John Niyo and Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News react to Jim Harbaugh's Monday press conference following Michigan's loss to Michigan State. Detroit News
Ann Arbor – Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, on the heels of the Wolverines' loss to in-state rival Michigan State, said Monday he and his team are “not frustrated.”
The Wolverines are 4-1 (1-1 Big Ten) and will play at Indiana on Saturday.
“Not frustrated,” Harbaugh said. “Attacking this week’s opportunity.”
Harbaugh later said in the news conference, “hindsight is 20/20,” and while he suggested it’s an obvious approach to question play calling after a loss, there were legitimate reasons to second guess in the 14-10 loss last Saturday under the lights at Michigan Stadium.
Bottom line, Harbaugh in his third season coaching his alma mater, has struggled to beat his rivals.
He is now 1-2 against Michigan State and 0-2 against Ohio State.
“It is what the record is,” Harbaugh said. “Well aware of what the record is against Michigan State and Ohio State – we’re 1-4. The record against all other opponents is 23-3. We know what the records are.
“We want to win the those games. We want to every game we play. We want to win them all, and most importantly, we want to win this one. We want to win our next game.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh talks about his record vs. rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
But back to the play calling. The second half was almost entirely played in a torrential downpour with swirling wind. And while the Wolverines, who trailed 14-3 at halftime, were finding success rushing the ball with Karan Higdon, they went away from the run and tried to throw. Multiple times. And that resulted in multiple interceptions – three by quarterback John O’Korn, making his first start of the season.
There were plenty of offensive breakdowns, starting with O’Korn, dropped passes and sub-par offensive line play, but putting the players in a position to have some reasonable shot at success is on the play caller. Or in this case, the multiple play callers.
O’Korn will remain the starter for the Indiana game.
Pass-game coordinator Pep Hamilton and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Tim Drevno call the plays and Harbaugh put his stamp on them.
We call the plays together as a staff,” Harbaugh said. “I have the final say on the play calling.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh responds to questions about his team's play calling in the loss to Michigan State. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
Right after the game, when Harbaugh was asked about virtually abandoning the run for the pass in the terrible weather conditions, he said that while they were trying to piece together drives that people could “criticize” the play calling.
But when asked again Monday whether he should have run the ball more, Harbaugh said it’s convenient to point the finger in the direction of the play calling.
“You want to question the play calling? That’s usually the case when something doesn’t work,” Harbaugh said. “I want to look at the film, learn from it. I’m not going to get into questioning the play calling.
“It’s a very convenient thing, right? It’s a very easy thing to do. The play worked and it’s, ‘Hey, it was a great play because it worked.’ If it didn’t work it was, ‘Do you wish you’d done something else? Had a different call?’ That’s very easy to do. Hindsight is very 20/20.”
The offensive line continues to struggle. Michigan is now ranked 118th in sacks allowed – MSU had four against the Wolverines – and 115th in tackles for loss allowed. And the offense is not productive. The Wolverines had the week off before facing the Spartans, which magnifies the five turnovers. Michigan is now 90th in passes intercepted and 106th in fumbles lost.
But the play calling question marks aren’t new to the team, either. During a streak in the first three games of one touchdown in 10 red-zone trips, it also was an issue.
“It’s your right to (question the play calling),” Harbaugh said. “That’s what people do. It’s just a fact of what anybody does. We should have thrown it or run it. If we throw and it doesn’t work, you wish you’d have run it. If we run it and it doesn’t work it’s, ‘Hey, would’ve been better to throw it.’ And you’d be right.
“When a play works it’s, ‘Hey, great play call.’ Run a third-down draw against Florida and it works, ‘Hey, great call.’ You call a play and it doesn’t work, ‘Do you wish you’d have called a different play?’ That’s a very easy thing to do. As a coach, you go through it. You look at where you can make corrections and where you can make improvements.”