After Michigan barely hung on to beat Rutgers 20-13, Jim Harbaugh fielded questions from the media. A couple of his answers seemed a little disingenuous, but he did acknowledge some things that definitely need to be addressed ahead of U-M's week five matchup against Wisconsin.
"We had two timeouts in our possession. I thought we could run at least two, maybe three plays. Five seconds, that's dicey. That's dicey to run a play and still kick a field goal if you don't get the touchdown."
I really didn't like the way this scenario played out right before halftime while at the game, but after looking back at it and hearing Jim Harbaugh talk through it, I actually don't mind it as much. The execution wasn't great, and it played out unfortunately/poorly, but the approach wasn't as bad as I initially thought.
The run on first down might not be my favorite call in the world, but with two timeouts there's really only one bad thing that can happen and unfortunately, it did. The ball carrier got stacked up instead of being tackled, which resulted in the clock running down to 9 seconds. On second down the call was good and the play was open, but Cade McNamara just missed the throw, either because the ball was tipped or because Luke Schoonmaker fell down during his route. Either way, you'd like to see that completed. And then with 5 seconds left, you do have to make sure you get points there. Rutgers had been bad on offense to that point, so putting points up was more important than going for the touchdown. I thought you could try one more pass play but, like on first down if something wonky happens, you miss out completely.
"One of those three-and-outs was three straight passes."
That line, coupled with Harbaugh's expression while saying it, legitimately makes me think that he really doesn't want to throw the ball if he can help it. Almost like, "See what happens when we throw the ball?" If that thought is in his head even a little bit with Cade McNamara at the helm, that's a real problem moving forward.
"I thought it was a gritty win."
The word Jim Harbaugh should've used, is fortunate. It was a fortunate win.
Rutgers outplayed Michigan in pretty much every facet. When comparing the two teams, Rutgers had almost 100 more yards of offense, 84 more rushing yards, less penalty yards, six more first downs, a better third-down conversion percentage, almost 20 more plays and more time of possession. The only thing Rutgers didn't do, was score points. Now, obviously that's the biggest deal, but all of that illustrates just how fortunate Michigan is to have won the game.
If that 29-yard field goal goes through the uprights, and Rutgers doesn't fumble with less than two minutes to go, who knows how the game would've ended. Those are obviously big ifs, and a win is a win, but this was Rutgers, at home. This wasn't Wisconsin, Penn State or Michigan State on the road.