It’s not about fun and games at Michigan this week. It’s just about games.
What we saw at Jim Harbaugh’s Monday meet-the-press session, and what we’re likely to see for the final two weeks of the season, is Coach Harbaugh. With a Capital C.
He showed up in his Bo Schembechler ballcap and his Woody Hayes eyeglasses, wearing his shirt with the dunking Michael Jordan/Nike logo.
He took the questions calmly. And answered them concisely.
For all of his many unconventional ways, Harbaugh is at bedrock, a very traditional coach. Thorough and single-minded.
And Harbaugh knows what’s at stake now. Despite the shocking 14-13 surprise loss at Iowa that ended their unbeaten ways, the playoff door is still open for the Wolverines. But it’s only open a crack now.
And the hinges need oiling.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
``You have to soldier up,’’ Harbaugh said after losing on the same field where he had come up short in 1985, as quarterback of the No. 2-ranked Michigan team that lost to No. 1 Iowa. ``You come back with an enthusiasm and make sure it doesn’t happen again.’’
On his Monday night radio show, Harbaugh denied reports that starter Wilton Speight suffered a broken collarbone at Iowa, but did say Speight will miss practice ``for a couple of days.'' If Speight can't go, Houston transfer John O’Korn, who made 16 starts at Houston and was the American Athletic Conference rookie of the year in 2013, will be under center.
That would put even more stress on an offense that didn’t measure up against the Hawkeyes.
There’s also a field-goal-block unit that had only 10 players on the field for Iowa’s game-winning kick.
And there’s a defense that had its hands full with Hawkeye tailback Akrum Wadley, who ran for 115 yards and caught passes for another 52 yards.
Do you think there are Buckeyes capable of doing that?
``You have to win two out of the three phases to win a football game,’’ Harbaugh said. ``I thought our defense won that phase. Offensively, and on special teams, we did not feel like we won those two phases. [When that happens], usually you don’t win the game.’’
I still remember the first time I walked into the Kinnick visitors’ room, painted pink by Hayden Fry as some kind of psychological ploy. Iowa had just drilled Northwestern 61-21 in October of 1983, and the late Dennis Green was slumped against one of those feminine-hued walls, waiting for me, and another Chicago scribe, to give one of his marvelous single-spaced synopses of that day of infamy.
It lacked the drama of his classic, ``The Bears are who we thought they were!’’ many years later, when he was the Arizona Cardinals coach.
On this day, he was just trying to keep Northwestern’s purple head above water—in a pink locker room.
In a way, that’s what Harbaugh was doing on a crisp November night in Iowa City. The trouble was, all of Harbaugh’s maize-and-blue posterizing came up short on Saturday.
And now it’s time to go to work. Michigan needs to get back on the horse in its Senior Day vs. pesky Indiana on Saturday. And it needs to be in full gallop at the Horseshoe on Nov. 26. Because, barring a miracle, that’s an elimination game. Either Ohio State is out of the College Football Playoff hunt. Or Michigan is.
``It takes very little time to see it,’’ Harbaugh said when asked if he would explain the scenarios to his players. ``You know what they are. Onward. I think they know. If you asked them, they would know. Not a deep long converation necessary.’’
Maybe there will be some Harbaugh sideshow stuff the next two weeks—if it’s geared toward playing better football.
Or maybe not.
It’s all about football now.[/membership]