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Harbaugh History: Win No. 24 at Purdue (2017)

Michigan got the win but came back from West Lafayette with a big loss.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Harbaugh has completed five seasons in charge of the Michigan Wolverines with consistent but not exciting results. He has amassed a .723 winning percentage with each year ending between eight and 10 wins. Though the maize and blue faithful may be hoping for something more, this is not the time to dwell on the negatives!

With plenty of time to kill during the offseason, join us as we review each of Harbaugh’s 47 wins as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. While the losses do exist — and are often more memorable than the victories, unfortunately — they are not very fun to relive so I am skipping them because this is supposed to be a happy exercise!

Setting the stage: 3-0 (0-0 B1G)

Michigan finished non-conference play undefeated, but the two frustrating wins over lesser competition overshadowed the strong performance in the opening. Now the Wolverines were headed for their first conference test and first true road game against Purdue. Though No. 8 Michigan escaped with a 28-10 victory, it came at the costly price, as Wilton Speight left injured in the first quarter and would not play again in 2017 (or ever, for the maize and blue).

Three takeaways

1. For the second year in a row, John O’Korn was called in to relieve an injured Speight, and this time went a little better than his lone start against Indiana. The transfer entered the game and immediately broke the 0-0 tie in the second quarter, driving down the field to hit Zach Gentry on a 12-yard touchdown pass. While that would be his only score of the game, the quarterback ended the day with 270 passing yards and used his feet multiple times to keep plays alive. He did throw a pick early on, but for a replacement starter coming in mid-game, this was a more than acceptable effort.

2. Just to close the book on Speight, it obviously turned out to be a big blow to Michigan. Though O’Korn played fine against the Boilermakers, he quickly proved to not be up to the task. The Wolverines went 4-5 down the stretch with three of those wins coming behind Brandon Peters. Speight was not overly impressive during the first three weeks of the year, but given his 2016 performance and the inadequacies of his backups, it is hard to imagine Michigan not having at least a couple more wins had he not gotten injured.

3. The defense continued its hot start to 2017 against Purdue, limiting the home team to just 189 total yards. Chase Winovich, Devin Bush, and Mike McCray all recorded sacks, as the Boilermakers tried all sorts of creative play calling to move the ball down field. They ended the game with an 0-for-12 mark on third downs and never really threatened outside of a couple second quarter scoring drives. Though the Wolverines trailed for the middle chunk of the game, the defense kept the score well within reach.

Standout performer

A week after fumbling and looking like the third option out of the backfield, Chris Evans redeemed himself in West Lafayette. His 10-yard touchdown late in the third put Michigan back ahead for the first time since midway through the first half, and a 49-yard sprint to the end zone down the middle of the field sealed the game for the Wolverines. The sophomore ended the game with over 100 total yards while notching his first two touchdowns of the year.

Highlights