Despite back-to-back losses Harbaugh senses UM on verge of breakthrough

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh after Saturday's loss: “My feeling about the team is we’re right there to the top, but we have to put it over the top. Especially in the big games at the end of the year.”

Atlanta — Michigan lost its final two games for the third straight season, but coach Jim Harbaugh is certain this team is close to breaking through.

The Wolverines finished the season 10-3 with the 41-15 loss to Florida in the Peach Bowl on Saturday.

“It was a very good season,” Harbaugh said. “It would have been a great season had we won this game. Didn’t get that done.

“My feeling about the team is we’re right there to the top, but we have to put it over the top. Especially in the big games at the end of the year.”

After losing the season opener at Notre Dame, Michigan won 10 straight heading into the Ohio State game. A win over the Buckeyes would have put them in the Big Ten title game and kept them in the national playoff conversation. But the Wolverines lost badly, 62-39, and focused on the Peach Bowl to reach 11 wins.

Junior left guard Ben Bredeson, a co-captain, said offensive line coach Ed Warinner spoke to his position group in the locker room after the game and offered a similar message.

“We’re in sight of the peak,” Bredeson said of Warinner’s message. “We’re in sight of the Promised Land, whatever the hell you want to call it, and you’ve just got to finish and get there. We’ve had, look at this year, we won 10 games and that’s a pretty good accomplishment but not when you lose to Notre Dame and then win 10 straight and lose to Ohio State and lose the bowl game. It’s not what you want. We had a good year. We strung some big wins there in the middle, but there’s still some big games we need to finish out.”

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Bredeson said the high standards at Michigan are the reason he came here.

“10-3 is good at a lot of places but not for me and not for here,” he said.

He believes the Wolverines can reach that peak in 2019.

“I think we’re going to do it,” Bredeson said. “We’ve got a lot of weapons back. We’ve got a lot of work to put in this offseason and I think the guys are fired up. Everybody is feeling pretty (terrible) right now, but once we get back to workouts and get back together, I think this is going to fuel everybody for next year.”

Quarterback Shea Patterson said he is optimistic about next season.

“Ah, man, you start open it up a little bit," he said, "you see guys like (receivers) Nico Collins flourishing, Tarik Black finally coming on the scene, and Donovan Peoples-Jones has been out there making plays. It’s all about getting guys involved in open space. That’s what the best teams do — they find a way to win one-on-one matchups and find a way to isolate their best players. And we’ve got a hell of a running back in Christian Turner and Chris Evans coming back and Tru Wilson. We’ve got a lot to look forward to.”