Harbaugh says UM will put 'steel' in its spine after numbing loss
Ann Arbor – Michigan players said they were stunned and incapable of revealing their emotions because they were still numb after losing to Michigan State on a fumbled punt with 10 seconds left.
The Wolverines lost for the seventh time in eight meetings to their in-state rivals, 27-23, when Jalen Watts-Jackson scored on a 38-yard fumble recovery with no time left after Michigan punter Blake O’Neill took a low snap from Scott Sypniewski, dropped it, picked it up and spun around to punt it and then fumbled for the game’s only turnover.
Michigan, which entered the game ranked No. 12, is 5-2, 2-1 Big Ten and is off next Saturday before playing at Minnesota on Oct. 31.
“We can’t kill ourselves over one loss like this,” defensive end Willie Henry said. “It hurts. We know it hurts everybody we lost a game like this so close in the final seconds like that. We don’t want everybody down. Keep your heads up. Still got a whole season.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said the Wolverines will be resolute in moving forward.
“We’re going to put steel in our spine,” Harbaugh said. “They played really well, played winning football, competed like maniacs, both teams did. It was a heckuva game. Played winning football. Didn’t get the result. Welcome to football. Move forward.”
Kicker Kenny Allen, who made all three field goal attempts, said the loss still hadn’t hit him.
“Obviously guys are upset,” Allen said. “It was a hard loss. What (Harbaugh) means is we’ve just got to bounce back. We’ve got to take this with a grain of salt, and we have to come back stronger, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
He described a locker room of teammates who felt as he did.
“Everyone was cheerful on the sidelines and that last play happened, and we run off the field and we’re here,” Allen said in the post-game news conference. “It hasn’t really hit anyone.”
Certainly, losing to Michigan State made the incredible turnaround harder to take.
“Yeah, this is a big game for everyone, especially in-state guys who grew up around this,” Allen said. “But we’re a team, we expect to win every single game. When you don’t, it hurts, you’ve got move forward.”
Henry said it was tough to wrap around his head around being seconds away from victory and then losing in a flash.
“Coaches say, you’ve got to go out here and make big plays, and they made a play at the end of the game that won them the game,” Henry said. “It probably won’t hit me until tomorrow how much this really (stinks) to lose to an opponent like this.”
Henry was asked about avoiding allowing this loss to beat the Wolverines twice.
“It just (stinks) to lose,” he said. “I don’t think nobody out there on the defense, offense, special teams go into the game to lose a game, so when you lose a game like this, it just (stinks). It (stinks) all around.”