After eight months of waiting, hype and expectations, Jim Harbaugh took the field as Michigan’s head football coach for the first time Saturday. And it was a game to remember.
Michigan struggled initially, but eventually trounced Oregon State, 35-7. The manner in which the team won was the biggest surprise of it all — with a power running game.
Here is a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from Harbaugh’s first win as Michigan’s coach:
The Wolverines’ running game looked as it rarely has in recent years. Michigan rushed for 225 yards, led by junior running back De’Veon Smith, who scampered for 126 yards and three touchdowns.
The Wolverines rode Smith hard late in the game, and the offensive line improved as the game went on. The Beavers had little answer for Michigan’s run game. The offense resembled what fans expected from Harbaugh: run-heavy with contributions from multiple tight ends and fullbacks.
While the offense ran wild, the defense stood strong. Oregon State rushed for minus-28 yards after the first quarter. After the Beavers started the game with a long touchdown drive, they did not muster a single score.
The defense’s play even necessitated an Oregon State quarterback change, but it was to no avail. Harbaugh was able to coast to his first career victory at Michigan.
By the end of the game, Michigan’s first-quarter misfortune had been rendered irrelevant. But for a moment, things looked bad for the Wolverines. Michigan allowed that opening-possession touchdown drive, and then followed it up by turning the ball over when fifth-year senior quarterback Jake Rudock was sacked and fumbled the football.
The game momentarily appeared to be in jeopardy as Oregon State took over possession on the Wolverines’ 24-yard line with the chance to take a 14-0 lead. But then junior defensive end Taco Charlton stripped Beavers running back Victor Bolden, and senior linebacker Joe Bolden snatched it out of the air for Michigan.
In terms of football action, that was the end of the bad for the Wolverines. But Michigan junior cornerback Jourdan Lewis suffered a concussion in the second quarter and missed the rest of the game. His status is currently unknown. If he misses time, it could be troubling for the Wolverines’ secondary.
Late in the second quarter, Oregon State punter Nick Porebski lined up behind the long snapper to punt. The play went smoothly, and he booted the ball inside Michigan’s five-yard line.
But then a penalty on the Beavers nullified the play. The second attempt at the punt did not go as well. The snap sailed well over Porebski’s head, and the Wolverines took over on Oregon State’s three-yard line.
In a way, ugly was beautiful for Michigan throughout the game. The Wolverines moved the ball by mauling the Beavers up front, not through long, smooth completions. Smith was difficult to bring down, consistently racking up yards after contact. It got ugly for would-be tacklers.
Not to be outdone, Harbaugh got into the action himself, arguing a roughing the punter call in the second quarter. He tossed his play sheet and kicked the air while he chirped at the referees.
It may have been ugly for the officials who had to listen to his complaining, but for Michigan fans, it was a beautiful sight.