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What we learned from Michigan’s triple OT victory against Rutgers

Even if it’s ugly, winning is winning.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night felt like a 4.5 hour medical procedure: you leave the office in pain, but the result was worth it. The Michigan Wolverines escaped Piscataway with a 48-42 triple overtime victory over Rutgers. Rutgers.

I cannot remember a worse viewing experience during a Michigan victory than this one. Some fans will say, “It’s worse than a loss,” but I personally couldn’t disagree more. Winning is winning, but at halftime, it did not look great.

At the half, Quinn Nordin walked off the field and screamed at his teammates, “Do your f---ing job!” after a bad snap led to a missed field goal. This outburst happened despite the fact that Nordin had missed a prior field goal on a perfect snap earlier in the game. This outburst of frustration without accountability is indicative of a larger problem simmering within the program.

Players seem to be anticipating mistakes and when they happen, all hell breaks loose. Every time Joe Milton sails a pass, you can see the wide receivers’ frustration in their body language. Cornelius Johnson fumbles the football and a palpable ‘here we go again’ groan courses through the sideline.

This team has been waiting for failure like a weekly Saturday night Hinge date. One thing goes wrong and the entire team sinks into quicksand. It is noticeable from the play calling and from the execution as every member of the team forces the issue and tries to absolve all sins on every play.

A sense of urgency is great (a two minute drill would be better, we’ll save that thought), but not when it comes at the expense of efficiency and production. Saturday should have been Michigan’s fourth straight loss had it not been for one player: Cade McNamara.

(Quick aside: the name ‘Cade McNamara’ is the best pure quarterback name since ‘Colt McCoy’ full stop. This kid was destined from birth to be a quarterback, but none of us saw this level of a performance coming in 2020.)

Sophomore Cade McNamara relieved starting quarterback Joe Milton of his duties late in the second quarter with the Wolverines already trailing 17-0. Three plays with McNamara under center and the score is 17-7. Nordin’s outburst took place in the middle of the McNamara rally, but this time no one was sinking into quicksand.

McNamara brought a consistent energy that this team had been missing. An instant spark that brought this offense to life and more importantly made the entire team believe again. The frosted lettuce (blonde tips of hair for the uninitiated) glistening on the sidelines like a beacon of swagger-rich confidence. How could you not go to bat for this kid?

The sophomore finished the game 27-for-36, 260 yards, and 4 touchdowns (1 rushing). There have only been four other occurrences in the Jim Harbaugh era of a quarterback throwing four or more touchdowns in a game and McNamara did it in 2.5 quarters.

McNamara seized the opportunity and restored faith in a program that had grown atheist in its view to competition. A victory does not exempt this program from criticism, but the criticism has been slightly lessened for a week.

Is there a systemic cultural problem bubbling at the surface of this program? Yes. Do I trust any member of the coaching staff not named Ed Warriner? No.

This triple overtime victory should not feel good despite the fact Rutgers is leaps and bounds better than they have been in years. But in the end, a winning is winning.

This victory was far from enjoyable and no Michigan fan wants to speak of this performance ever again. However, we did learn of one name we will speak about long after this game, Cade McNamara.