Harbaugh still confident in UM’s red-zone offense

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh told “The Jamie and Stoney” show he is confident his offense will break through its red-zone issues and start scoring touchdowns.

The Wolverines are 3-0 and ranked No. 8 nationally but in 10 red-zone trips have scored only one touchdown. They open their Big Ten season at Purdue on Saturday.

“We’re all understanding that’s your job on the offense — move the ball and score touchdowns and put points on the board,” Harbaugh said Wednesday morning on The Ticket (97.1 FM). “Scoring touchdowns at a high rate, that’s something we’re focused on and we think will come. We stick to our preparation understanding where we can exploit a defense. The best way to do that, everybody does their job.

“Yeah, we have confidence we’ll be able to get those balls in the end zone.”

After the game against Air Force last Saturday, Harbaugh said there was one red-zone trip that Michigan did not adjust to what the Falcons had disguised.


“There was a time they had the better call than we did,” Harbaugh said. “That’s not me saying we got out-coached. That’s not me saying anything on the coaches. Sometimes that happens. We’ve got to be able to manage that. The way you manage that as a quarterback, you throw the ball away, you don’t throw the interception in the red zone and you don’t turn it over and you do get the field goal, and you do put the points on the board. That’s also smart football.

“We’re all focused on executing at a higher level in all of our phases: special teams, defense, offense. That’s what our preparation is focused on right now.”

As has been the case since the 2015 season, Harbaugh’s first as Michigan’s coach, the play-calling is a group effort among the offensive coordinator, pass-game coordinator and Harbaugh.

“It’s a combination,” Harbaugh said. “(Offensive coordinator) Tim Drevno and Pep (Hamilton) have the greatest share. I’m probably third in line. That’s probably the simplest and best way to explain it. It’s a group effort by our offensive coaching staff with Tim and Pep having the greatest share of the play-calling.”

Here are some other highlights from the show:

■ On offensive lineman Mason Cole, who has started 41 straight games: “It’s special. An offensive lineman who can start five years at the Power Five level, the Big Ten level, that’s a special type of player. I think when you look back, previous employers I’ve been at, we found an offensive lineman that started four years at a Power Five school, we were drafting him. That’s a great indicator you have a special player.”

■ On who replaces injured receiver Tarik Black: “That’s unfortunate we didn’t dodge that bullet. Kekoa Crawford, Nate Schoenle, Grant Perry, Donovan Peoples-Jones is going to play a great role. We’ve got good players and they’ve got to step up there in this case.”

■ On Donovan Peoples-Jones’ big performance last week: “Nobody wants to ever hear it while something’s happening. It’s a team game, it’s 11 people. It’s not always on one person to make it go or make it not go. If it doesn’t go, there’s a good chance it was multiple challenged players on a down. If it goes right, there were multiple players who made it go right. That was the case, and we were able to make some improvements. But Donovan, phenomenal effort and talent and strength the way he ran the ball. Very impressive. Big play for us in the game. He was our offensive player of the game.”

■ On kicker Quinn Nordin and whether kickers are generally “different:” “He’s not different at all. Quinn’s a great guy, well-liked by his teammates. Always has been. He has a real gift of maturity, being a good guy. The first day he came here, it’s not all about him. It’s about his teammates and that’s rare in 18-year-olds, let alone 40-year-olds or 30-year-olds. He’s not any space cadet. Far from it. And he knocks the ball through the uprights. He’s a good player.”

■ On preparing for first-year Purdue coach Jeff Brohm: “We’re looking at what they’ve done this year and when they were at Western Kentucky. Nick Holt was the defensive coordinator for them at Western Kentucky, Jeff was the head coach at Western Kentucky. We’ve got to look back and see what they did at Western Kentucky as well.”