Michigan won the Orange Bowl coin toss.
And that’s the last thing that went right for Wolverines in 2021.
READ MORE: Beaumont Health Justing Visitation Policy as COVID cases increase
A team that was barely behind all season – never by more than four points – quickly got into a hole and saw it only get deeper the rest of the way. Michigan’s appearance in the College Football Playoff semifinals did not go near the schedule, and Wolverines’ season ended Friday night with a 34-11 loss to Georgia in the Orange Bowl.
“Congratulations to Georgia. They played a hell of a game at every stage,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “I loved the way our guys fought. It was not our best, but it was definitely theirs. They played extremely well. ”
In every way, the numbers were bad. Wolverines came in and allowed 316 yards per carry. match; Georgia had 330 at the break. Wolverines’ biggest deficit of the season was four points; Georgia was ahead 7-0 after seven games. Wolverines were 44 minutes behind in 2021; Georgia led for 56 minutes alone in this one.
They lost the turnover game 3-0, gave up four sacks while not registering any, and the much-hyped strength against strength matchup – Michigan’s run game against Georgia’s defensive front – was largely a mismatch, with the Wolverines holding on to a season-low 88 yards on the ground.
It all added up to a fifth bowl loss in a row for Michigan, the school’s worst drought since a series of seven bowl losses in the 1970s.
“Obviously, it’s very disappointing right now,” said Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara. “We gave it everything we have and we were beaten tonight.”
Wolverines had a big home advantage Friday – Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins and Orange Bowl, is owned by Stephen Ross, an alum from Michigan and a massive donor to his school. Of the approximately 66,000 fans in attendance, it appeared that two-thirds were wearing corn and blue. They even got to use the dolphins’ sideline, which probably pleased Ross endlessly.
Most of these Michigan fans were long gone before this one ended. It was 34-3 before Wolverines found the goal zone for the first time in the final minutes, too late for anything to matter.
“We accomplished great things this year, and while it’s a disappointing way to finish it, we did great things this year,” said Josh Ross, who led Michigan with 11 tackles. “And we must not forget that.”
READ MORE: Screening event for Betty White’s 100th birthday continues
He is right. Once the sting of this loss disappears, it will be easy to see Michigan take massive steps forward in 2021.
The Wolverines went 2-4 last season, and a completely forgettable year went through the first year of the pandemic. They were not ranked to start this season, first came in the Top 10 in October and then reached all the way to No. 2 in the polls. Ohio State hex was finally released when Michigan beat its rival. A team that was selected to become number four when the season started – that is, fourth place in the Big Ten East – ended up as one of the last four teams to stand in the race for the national title.
Being overrun by Georgia does not change that. However, it shows how much work is left if the Wolverines are to return to the mountaintop of college football.
Michigan came on the scoreboard midway through the second quarter, a short field goal reduced the deficit to 17-3. Wolverines had Georgia facing a third-and-3 on the ensuing possession, perhaps ready to get the ball back.
Georgia’s James Cook went down on the right sideline and hauled in a 53-yard pass from Stetson Bennett, the only reason it was not a touchdown was that Cook had to slow down a bit because the ball appeared to be a bit subjected. The Bulldogs settled for another field goal to restore the 17-point edge, and it was another small chance that Michigan let slip.
An interception ensued, and at the next Georgia possession, Bennett did not submit to anyone. He found Jermaine Burton with a 57-yard touchdown pass, pushing the result up to 27-3 as the first half – and in fact the Michigan season – was coming to an end.
That said, when it’s over, Harbaugh immediately looked forward.
“To me, it feels like a start,” Harbaugh said. “Feels like a beginning.”
MORE NEWS: Schools in Detroit cancel classes 3-5. January in the middle of COVID proliferation, which requires employees to be tested
© 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.