Michigan spent an the entire offseason hoping, perhaps believing that things would be different. Saddled with a limp offense and undesirable quarterback play, the Wolverines scribbled all over the drawing board. They retooled an expensive and bizarrely hierarchical offensive coordinating crew. They moved heaven and earth to bring in five-star Shea Patterson from Ole Miss.
Jim Harbaugh, the supposed quarterback whisperer, finally had his savior, or in this case, Shea-vior. Saturday night, under the watchful gaze of Touchdown Jesus, this was exposed as false prophesy. Michigan is fundamentally broken on one side of the football. No messiah is there to lead to the promised land, either under center or stalking the sidelines.
Patterson was pedestrian, completing 20 of 30 passes for 227 yards and an interception. He struggled with cramping. His replacement, another five-star recruit Dylan McCaffrey, completed four of six for 22 yards. Together they combined for one touchdown drive and 10 points. The rushing game was not much better, amassing 58 yards on 33 carries.
A late comeback fell short when Patterson fumbled away the ball while being sacked. To describe the rally as feverish would be inaccurate. Michigan moved with all the urgency of a couple out for a casual Sunday stroll. Precious seconds melted away as they huddled after every play and settled for short passes over the middle to keep the clock running.
It was a disjointed and unimpressive effort. One expects more fight from a team up against the wall with a knife to its throat. Yes, it’s one game, a tough road game against a tough Notre Dame side. Michigan still controls its destiny and winning the Big Ten will allow them to realize high preseason goals.
But if it wasn’t time to take serious stock of the situation before, it is now. Harbaugh, in his fourth year, is still without a signature win. He is 9-9 in his last 18 games. Michigan has dropped an astounding 17 straight road games against ranked opponents. These are the facts. And ignoring them may make Maize and Blue enthusiasts feel good, but the reality is becoming even more clear.
This is a team and a coach with its back against the wall. The pressure is mounting as even the most rosy glasses show flaws. Things are still broken and the question remains: when will he fix it? Will he ever fix it?
Harbaugh is good coach. His track record suggests he will. What does it say that he hasn’t by now?