He was everywhere on Saturday.

With his performance against the Gophers, Michigan linebacker David Harris catapulted himself into the record books. His 15 solo tackles and 18 total tackles tie him for fifth and 12th, respectively, in tackles in a single game. The Grand Rapids native was everywhere, helping contain Minnesota’s star running back, Laurence Maroney. But to Harris, the only numbers that matter are 23-20.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Harris said. “I’ll give my 18 tackles up in place of a win anytime. All that matters is if we win, and we didn’t.”

But it’s more than Harris just being modest. When the middle linebacker on Michigan’s defense makes 15 solo tackles, something is wrong. There are some units – such as the Baltimore Ravens led by Ray Lewis – that design their schemes around allowing the middle linebacker to roam free and make the majority of the team’s tackles.

But Michigan is not one of those teams. The Michigan defense is built around many players getting to the ball. For the season, six players have 30 or more tackles. Linemen, linebackers and defensive backs are all in the top-five – an example of the team’s depth.

“It’s designed more to get more people in on the ball,” Harris said. “It’s everybody’s job to get off their block and find a way to the ball somehow, some way. And Saturday, we didn’t do that as a team, as a unit.”

Harris, a redshirt junior, didn’t play much last season. Two years ago, he suffered a season-ending knee injury in just the second game of the season. And because he didn’t see game action at all during his freshman year, Harris didn’t have a great deal of experience under his belt. Though he saw the field in seven games last season, he made just one start. He started against Iowa and recorded a career-high six tackles against the Hawkeyes.

Despite his inexperience coming into this season, Harris has been one of the defense’s most consistent contributors. Because of nagging injuries, Harris didn’t play against Northern Illinois in the first game of the year. But since seeing game action against Notre Dame, he has led the team in tackles.

“I think David Harris had a great football game on Saturday,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “I think Harris is having a great year. He is one of the real outstanding linebackers in this conference. He played great.”

Even though he had an impressive game, Harris could do nothing on the most important play of the game. With time running out in regulation, Minnesota was backed up deep in its own territory and was just trying to run out the clock. On third-and-10, backup freshman running back Gary Russell took the ball on a stretch play to the right. Michigan’s linebackers were supposed to force the play inside, but Russell made it outside of junior Prescott Burgess and ran 61 yards to set up the game-winning field goal.

While cornerback Leon Hall said he saw people “loafing,” or not trying, when he watched tape of that play, Harris didn’t see that. He thought players were running hard, but he said he saw some poor execution.

“I saw a defense that lost the game and a lot of players getting caught on blocks that were not able to get off and a lot of players got chopped in that play,” Harris said. “And when that happens, it’s a big play.”

And though he seemed to make every tackle on Saturday, he couldn’t make the one that mattered most.

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