Wolverines are deep in self-examination mode after blowout loss to Badgers

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, his team teetering at 1-3, heaped blame on himself after a third-straight loss and said he must determine how to stop the hemorrhaging before the season goes completely out of control.

The Wolverines are now 0-2 at Michigan Stadium this season after a blistering, 49-11 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday night.

Michigan defensive lineman Christopher Hinton hits the ground as Wisconsin running back Jalen Berger scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Harbaugh said he must identify why there’s a disconnect, examine what’s gone wrong with the coaching and whether the players are understanding what they’re supposed to do because he has seen a “hesitation” from them during games.

When asked about his quarterbacks — Joe Milton made his fourth start, but backup Cade McNamara came in late in the third quarter and led the team to its only touchdown — his response covered every aspect of the team.

“We’ve got to evaluate all things,” Harbaugh said.“Everything that we’re doing.”

But he also has to guard against the team spiraling out of control now that the Wolverines are 1-3. Harbaugh was asked how to make certain while the coaches are teaching and evaluating that they’re also making certain players are buying in.

He will do that by “identifying the players who have pride, have pride in their own personal performance and want to fight like hell for Michigan,” Harbaugh said.

Senior defensive lineman and captain Carlo Kemp said this is an important time for this team as it figures out what’s next.

“My thoughts right now, sitting here right after the game, it’s sucks because you work so hard throughout the entire week, a good week of practice, and come out here and what’s happening in practice is not translating in the game,” Kemp said. “Right now, we’re at a pivotal point where we’ve got to still have that buy-in, we’ve got to still have that belief in everything that we’re doing because we do a lot of very good things and have a lot of very good players on offense and defense. It’s just getting it to come together, putting it all together each Saturday.”

Receiver Mike Sainristil, who scored Michigan’s only touchdown on a throw from McNamara, said they haven’t put their finger on why they clicked so well in the opening season victory at Minnesota and then collapsed these last three weeks.

“Losing obviously is very frustrating,” he said. “I think right now we’re at the point we have to figure out what the issue is. Like Coach just said in the locker room, we have to go back and find out what was causing us to have success early on and what is causing us not to have success.”

And now Michigan must determine where it goes after losing three straight. The Wolverines play in a night game next Saturday at Rutgers before returning to Michigan Stadium for two straight and then traveling to Ohio State.

“Where we’re at, the only thing we can do, we’ve just got to stay together,” Kemp said. “The only people that can affect the game, the only people that believe in us is everybody. We have to get back to work, watch the film and be very critical of yourself as an individual, ask yourself in the mirror if you’re doing everything you can to help this team. And if you’re not, you’ve got to fix it. We’re at the point where mistakes turn into big points and we can’t have that going forward.”

Kemp, as a captain, said he didn’t have a lot to say to his teammates after the game. The bottom line, it's about making sure the buy-in is there and there’s no splintering within the team.

“Sitting at this position, the biggest thing is keeping everybody together,” Kemp said. “Worst thing you can do is split and go on the decline from here on out, whereas we stay together, stay working and keep that belief in each other going forward, and we can make this climb here in this stretch at the end of the season which is something we have to do.

“That begins with taking accountability of yourself and not blaming anybody else for mistakes that were made. You’ve got to start with yourself. Big thing I’ve been saying is, you’ve got to look in the mirror and really evaluate, really be critical of your performance because we need it. It might suck, you might not want to do it because you don’t want to see mistakes that you make, but you have to, because those mistakes can no longer happen going forward and we’ve got to clean those up.”

Although there are these concerns, Kemp said there is no panic. He has seen this team playing through to the end.

“Right now, my concern level’s nowhere near worried, or nervous or anything, just because, sure we’ve got young guys, but we’ve got hard-working great guys, everybody on this team,” Kemp said. “Everybody on this team is great in terms of character and anything beyond the other measurables. It’s getting everybody to do it consistently.

“Who knows what next Saturday has. We might be in a dogfight, we might be winning by a lot, we might be losing by a lot. Nobody knows. It’s those critical moments when it’s Saturday on the sideline and keeping everybody in the game no matter what’s happened and just fighting to the end and continuing to play. In terms of am I worried? No. We’ve shown the last three weeks that even though the outcome hasn’t been what we’ve wanted at all, we’re still here. We play, we finish games, we play for each other.”


Twitter.com: @chengelis