Miami Gardens, Fla. Michigan won the Orange Bowl coin toss.
And that’s the last thing that went right for Wolverine in 2021.
A team that had barely left behind throughout the season – never more than four points – quickly got into a hole and only got him deep the rest of the way. Michigan’s appearance in the semifinals of the college football playoffs went nowhere as planned, with the Wolverines’ season ending Friday night’s 34-11 loss to Georgia in the Orange Bowl.
“Congratulations to Georgia. She played a game on all stages,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “I loved the way our guys fought. It wasn’t our best, but it was definitely theirs. . They played very well.”
By every measure, the numbers were bad. The Wolverines came in allowing 316 yards per game; By halftime, Georgia had 330 runs. The Wolverines’ biggest loss of the entire season was four points; Georgia was 7–0 ahead after seven plays. The Wolverines were trailing in 2021 for a total of 44 minutes; Georgia alone held the lead in it for 56 minutes.
They lost the turnover battle 3–0, dropping four sacks while recording none, and the much-hyped strength versus strength matchup – Michigan’s ongoing game versus Georgia’s defensive front – was quite the mismatch, with the Wolverines holding out for one. Was done season-following 88 yards on the ground.
It all added to Michigan’s fifth consecutive bowl loss, the school’s worst drought since a seven-bowl loss in the 1970s.
“Obviously, it’s very disappointing right now,” said Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara. “We gave it everything we got and we lost tonight.”
The Wolverines had a big home-field advantage on Friday – Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins and Orange Bowl, is owned by Michigan alum and his school’s massive benefactor Stephen Ross. Of the 66,000 fans present, two-thirds were dressed in maize and blue. He also had to use the Dolphins’ sideline, which may have given Ross no end.
Most of Michigan fans were gone long before it ended. It was 34-3 before Wolverine got to last field for the first time in the last minute, too late for anything to matter.
Josh Ross, who led Michigan with 11 tackles, said: “We’ve had great things this year, and although it’s a disappointing way to end it, we’ve done a great job this year.” “And we can’t forget about it.”
he is right. Once the brunt of this loss is gone, it will be easy to see Michigan take massive strides in 2021.
The Wolverines went 2-4 last season, a completely forgettable year played through Year 1 of the pandemic. They were unreserved to begin the season, not reaching the top 10 until October and then reaching number 2 in polls. The Ohio State hex was eventually resolved as Michigan defeated its opponent. A team finishing in fourth place at the start of the season – ie fourth in the Big Ten East – ended up as one of the last four teams standing in the race for the national title.
Having an overrun by Georgia doesn’t change that. However, it shows how much work remains to be done if Wolverine is going to return to the climax of college football.
Michigan came on the scoreboard in the middle of the second quarter, with a small field goal reducing the deficit to 17–3. The Wolverines faced Georgia third and -3 on the ensuing possession, probably ready to get the ball back.
Georgia’s James Cook went down the right sideline and went for a 53-yard pass from Stetson Bennett, the only reason it wasn’t a touchdown because Cook had to slow down a bit as the ball went down a bit. The Bulldogs settled for another field goal to restore the 17-point lead, and it was another small chance that Michigan slipped.
An interception followed, and on the next Georgia capture, Bennett dropped none. He found Jermaine Burton with a 57-yard touchdown pass, raising the score to 27-3 as the first half—and, indeed, the Michigan season—was ending.
That said, when it was over, Harbaugh looked immediately ahead.
“To me, it feels like a start,” Harbaugh said. “Seems like a start.”
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