Harbaugh: ‘Coaching’ stands out most amid skid

  • College football reporter.
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
  • Graduate of Northwestern University.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said everything must be reevaluated for a 1-3 team after Saturday night’s 48-11 home loss to Wisconsin.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Michigan’s 38-point loss marked its largest at home since 1935, when it fell 38-0 to archrival Ohio State. The Wolverines dropped their third straight game overall and are off to their worst start since 1967.

Wisconsin held large edges over Michigan in total yards (468-219), rushing yards (341-47), first downs (26-10), total plays (73-45) and possession time (40:15-19:45). Michigan threw interceptions on its first two possessions and fell behind 28-0 to Wisconsin for the second consecutive season.

“Not a good place as a football team right now, and that falls on me,” Harbaugh said. “Got to get after really going back to basics in everything that we do, and look at everything that we’re doing. Everybody’s got to do better. I’m at the front of the line in the accountability.”

Harbaugh said every element of the team is “not close to where it should be.” After a season-opening win against Minnesota and a close loss to Michigan State, Michigan has been outscored 87-33 the past two weeks.

“It can only be those three things: what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, who’s doing it,” the sixth-year Michigan coach said. “We’ve got to look at all those things right now. Right now, I’d say all three need to be addressed.”

Harbaugh directed most of the blame toward himself and the coaches, but said no one is doing an acceptable job right now.

“The thing that stands out the most is the coaching … making sure that they [the players] have an understanding of what to do and, therefore, they can go for it,” he said. “Because there seems to be hesitation, there seems to be some confusion, some lack of communication on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, and getting things adjusted to, getting things fixed, just identifying how to improve in those areas are some of the first things that we’re going to address.”

Wolverines quarterback Joe Milton had his first pass deflected and intercepted by Wisconsin safety Scott Nelson. Milton threw his second pass right to Wisconsin’s Leo Chenal, who returned the ball 31 yards, setting up the Badgers’ second touchdown.

“That’s something, we really have to look at,” Harbaugh said. “Did Joe understand the keys, where he was looking? Threw a ball right to another guy.”

Cade McNamara replaced Milton and completed 4 of 7 passes for 74 yards and Michigan’s only touchdown, a 23-yard pass to Mike Sainristil late in the third quarter.

Michigan’s defense didn’t fare much better, failing to record a takeaway and recording only one sack. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Michigan reached halftime Saturday and became the first Big Ten team over the last 15 seasons to not record a sack or a takeaway in five consecutive halves.

“It’s just getting everybody to do it consistently,” defensive lineman Carlo Kemp said. “Who knows what next Saturday has? We might be in a dogfight. We might be winning by a lot, might be losing by a lot, nobody knows. But it’s those critical moments when it’s Saturday and you’re on the sideline and keeping everybody into the game, no matter what’s happening, and just fighting to the end and continuing to play.

“Am I worried? No. We’ve shown over the last three weeks, even though the outcome has not been what we wanted at all, that we’re still here. We play, we finish games, we play for each other.”

Michigan is scheduled to play next this coming Saturday at Rutgers. Harbaugh stressed that the Wolverines need to win “by all means necessary.”

Harbaugh hopes to identify “the players who have pride, have pride in their own personal performance and who want to fight like hell for Michigan.”

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