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: 8-1 (6-0 B1G)
With a daunting three-game stretch successfully conquered, the Wolverines had a new challenge for the final quarter of the season. Two games stood between Michigan and its arch rival, testing the team’s focus. The No. 4 Wolverines did not have the quickest start to the game against Rutgers, but eventually water found its level as the visitors came away with a 42-7 win as expected.
1. Calling it a slow start may be a bit of an exaggeration, but after crushing three ranked teams in a row, no one expected the game to be tied 7-7 going into the second quarter or for Rutgers to be down just 14 at half. The Knights’ lone score of the game came on an 80-yard run to start their third possession; yards were hard to come by after that. Michigan was always going to win, it just took some time for the scoreboard to reflect what was happening on the field.
2. Shea Patterson was good against an inferior opponent, posting 260 yards and three passing scores. He did not need to run the read option against the Rutgers defense, but he did use his feet well to stay alive in the pocket, including a great escape on a third quarter Oliver Martin touchdown. The run game in general was surprisingly quiet, aside from a 61-yard Chris Evans breakaway in the fourth quarter.
3. The stats do not really show it because of garbage time, but the Michigan defense was good outside of the long touchdown run. While the run defense did not have a shutdown game, Rutgers passed for under 60 yards and Lawrence Marshall and Ambry Thomas recorded turnovers. Chalk this one up to one team trying to find a bright spot in a lost season against one team coming off of emotional highs with a massive showdown rapidly approaching.
The most exciting plays both belong to Nico Collins, who had just three catches but certainly made the most of them. With Michigan up just 14-7 approaching halftime, Patterson found a wide open (very, very wide open) Collins for a 36-yard score to put some of the fan base at ease. The duo then connected in the third quarter on an absolutely perfect back shoulder pass that gave the sophomore his first multi-touchdown game.