60 minutes of honest-to-goodness blocking and tackling – for the first time in years.
Even before Jim Harbaugh accepted Michigan’s offer to become the Wolverine’s 19th head coach last December, the buzz was deafening.
It was the Saturday after Christmas, and I spent the afternoon on the phone with insiders about the search for a coach. Once I heard the Harbaughs had a flight scheduled for Monday, and a hotel reservation, I was done wondering if the deal was for real.
But it was 10:30 at night, so I thought there was no point in tweeting the news at that hour. My wife told me I might as well, so she could stop hearing me talk about it.
So – fine, I tweeted it.
“It's done. Jim Harbaugh is coming to Michigan – and his friends are flying in Monday.”
I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed, then checked my twitter account one last time – and almost spit out my toothpaste. The thing was exploding. I gained a few thousand followers before I was done with my molars, and did phone interviews until 1:30 in the morning.
And that was just the beginning.
The Harbaugh hype hasn’t stopped.
Fox Sports decked out a bus in Harbaugh’s trademark khaki. Yes, a bus, fitted top to bottom in actual cloth, and drove it from New York to Utah for Michigan’s first game last week.
Now, Utah’s a solid team. The Utes beat Michigan’s two previous coaches, and were favored to beat Michigan again last week.
When people ask me to predict Michigan’s record this season, I say probably 8-4. Remember, last year’s team was 5-7 – and they got all those losses the old-fashioned way: They earned them.
But more important, Michigan fans are going to see serious, hard-nosed football on both sides of the ball –60 minutes of honest-to-goodness blocking and tackling – for the first time in years.
And that’s what they did Thursday night: A flawed team that still has a lot to learn played 60 minutes of old-school football, every play.
But their longest run was seven yards, and quarterback Jake Rudock, who transferred from Iowa, missed some wide-open receivers, and threw three interceptions. Michigan lost 24-17 – as expected.
So the Harbaugh hype has died down a little – and perhaps that’s not a bad thing. It’s hard to imagine it getting much crazier – but if the Wolverines had managed to pull it off, the hype would have soared to even more unrealistic heights.
So what’s next? Harbaugh’s old coach, Bo Schembechler, always said teams improve the most from the first game to the second – and that’s good news for the Wolverines. They’ve got Oregon State coming in this weekend, followed by UNLV and Brigham Young, which just beat Nebraska on a Hail Mary pass.
But as former athletic Director Bill Martin once said to one of his coaches: We don’t expect you to win right away. And if you did, it would worry us, because that means you’re probably not doing it the right way.
Harbaugh will do it the right way, and that is going to take some time. Not what Michigan fans want to hear, but after everything Michigan’s football program has been through the past decade, that might be the best news they could get.