Wolverines quarterback on what the team will learn about itself in the coming weeks after 42-13 loss to No. 2 Nittany Lions. Angelique S. Chengelis
University Park, Pa. — All last week Michigan players said they wanted to show the college football world just how good they are on the big stage at No. 2 Penn State as big underdogs.
But the Wolverines ran into the defending Big Ten champions, who are clicking and were pummeled 42-13 Saturday night at Beaver Stadium.
So now what? Michigan is now 5-2, 2-2 Big Ten and in its final five games will be underdogs against top-10 teams, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Quarterback John O’Korn, who made his third start in place of injured Wilton Speight, was asked after the game what coach Jim Harbaugh told the team.
“We know the fake love’s gone. There’s no bandwagon. It’s us,” O’Korn said. “That’s what we want, whether we’re doing great or doing bad. It’s just all about us. From here on out, that’s what it’s going to be about is us as a team. The guys inside Schembechler Hall. Nobody outside.
“We’ll find out a lot about this team and about this program over the next few weeks. I think we’ve got a great group of guys and don’t expect anybody to quit or give up. We’re 5-2 I think everybody’s freaking out outside of our four walls. We’re 5-2, we’ve got a great team. We just didn’t make enough big plays tonight to come out of here with a win.”
Michigan plays Rutgers (3-4, 2-2) on Saturday at Michigan Stadium and Minnesota (4-3, 1-3) the following week. The Wolverines, who are one win from bowl eligibility, will then travel to Maryland (3-4, 1-3) before playing at Wisconsin, the class of the West Division at 7-0, 4-0 and then Ohio State (6-1, 4-0) in the regular-season finale.
“We’re going to regroup, refit, retool and be back to work,” Harbaugh said. “More opportunities ahead of us.”
He was told of O’Korn’s comments about it now being only about the players.
“We solve it with our team,” Harbaugh said. “Nobody else can help us but us. Put our best people on it, our players and our coaches.”
Running back Karan Higdon, who rushed for 200 yards a week earlier at Indiana and was held to 45 at Penn State, said the team is not giving up on the season.
“We’ve got a great group of guys,” Higdon said. “I wouldn’t trade this for the world. I’ve been here three years, and we’ve won a lot of games. We’ve lost two this season. We played a great team today and got punched in the mouth. We’ve just got to regroup, just got to keep going. That’s what it’s all about in this game.”
Co-captain Mike McCray said the team has to “come together even closer now” and learn from the mistakes made at Penn State.
“We’ve got to win out to have a chance to win the Big Ten championship,” he said.
And that’s what the Wolverines are hanging onto, that slim possibility that the stars will align if they win out.
They pointed, ironically, to Penn State’s run last season after losing at Michigan, 49-10, and winning the rest of their games to make the Big Ten championship game. The difference is, though, while Penn State left Michigan with two losses, one was out of conference. Michigan now has two Big Ten losses, including to Michigan State.
“Some of us were talking about it on the sideline near the end of the game,” O’Korn said, when asked what can be accomplished. “Last year at this point, Penn State was — me growing up here — I thought that was one of the worst Penn State teams I’ve ever seen and they went on and should have won the Rose Bowl.
“We can be as good as we want to be. We’re going to need some help now if we want to accomplish all of our goals. It’s up to us, the guys within our four walls, to make a decision to make this season what we want it to be.”