“The plan was to drink until the pain’s over, but what’s worse, the pain or the hangover?”
Putting a tough loss behind is difficult, and as Michigan fans we are well-versed in the grieving process. While most have moved past the denial stage and linger in bargaining, it is time to grasp acceptance and to turn the collective attention to Indiana.
How do the Michigan Wolverines perform a week after an emotional loss? Some of these players are no stranger to several recovery games, and their leadership will be invaluable this week against the Hoosiers.
Excluding bowl games, let’s take a look back at how teams have responded to tough losses in the Jim Harbaugh era.
2015 - at Minnesota following Michigan State loss
Following Michigan punter Blake O’Neill’s bobbled snap against Michigan State which gave the Spartans a 27-23 victory in the closing seconds, the Wolverines had a bye week to lick their wounds. Unfortunately, it could have created some additional lethargy instead of allowing the Wolverines to immediately rinse the bad taste from their mouth.
Down to the wire and with backup quarterback Wilton Speight replacing the injured Jake Rudock, the Wolverines won on a goal line stand, 29-26, to secure victory over Minnesota and bring the Little Brown Jug Trophy back to Ann Arbor.
2016 - vs. Indiana following Iowa loss
This game was ugly. After Michigan’s perfect season bid ended at Kinnick on a last second field goal 14-13 to Iowa, the Wolverines welcomed Indiana one week before the clash with Ohio State.
Michigan trailed 7-3 at halftime with John O’Korn starting at quarterback for the injured Wilton Speight. O’Korn finished the game 7-of-16 for 59 yards and the team’s leading receiver was third string running back Ty Isaac who had one reception for 21 yards.
Fortunately, running back De’Veon Smith contributed a superb effort of 158 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The Wolverines came back in the second half and won 20-10.
The lasting image of this game will forever be senior tight end Jake Butt sitting in the snow, reflecting after his last career game at the Big House.
2017 - at Indiana following Michigan State loss
After the five-turnover, 14-10 monsoon loss to Michigan State, the Wolverines traveled to Bloomington to face Indiana and new head coach Tom Allen.
If you thought quarterback John O’Korn’s performance in 2016 was uninspiring, he somehow found a way to underachieve even further. O’Korn completed 10-of-20 passes for 58 yards (2.9 yards-per-attempt). Thankfully, a strong rushing performance carried the Wolverines once again.
Michigan running back Karan Higdon carried the ball 25 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns. While it required overtime, the Wolverines found a way and won 27-20.
2018 - vs. Western Michigan following Notre Dame loss
The Shea Patterson era at Michigan began with a dud. The transfer quarterback struggled to find a rhythm on the road against Notre Dame and the Wolverines fell 24-17 in South Bend. Michigan would not lose again until after Thanksgiving.
The Wolverines took out their frustration on the Broncos the following week with a bulldozing performance. Michigan led 21-0 after one quarter, 35-0 at halftime, and cruised to victory 49-3.
2019 - vs. Notre Dame following Penn State loss
The loss to Penn State was devastating. Michigan trailed 21-0 before turning the game and the season around. At halftime, Harbaugh said, “This would be Michigan’s finest hour,” and it almost was.
The Wolverines clawed back and were a Ronnie Bell dropped pass in the end zone away from overtime in Happy Valley. Michigan fell 28-21.
With no time to waste and No. 12 Notre Dame on the schedule, revenge was on the mind. In a rain storm that limited both teams’ passing attacks, it came down to an old-fashioned ground war.
Michigan running back Hassan Haskins exploded for 149 yards, with highlight reel runs and hurdles that are not seen as moments of foreshadowing.
The Wolverines trounced the Fighting Irish 45-14.
Excluding the 2020 COVID-impacted season, Harbaugh has only lost back-to-back regular season games once in his Michigan tenure. In 2017, Michigan lost to Wisconsin and Ohio State in the final two games of the season, while shuffling between Brandon Peters and O’Korn at quarterback. Woof.
While likely the Wolverines will have to get their feet back under them for a half, they should be able to handle the Hoosiers. Indiana only has wins against Idaho and Western Kentucky and, due to injury, will rely upon third-string quarterback Donovan McCulley.