Colson and Blake Corum are the glue that hold the team together. However, in true Harbaugh fashion, he also said, “(I) could name 50 other guys that are the glue” for the team.
One of the key variables for Michigan and its success over the last three seasons has been its toughness and ability to outlast opponents. One member of the coaching staff, strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert, has gotten plenty of credit for Michigan’s ability to do so. Following the game, Harbaugh voiced his praise for Herbert and the role he had in preparation for this game and the season as a whole.
“So much credit to Ben Herbert and his staff for putting us in those tough training environments,” said Harbaugh.
Michigan’s toughness was on display in the game, as it needed to go toe-to-toe with another big and physical opponent for a full 60 minutes (and then some) to finish the job.
The toughness and togetherness Michigan relied on for its gutsy Rose Bowl win undoubtedly served it well. The Wolverines found themselves in unfamiliar territory, facing adversity and not clicking on all cylinders, but once again showed that when these situations arise, they have the right infrastructure in place to still win.