head coach Jim Harbaugh shouts to his team in the
first quarter of an NCAA college football game against
Utah, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, in Salt Lake City.
CITY — Jim Harbaugh was first to greet Jake Rudock on the
Michigan sideline after he threw the pick-6 that pretty much
ended any hope the Wolverines had of winning the much-hyped
debut of their much-hyped coach.
put an arm around his player, told him that the Utah
defensive back made a great play and gave the forlorn
quarterback a pat on the helmet.
fans will need to have the same type of patience with their
team. Harbaugh has restored hope to the proud program, but
as the 24-17 loss to the Utes on Thursday night showed, a
return to glory is going to take some time.
of positives," Harbaugh said. "Some things to
offseason filled with Harbaugh-mania, it was time to play
some football, but in many ways Harbaugh's Michigan
Wolverines looked a lot like the ones coached last season by
Brady Hoke, who was fired after going 5-7.
turnovers by the quarterback (Rudock threw three picks).
Little production from the running game (76 yards on 29
carries). A defense that played OK, but got little support.
thought we had a great game plan," said tight end Jake
Butt, who had eight catches for 93 yards and a touchdown.
"We just didn't execute."
Joe Bolden echoed that. "I sound like a broken
recorder, but we didn't execute," he said.
gave a little laugh when he was told how the players harped
on lack of execution.'
think they are being too hard on themselves," he said.
January day in Ann Arbor when Harbaugh was introduced as
coach of his alma mater, he has been the most interesting
man in college football. An internet sensation to rival the
Kardashians. He has inspired Michigan fans to put Gatorade
on their cereal, proclaimed his profound admiration for
Judge Judy and pulled off the interstate to help two women
who had been in a car wreck.
He has made
wearing khakis cool in Ann Arbor.
appeared at ease before the game, roaming the field to chat
with assistants and watch his team warm up. It was 90
degrees in Salt Lake City, but that didn't change the
Harbaugh uniform: Dark blue, long-sleeve shirt, tucked into
his khakis. Blue baseball cap with a big maize block M.
feel a little bit more, personally, nervous about this
beginning than any other," said Harbaugh's wife, Sarah,
before the game. "I think there's a tremendous amount
of pressure on him right now."
recent past belies its status as the winningest program in
college football history. Three years under Rich Rodriguez
and four under Hoke produced one season of double-digit
has brought success everywhere he has been, and at Stanford
and with the San Francisco 49ers, he took over much worse
situations and built championship-level teams. He was the
only coach Michigan fans really wanted.
was definitely a national holiday in our house when we heard
that Jim Harbaugh was going to be the next coach," said
David Spitzley, who made the 8-hour drive from Denver to
Salt Lake City with his wife and three young daughters.
"... Really want to see signs that things are going in
the other direction now. The win total's probably less
important than the product on the field and what does it
look like. It was almost unwatchable recently."
Harbaugh understands the hope her husband has inspired in
Michigan, but she would be happy to hear about those modest
they don't have to be too patient," she said.
debut turned into one of the biggest home games in Utah
history, drawing a record crowd of 47,825 to Rice-Eccles
Stadium and more media members than could fit into the press
televising the game and treated it like a bowl, bringing its
studio to Rice-Eccles and providing five separate feeds for
viewers to follow the game.
told me there's going to be a camera that's just on his face
the whole game. Who does that?" Sarah Harbaugh said.
cam, as Fox called it, was all Jim Harbaugh all the time.
hung around against a good Pac-12 opponent until Justin
Thomas stepped in front of Rudock's sideline pass and
returned it 55 yards for a score to make it 24-10.
a late scoring drive to keep the score respectable, but
Harbaugh saw more than a garbage-time touchdown.
shook off that play and came fighting back. As did all of
our team," Harbaugh said.
will be another milestone of sorts for Harbaugh: His first
game coaching in the Big House, where he played quarterback
for Bo Schembechler. Oregon State is the opponent, but there
will be no easy games for the Wolverines.
tried to spin the positive side of the losses, but it fell
flat with fans.
comes with more credibility. So when he says he was
impressed, Michigan fans may have reason to believe him.