‘We are that team’: U-M wins 3rd straight vs. OSU

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When suspended Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh addressed his team Friday night, he recited Bo Schembechler’s famous line — “The team, the team, the team” — but personalized it to the men in the room.

“Coach said last night: ‘This is the ultimate team,'” said Sherrone Moore, Michigan’s offensive coordinator, who led the third-ranked Wolverines as acting head coach for the third consecutive week. “We’ve got each other’s back on the field, off the field, and we know that we’re always going to respond.

“The guys don’t flinch.”

Michigan continued to make its case on Saturday as the nation’s most resilient team, if not its best, with a 30-24 win over No. 2 Ohio State. It was the Wolverines’ third straight victory in the rivalry. Despite Harbaugh’s suspension, the ongoing NCAA investigation into sign stealing and several key injuries, the Wolverines haven’t flinched or lost as they advance to the Big Ten championship game with a chance to win three straight outright league titles for the first time in school history.

“The whole mantra: The team, the team, the team,” said quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who completed 16 of 20 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown. He said Harbaugh told the Wolverines before the game: “We are that team.”

After jumping ahead 14-3, Michigan saw its lead vanish midway through the third quarter. But the offense responded by scoring on its final three possessions — and six of its final seven before a kneel-down to end the contest — and junior safety Rod Moore, who was born in Clayton, Ohio, sealed the win by diving to intercept an underthrown Kyle McCord pass at Michigan’s 22-yard line with 25 seconds left.

The Wolverines’ three straight triumphs against Ohio State are a first since 1995 to 1997, after dropping 15 of the teams’ previous 16 meetings.

“It was a dream come true, making the game-winning play on one of the biggest games, probably, in college football history,” Rod Moore said. “I was on the field, just looking like, ‘I just called game. I did that.'”

Harbaugh watched from his Ann Arbor home, serving the final game of a Big Ten-imposed suspension that stemmed from the scouting operation led by former U-M staff member Connor Stalions, who resigned on Nov. 3. The Wolverines improved to 6-0 without Harbaugh, who missed the team’s first three games after Michigan’s suspension of the coach due to an NCAA investigation for recruiting violations. Harbaugh will return to the sideline for the conference title game on Dec. 2 against Iowa in Indianapolis.

“Whether [Harbaugh] is here, whether players are hurt, it doesn’t matter; the job has to get done, and the job will get done,” said senior running back Blake Corum, who rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State. “It’s been great, a little adversity, feeling like everyone’s against you, Michigan versus everybody.

“Obviously, we wish [Harbaugh] was here, but he’s done a phenomenal job preparing us all week for Saturdays.”

Sherrone Moore’s final pregame interaction with Harbaugh was twofold. Harbaugh told the 37-year-old that he loved him and to be himself in calling plays for the biggest game of his career. Two weeks after Michigan ended its road win against Penn State with 32 consecutive run plays, Moore kept the pedal down.

The Wolverines went 3-for-3 on fourth downs and opened the fourth quarter with a halfback pass, as Donovan Edwards connected with tight end Colston Loveland for a 34-yard gain, setting up the second of James Turner‘s three field goals.

“It goes back to the kids, how they prepare, how they attack things and how they work,” said Moore, who improved to 4-0 as Michigan’s acting head coach. “I’d be doing them a disservice if I try to be conservative. When they’re going out there running 150s in the summer, blood, sweat and tears, working their tails off in the weight room, doing everything they can, they put the trust in me as a playcaller on offense to be aggressive in these games.

“That’s what they want, so that’s what we gave them.”

Michigan never trailed in a game during which it lost All-Big Ten guard Zak Zinter to a gruesome lower-leg injury — the senior was carted off the field late in the third quarter and taken to a local hospital — and cornerback Will Johnson, who set up the Wolverines’ first touchdown with an interception deep in Ohio State territory before sustaining an apparent ankle injury.

Corum, playing in his final game at Michigan Stadium, broke Hassan Haskins‘ single-season team record for rushing touchdowns with his 21st and 22nd scores. He did it against an Ohio State defense that had allowed only three rushing touchdowns all season.

The Wolverines became the first Big Ten team to win 30 consecutive regular-season games, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The team’s recent surge, though, has come under greater scrutiny because of the NCAA investigation. Moore said he would like to weigh in on the perception of Michigan’s success while adding that the Wolverines have proved they’re as good as any team in the country.

“The thing that I just think of is, we only care about us, we only care about what we’re doing and how we feel and that fulfillment internally,” said McCarthy, who could end his college career 3-0 in The Game. “Everyone else can have their opinions, and we’ll just keep doing us.”

Michigan continued to tighten its grip on the Big Ten and the Buckeyes, who last won the conference crown in 2020 and now have their longest drought without a league title in a decade. Asked if Ohio State’s emphasis on increased physical toughness was displayed, Wolverines wide receiver Roman Wilson replied, “Definitely not.”

“You want to put on the Louie V, the $1,000 outfit, like, you want to act hard, but when they’re out there, they’re not hard,” said Wilson, who had a 22-yard touchdown catch. “I see the film. You’re not tough. I don’t think I’m the toughest guy in the world, but I’m out there, I’m getting physical.

“I don’t think they wanted it like how I wanted it.”

Michigan’s next want is another Big Ten championship and a return to the College Football Playoff.

“When you say something, you have to stand on it,” Corum said. “I put it out there before the season that we’re going to do all these things. I knew I was going to have to back it up. My team came together, and we all backed it up.

“But it’s like Kobe Bryant said: The job’s not finished, man. We have a lot of work to do.”

This post was originally published on ESPN

Share your love